App Store search just got much smarter


App searches now have a lot more in store for developers.
Photo: Apple

A number of developers have reported noticing a difference in the way the iOS App Store now organizes search results. It appears Apple made changes around November 3 to the search algorithm to improve the relevancy of the results. Developers have identified multiple factors that are contributing to the new App Store search and overall, the changes are garnering positive feedback.

One such keen developer is Paul Haddad, maker of popular third-party Twitter client Tweetbot. Before the algorithm changes, if a user searched “Twitter” in the App Store, Tweetbot didn’t even make the cut in the search results. On top of that, seemingly irrelevant apps like Instagram would show up not far below the official Twitter app. After the changes, Tweetbot managed to slide in the number four spot while Instagram has totally vanished.

From a certain perspective, it made sense that Instagram would be near Twitter because the algorithm likely previously recognized that Instagram is a social network many Twitter users use. But someone explicitly searching for “Twitter” probably wouldn’t be looking for Instagram anyway.

According to TechCrunch, the App Store now ranks its results using a combination of “contextual keywords for the app, including partial keyword matches, along with competitor brand names and other matches.”

This means Apple is looking less at the specific keywords a user enters and more of what can surround those keywords. For instance, searching for “Instagram” rightfully brings up Instagram as the first choice, but then returns apps called Followers for Instagram and Famousgram, third-party supplements to the service.

Developer Mithun Jhawar of Splash Math reports that the Splash Math apps show up for an extra 70 search phrases that they didn’t previously show up for. These phrases aren’t in the metadata either, which supports the idea that Apple is now pulling from other sources to organize the results as well.

Developers seem pleased because it looks like the algorithm changes are giving their third-party apps a better shot at success through user searches. Since the update is only about 10 days old, it’ll take more time to see if the changes have any meaningful impact on downloads or earnings. One thing is certain though: App Store search has suffered for a while, and we can all come together to appreciate Apple finally giving it some love.

Apple has yet to confirm or deny the search update and did not respond to a request from TechCrunch for comment.


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