Sometime last week, it became apparent that Apple had tweaked its App Store search algorithm to display results in order of their user rankings and descriptions, rather than the names of the apps themselves. The change brought some confusion, not only to App Store customers, but also to developers, who found that their apps were no longer appearing under certain searches as they had been.
It now appears that Apple has backtracked on that change, however.
TechCrunch notes that App Store searches now seem to place a bigger emphasis on keywords and names again. As Tomasz Kolinko, the developer behind Love Letter Writing and the founder of App Store analytics firm Appcode.es, discovered, searches appear to be working just as they did prior to Apple’s most recent changes.
Kolinko writes in a blog post:
[…] our app, “Love Letter Writer”, had “advice” in the keywords and the Apple’s search didn’t show it in the results.
Until today (Friday, 29th June)
We just checked, and this rule is no longer valid. “Instagram Camera” shows up “Instagram” again, and “Writing Advice” shows up our “Love Letter Writer” again. So do othersearches [sic] that we’ve tested.
Matthäus Krzykowski, cofounder of app search and data company Xyologic, concurs. “The Appcod.es guys are right, things are back to ‘normal,’” he told TechCrunch in an email.
It could be that Apple’s last change was simply a mistake, or that once the changes had rolled out, it felt they weren’t quite right. However, Krzykowski believes that these frequent changes (there have been three within the past week) indicate that Apple is tweaking its App Store algorithm to improve search and discovery:
It’s hard to read Apple’s cards, of course. However we are not surprised to see Apple tweaking their algorithms. App Discovery on iOS, while still better than Google’s, continues to decrease. Less and less new apps and developers benefit from the current approach each month. They clearly know they need to tackle this and we are expecting them to continue to tweak their algorithm and test things out.
It could be that we see a lot more of the changes over the coming months, then, and that App Store searching continues to alter somewhat every so often as Apple irons out a better search and discovery system. While that may be somewhat inconvenient for App Store customers, it’s iOS developers who will feel the changes most.
As TechCrunch notes, these frequent changes to the search algorithm mean those developers who have relied on SEO to position their apps in the past can no longer be confident that they’ll show up where they used to. Of course, if that means they change from third position in a certain search to 30th position, it’s going to have a huge impact of revenues.
Kolinko told TechCrunch:
“In the past, you had a nice search position, and it was like a good real estate. You just profited from it. If Apple will now change the search more often, developers won’t feel as secure from now on.”
The problem is, until Apple completes its tweaking — and who knows when that will be — there’s little developers can do to tackle the changes.