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Developers reporting changes to Apple's App Store search algorithm

post #1 of 36
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Developers with apps published to Apple's iOS App Store are reporting that search results have changed drastically and may be a result of a change in the weighting of the number of downloads and "topic detection."

Whereas previous App Store searches appeared to prioritize the names and keywords of applications, TechCrunch reports that more topically-relevant results have begun to appear in the query results.

For instance, developer BestParking.com told the publication that the ranking of its "Best Parking" app in searches like "chicago parking," "dc parking" and "sf parking" is now higher than apps whose names more closely match those terms.

"Apple is now putting a heavier emphasis on app downloads, so that BestParking has pulled ahead of apps with better names (at least, for a given search) but fewer downloads," the report noted.

Meanwhile, Xyologic cofounder Matth?us Krzykowski claimed that Apple has improved its "topic detection" capabilities. If this is indeed the case, it would mean that searches performed in the App Store would prioritize relevant topics over conforming specifically to a keyword or search term.

App Store search


The changes to the App Store search functionality may be earlier implementations of Apple's recent acquisition, Chomp, though there does not yet appear to be any hard evidence that is the case. Chomp is an application search engine built to address the issue of discoverability that has arisen from the flood of apps to mobile application stores. The service was previously available on Google's Android as well, but Apple disabled the functionality in April.

As of early June, there were 650,000 applications, of which 225,000 are built for the iPad, available on the App Store. Total downloads for the store have reached the 30 billion mark, with more than $5 billion paid out to developers.
post #2 of 36

I wonder if they take in to account what apps people have chosen to hide in their purchase list? I know I mostly hide junky ones.

post #3 of 36

Where's that "draconian store policies" troll when you need him? lol.gif

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post #4 of 36
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Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Where's that "draconian store policies" troll when you need him? lol.gif

Off the edges of the map, thankfully.

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There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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post #5 of 36

Long overdue.
 

post #6 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Where's that "draconian store policies" troll when you need him? lol.gif

whats this have to do with that at all?  This has nothing to do with store policies.

 

But.... having most downloaded apps show up first isn't always a good thing to do.  It means people will see the most famous apps first, so it will be hard for newer and maybe better apps to ever compete with well established apps.  That said, the older search method wasn't any better.

post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I wonder if they take in to account what apps people have chosen to hide in their purchase list? I know I mostly hide junky ones.

I wish there was a way to permanently get rid of apps after I've hid them. They can leave me connected to it on their back end so that if I do actually try to download some junk app I've paid for in the past or it's now a paid for app it still lets me, but I actually purchase less apps than i would because I dislike the clutter so much. I'm not a hoarder.

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post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I wish there was a way to permanently get rid of apps after I've hid them. They can leave me connected to it on their back end so that if I do actually try to download some junk app I've paid for in the past or it's now a paid for app it still lets me, but I actually purchase less apps than i would because I dislike the clutter so much. I'm not a hoarder.

Yes, I am overly careful about purchases too. There are lots of free apps that it wouldn't hurt to try, but I don't want them in my purchase list forever and a day.

post #9 of 36

Well, in the case of one of my company's apps, Wine Navigator Plus, the algorithm change has made our ranking terrible.

 

We've consistently been about #11 when searching for "wine" (on the UK store at least). We're now ranked #90.

 

We've had loads of downloads over the time it's been available and the app is currently enjoying a 4.5 star rating (again, in the UK).

 

The thing that bothers me is that apps appearing higher than us include those with very little to do with wine at all (iBeer and Classic Books for instance!)

 

The first result that appears (and this hasn't changed) is one called Wine* which has no ratings, looks tacky as hell and I'd argue is of very little use to wine drinkers. That app is also very new so, in terms of downloads, we'd surely have had far more (especially given that our app was free for a day recently, getting us an extra 7,000 users).

