updated 08:10 pm EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
New changes shift focus of search, limit 'junk' app positioning
Apple appears to have made three changes in a week to its App Store search algorithms which are used to fine-tune search results. A change made earlier this week scores apps higher by user ratings and app descriptions, rather than by application name (as was the case before the changes). A change made today places a larger emphasis on developer-inserted keywords with names than before, with other changes lowering the position of "junk" applications relying on in-app purchase names for higher placement.
Matthaus Krzykowski, founder of app search tracking company Xyologic, confirmed that the changes had taken place, and expects to see many more small changes in search results as Apple continues the modification process of the search engine. Krzykowski said to TechCrunch, that "app discovery on iOS, while still better than Google’s, continues to decrease. [Fewer and fewer] 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."
Plural forms are now handled better in search -- if the user searches for "pencil", then "pencils" will now be positioned better in search results than before the changes, and vice versa. App description fields are still not included in the search algorithm.
It is unclear if the recent changes in the search engine algorithm are related to Apple's purchase of Chomp, a mobile app search engine. The Chomp website, which is still functional, enables users to describe what they want to do with an application, and the search engine locates and presents possibilities, along with summaries, ratings, prices and other information from relevant app. Searches in the App Store tended to focus on apps that happened to have the search terms as part of their title, and now as part of their keywords.
Features in Chomp, such as spelling correction, and description parsing are not included. Search engine optimization provider AppCod.es allows comparison of search position for developers both before and after the algorithm change -- an example of which is included in the slideshow embedded below.
More accurate and relevant search results are important, both to consumers finding applications relevant to their interests, and to Apple for maintaining app purchases at a brisk rate through easier discovery of new apps. However, the recent changes in the algorithm, which changes search engine results, does present a moving target for developers interested in keeping applications at the top of the results. [http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/29/looks-like-apple-has-changed-its-app-store-algorithm-again/ TechCrunch]