App Store Gets a More Intelligent Search Engine

A handsome number of mobile app developers as well as industry observers of late have taken notice of a distinct change in the mode in which the Apple App Store’s search algorithms now returns results.

Developers are of the opinion that, as a result of a flurry of shifts that entered the scene during the period of November 3, app search results now display added intelligence, even more relevance – most particularly among the top results – which clearly varies from how it was in previous months.

App store search

Apple is making ongoing efforts in enhancing its algorithms, as the criteria by which apps are ranked and displayed contributes heavily to the general success of the App Store. If Apple recommends apps to consumers that don’t practically boast efficiency even offering a poor experience when compared to others, users could get more cautionary even overlooking Apple’s suggestions, as well as the apps themselves.

App store

Nonetheless, a lot of the App Store algorithms in the past have put heavy emphasis on changes to the factors by which apps are ranked in its Top Charts, this relates to the Top Free, Paid and Grossing apps on the App Store overall, and even by category.

This new change has its target placed on how apps are returned in the event of a user typing in keywords in search of an app – something that is fast assuming a more common means to locating apps in a seemingly congested app store comprising over a million mobile applications.

Going by studies, a minimum of half of iOS apps are found by means of search. While there have been the experience of other changes targeting search prior to this major one. many still subscribe to the notion that this is one of the most relevant and strings-pulling changes to date.

“I think it definitely represents a significant shift from changes in the past, where I think [Apple] just changed the weighting around certain variables like keyword input, or what keywords you had in the title,” explains Dan Held who is the founder of mobile growth consulting firm Analytica.

In fact, he also puts in here that the change is very indicative of Apple’s push at starting the build of its personal edition of the PageRank algorithm. “It’s their attempt at understanding how different apps rank relative to each other,” he explains, noting that, of course, PageRank is far more complex. “I think this is an attempt to move in that direction…the first step would probably be to benchmark where you rank compared to your competitors,” says Held.

What Changed Going by several sources, this lot includes developers who have tracked their own rankings, including app store analytics firms, the change which had its inception at November 3 came with several offsprings.

Apps now ranks in search results using a combination of contextual keywords for the app, as well as partial keyword matches, along with competitor brand names alongside other matches. Notably, this will be the first of its kinds as to the App Store ranking apps for keywords that are not in the title or the “keyword” slot, we understand. For developers who search against their own app name, the consequence of this change is that they will see a number of competing apps which previously weren’t showing up as well as a general expanded list of matches.

Initially, results seem to be inclined more in the direction of historical downloads, which means that free apps had higher ranks than paid applications. Fast forward to the present in face of the initial November 3 adjustment, Apple made another significant change this week which went even further to add to the relevancy of search results.

More Extensive, More Relevant Results Should you have used the search keyword “Twitter” as a measure of the algorithm’s intelligence, you would have come across more significant results in the aftermath of November 3 rather than in the past, back then, famed cost-attached applications like Tweetbot weren’t on the list. However with this newer change in place, the search results really improved again. It was not just about Tweetbot appearing (it sprang up to No. 4 in the search results, as Launch Center Pro developer David Barnard noticed), other famous Twitter applications like Twitterrific (No. 5) just as well climbed higher up the list, while Instagram at last went missing from the top 10.

Tweetbot’s own developer, Paul Haddad of Tapbots, took identical notice, putting in here that he now sees a number of competing apps being displayed for the search term “tweetbot,” as well as those that didn’t even use “tweetbot” as one of their keywords. A search for his company name, “Tapbots,” also returns a “significantly larger” list. The adjustment had registered vital consequence , he says.

“[It] made a huge change for us. [We went] from basically non-existent for the search term ‘Twitter’ to the No. 4 listed app,” says Haddad. Less Emphasis On Manually Entered Keywords The changes were still evident among more niche applications. Added to performing a more commendable job at pulling in lists of competitors and identical apps, there is now as well a fresh suggestion feature that recognizes the “essence’ of the app,” comprising the principal features of the app, confirms appFigures CEO Ariel Michaeli. In addition to this, there’s an increased emphasis on on-page components, he says.

However, these changes are majorly restricted to the manner in which apps rank in search results, Michaeli notes. “We haven’t seen this impact Top Charts as much,” he says. “That makes sense because those two algorithms were separate for quite some time now.” At a top level, these changes are loud suggestions that Apple is placing fading emphasis on the manually entered keywords that developers specify in iTunes Connect, the service which gives them the opportunity to oversee their apps as well as submit them to the iOS App Store.

In face of this, it could turn out too early to say that this is Apple’s push at establishing its own version of Google’s Pagerank Algorithm. While the algorithm for sure boasts greater intelligence, it tends not be cognizant of metrics like usage, details including whether the app was ever featured on the App Store, links from wider web (like positive reviews or press mentions), or other things that could build on the sophistication improving surface apps. Yet, while the size of this latest adjustments are definitely significant and even commendable, it could be too soon to adequately run an analysis of the effects as regards app downloads and resulting revenue.

He's an Associate at JustNaira. He loves to write about technology, business,sport and life, mixed with some randomness of what he would like to share. He's favorite activity is pretending that he can sing.

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