 

So, however Apple have changed the algorithm, I don't believe it's based on number of downloads. And it's certainly not improved the relevance for users - at least in this case.

post #10 of 36

Is this a good change? It sounds like poor quality free apps will rank a lot higher than fantastic, innovative but expensive apps.

post #11 of 36
This is frustrating. This just makes it harder for the developer to get traction in the app store. I recently launched the iPad note taking app called Note Binder. Upon first release I put a couple keywords in the name so it would show up on more search results. The name was " Note Binder PDFAnnotation, text, record audio, record video, handwrite Dropbox backup". This worked well until we released our first update and Apple then rejected the update on account of the name. Stating that the name didn't match the name displayed on the app because there were other "keywords" included in it. So we had to re-submit as just "Note Binder". Now , even though we have a list of keywords associated with Note Binder in the metadata, it doesnt show up in search results for ANY of the keywords....It doesn't even show up when a search for "Note" is done and that is part of the app name!!! As a result, our average daily downloads have dropped dramatically. Apple touts itself about being for the developers......this is a kick in the pants. I have emailed Apple to try to get some answers, it will be interesting to find out what they have to say.
post #12 of 36

@Wyatt - Another of our apps has had the same treatment with Apple rejecting keywords in the name for its latest update.

 

I think it's a good thing in the long run as keywords in the app names do look ugly... but they should understand it's the developers' way of getting around the poor discovery aspect of the App Store.

 

My guess is that this latest algorithm change is Apple experimenting with improvements but they'll continue to test and change. I hope!

post #13 of 36
@ a few of you developers

Just curious.... what else are you doing to promote your app?

Do you try to get your app reviewed by people in a particular market? (photo apps reviewed by photographers... music apps reviewed by musicians... etc)

I understand how difficult it must be to get your app noticed among the thousands of apps in the store.

But I can't imagine the act of simply being in the store would ever be enough.
post #14 of 36

@Michael

 

You're absolutely right - it's never enough just to release an app and hope it does well. We've done press releases, gotten reviews from magazines, promoted on social networks and so on... pretty much everything we could do that doesn't cost too much.

 

But if the App Store is like a supermarket, Apple's latest algorithm update is the equivalent of having our app hidden on a dusty shelf.

 

The difficulty is that big companies have marketing budgets, know people at Apple (that's a big one!) and are able to spend the thousands it takes to launch and market an app. It's tough!

post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmuppet View Post

So, however Apple have changed the algorithm, I don't believe it's based on number of downloads. And it's certainly not improved the relevance for users - at least in this case.

This is most likely round one and it will improve as more data is put into the mix.

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(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #16 of 36

I typically don't use search anyway. I already have apps for most the functions I *need* to do, and now just scan the top lists periodically looking for any new hotness.

post #17 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Is this a good change? It sounds like poor quality free apps will rank a lot higher than fantastic, innovative but expensive apps.

True but it also means that apps like Facebook Camera, which they renamed:

http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/12/facebook-camera-app-gets-renamed-camera-dot/

don't have to be renamed in order to rank higher. There are loads of camera apps:

Camera, Camera+, Camera·, Camera®, Camera∞, Camera!!

It seems Facebook have named their app back to Facebook Camera so possibly the change was implemented at their request.

I agree with placing higher value on downloads than keywords for search results but it should also take into consideration ratings and reviews with reviews ranking higher in importance. There should also be the equivalent of Google's bounce rate - the time between an app install and a deletion. With so many factors and varied apps though, one weighting choice is always going to favour some apps over others unfairly and people will always find a way to abuse it. Google has been at this for ages and there's no way their algorithms are fairly weighted either.
post #18 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I typically don't use search anyway. I already have apps for most the functions I *need* to do, and now just scan the top lists periodically looking for any new hotness.

I don't even scan the top app lists. If I need an app I do a search on Google looking for a solid review but even that is a rarity. Usually I'm sent a link to a review or App Store link by someone who thinks I might like it or I just stumble across a review of an app II end up buying. I've never been a fan of the iTS setup within the iTunes app so I do try to stay away from it as much as possible.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #19 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I wonder if they take in to account what apps people have chosen to hide in their purchase list? I know I mostly hide junky ones.

 

Actually, the easiest way to simply make search better for most users is to allow them to hide things they don't want to see, but this is bad for sales so it will never happen.  

 

The trouble is that "the stupids" will always hide something, then forget about it, then complain when they can't find something due to one of these forgotten, self-made preferences.  That's why almost all searches are "dumb searches" now (not paying attention to your syntax), and why your preferences now have to be decided for you (as above).  

 

For smart people however, who know that they literally *never* want to see a sports app, or never want to see anything from company a, b, or c again ... being able to hide groups, categories, vendors, etc. would be the route to a sparkly clean and easy to navigate store.  

post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

There should also be the equivalent of Google's bounce rate - the time between an app install and a deletion.

 

That would be fantastic. 

post #21 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Actually, the easiest way to simply make search better for most users is to allow them to hide things they don't want to see, but this is bad for sales so it will never happen.  

 

 

 

 

 

If Apple would simply hire Google to  help them with searching the App Store, all would be well.  I don't expect that to happen.

post #22 of 36
@wyatt
Not to criticize you, but isn't that like relying on seo. I think that is a bad idea. Apple is in the business of giving their users the best experience with their device. So they will change policies from time to time to raise/improve user experience. I think you should do branding. You probably can't post the url of your site, but redirecting users from your server to the app store is i think better
post #23 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySwitched26 View Post

 

 

If Apple would simply hire Google to  help them with searching the App Store, all would be well.  I don't expect that to happen.

 

Well in the sense that Google is the number one entity behind this "dumbing down" of searches and also guilty of the very thing I am complaining about ... I don't think that will help at all even if it did happen.  

post #24 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Well in the sense that Google is the number one entity behind this "dumbing down" of searches and also guilty of the very thing I am complaining about ... I don't think that will help at all even if it did happen.  

He didn't have a very good way of saying it, but search options for finding apps in the GooglePlay store are more extensive/targeted than what's currently offered by Apple. Have a look if you're at all curious.

 

https://play.google.com/store/apps?feature=corpus_selector

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post #25 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

He didn't have a very good way of saying it, but search options for finding apps in the GooglePlay store are more extensive/targeted than what's currently offered by Apple. Have a look if you're at all curious.

 

https://play.google.com/store/apps?feature=corpus_selector

 

I guess I'm not communicating well.  

 

The Google link you sent me appears almost identical to the iOS app store search page and doesn't appear to have anything new or anything that isn't available in the iOS or Mac app stores.  Neither of these, nor Google itself, offer the opportunity to indicate content that you *don't* want to see.  

 

My point was that by letting us edit out the stuff we don't (ever) want to see, (essentially a black list), the navigation and searching of the store would be improved immeasurably.  Neither site offers that and probably never will (because of the stupids), but it would be a boon (for the non-stupids) nonetheless.  

 

For instance if I could say "no games, no sports, and nothing to do with cars" I could narrow down my searches by many orders of magnitude in one stroke. Tens of thousands of apps that I never want to see would disappear.   If I could also add the names of developers to the black list when I come across some particularly egregious POS app, over time my searches would get better also.  Most of the crap developers and scam artists produce dozens and dozens of apps, and huge amounts of useless results could be eliminated by means of a developer filter.  

post #26 of 36

Ah, gotcha. What you want is a way to blacklist app categories, developers, perhaps certain permissions, etc. It's not about discovery (which I personally think GooglePlay does a better job with) but exclusion. I can't imagine any of the appstores will ever put that feature in place for assorted reasons.

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post #27 of 36
@gelp

It would be a developers demise if relying on app store search results was the only way one expected their app to be found. We are in the early stages of development and will be using a myriad marketing efforts to get Note Binder out there. However, every bit helps. It is just made more precarious if the name of the app doesn't even show up in a search result.
Edited by Wyatt Haukap - 6/24/12 at 2:42pm
post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyatt Haukap View Post

@gelp
It would be a developers demise if relying on app store search results was the only way one expected their app to be found. We are in the early stages of development and will be using a myriad marketing efforts to get Note Binder out there. However, every bit helps. It is just made more precarious if the name of the app doesn't even show up in a search result.

Good man :-)
Talking about every bit; Can appleinsider help here with a posting section!?
post #29 of 36
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Originally Posted by gelp View Post

Talking about every bit; Can appleinsider help here with a posting section!?

We help with advertisements that you can buy. Please don't post ads for your apps anywhere in the forum, as they'll just be deleted (and if it's that account's first post, banned).

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #30 of 36
@tallest skil
I know you're running a business and i wouldn't suggest anything against your policies. I was just wondering if such a possibility exist. You answered my question
post #31 of 36

Thank god. Searching the app store trying to find good apps is getting to be a nightmare. Any improvement in this area would be hugely welcome.

 

I really wish apple would implement a system like amazon's, where you see a "Customers also bought.." or "Similar to this app" list of apps. Many times you end up buying a sub-par app by mistake because you don't know the better apps out there in the same category.

post #32 of 36
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Originally Posted by enjourni View Post

I really wish apple would implement a system like amazon's, where you see a "Customers also bought.." or "Similar to this app" list of apps. Many times you end up buying a sub-par app by mistake because you don't know the better apps out there in the same category.

I would hate that, because I hate it on Amazon. I'm not other people and my interests are rarely–if ever–in line with that.

What needs to be done instead is subcategories of subcategories (of subcategories). It's insanity. It's inexcusable. I haven't gotten any new apps in… maybe three years now, simply because I can't find anything. No one can find anything when you have 600,000 apps and "Games" as your only category.

I want to be able to drill down. Games/RPG/Real-time Combat/Space. Utilities/Cleaners/Disk Space. Stuff like that.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #33 of 36

I'm looking forward to see what Chomp can do.  There may be thousands of apps, but most of us know what kind of apps we don't want, but we don't know what apps we DO want.  I do not care about apps that:

- not supporting my language

- not supporting my location

- products beyond my price range

- have already been deemed horrible by people I know

- are laid out is a specific format (like sims)

- with in-app purchases and criteria on that (eg. that exceed $X)

- are not really "free" because it's just a free shell, and all the content is paid

- have only been tried by X other people

- are unreliable, and crash

 

Why can't you just give me that?? I'm positive they already have this data..

 

I find the best apps are the ones that you're not even looking for.  If I'm looking for a "driving game", I know I'll find one. But how can I find those apps that are more in the "innovative" category, that you can't really describe?  Anyways, filtering out what is irrelevant would surely help.

post #34 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


I agree with placing higher value on downloads than keywords for search results but it should also take into consideration ratings and reviews with reviews ranking higher in importance. There should also be the equivalent of Google's bounce rate - the time between an app install and a deletion. With so many factors and varied apps though, one weighting choice is always going to favour some apps over others unfairly and people will always find a way to abuse it. Google has been at this for ages and there's no way their algorithms are fairly weighted either.

 

Hear, hear!  Ratings and reviews should be heavily weighted - I'm so tired of searching for apps and having several of the first group have 2- and 3-star ratings.  Sorry, but given how critical people are over the dumbest things ("I wasted 99 cents and it won't instantly load when I'm in the middle of the desert!  Fail!"), I'm not even going to look at apps that manage to have an overall rating of just 2 or 3 stars!

post #35 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by enjourni View Post

I really wish apple would implement a system like amazon's, where you see a "Customers also bought.." or "Similar to this app" list of apps. Many times you end up buying a sub-par app by mistake because you don't know the better apps out there in the same category.

I would hate that, because I hate it on Amazon. I'm not other people and my interests are rarely–if ever–in line with that.

What needs to be done instead is subcategories of subcategories (of subcategories). It's insanity. It's inexcusable. I haven't gotten any new apps in… maybe three years now, simply because I can't find anything. No one can find anything when you have 600,000 apps and "Games" as your only category.

I want to be able to drill down. Games/RPG/Real-time Combat/Space. Utilities/Cleaners/Disk Space. Stuff like that.

 

Agree with TS (except I don't hate it on Amazon; I've often found better products or more-on-point books that way).  But I want to find simple, old-school shooter games, but doing even a quasi-complex search in the app store is pointless.  I probably would purchase 2x to 4x the number of apps I do now, if the search process were more tailored and the results more reliable.

post #36 of 36
EDIT: Unneeded reply.

Edited by Gatorguy - 6/25/12 at 11:34am
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