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Apple updates App Store search algorithms to display more relevant & intelligent results


Apple, after unveiling a new Shopping category last week, appears to have now made more enhancements to the App Store. According to a report out of TechCrunch, Apple has improved its search algorithms to return more relevant and intelligent results when a keyword search is performed.

The change in algorithms appears to have begun on November 3rd, with the most notable changes being noticed yesterday and today. While Apple in the past has focused most on algorithms for the Top Free, Paid, and Grossing apps, these changes affect how apps are returned when a user performs a search.

Apps that are returned in search results are now ranked based on a mix of contextual keywords for the apps, including partial keyword matches as well as competitor brand names. With these changes, this is the first time the App Store has ranked apps for keywords not found in the title or the “keyword” field, TechCrunch reports. For developers, this means that when a user searches for their app, a handful of competing apps will now appear.

One example TechCrunch points to is of searching for Twitter. Now, when you search for Twitter, third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific are more prevalent in the results, ranking at numbers four and five, respectively. Instagram, the seemingly unrelated app to Twitter, finally no longer appears in search results for Twitter.

Dan Held, founder of mobile growth consulting firm Analytica, told TechCrunch that he believes these changes could suggest that Apple is beginning development of its own version of the PageRank algorithm:

“It’s their attempt at understanding how different apps rank relative to each other. 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.”

Apple has not commented on these algorithm changes as of yet.

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  1. ericesque - 7 years ago

    Searching for supported features seems to work better too. Searching for Chromecast offers much more relevant results. I don’t know if this is a new thing, but searching for Apple features such as Airplay or Apple Watch App will include a banner at the top of the search results with a description of the feature, an associated image, and link to Learn More.

    More enhancements like these!

  2. drtyrell969 - 7 years ago

    Finally, some good news.

  3. AppApp (@AppAppio) - 7 years ago

    The App Store’s search has always been fairly poor. This is a good, but incremental, step forward.

    With we believe that users want to search in more sophisticated ways; keywords and algorithms can only get you so far. Our search engine does that, but also lets you filter on facets that users care about.

    We’d love it if you gave it a go at .

    • elilabes - 7 years ago

      just saying i tried this and typed in snapchat, it took until the last t before it recognised i was looking for snapchat, before that there were things like snap hack etc etc.

      • AppApp (@AppAppio) - 7 years ago

        Thanks for your feedback. Our ranking is based on a number of factors, one of which is average rating, and Snapchat’s is very low (for a popular app) at 2.5.
        As with any search engine, it is difficult that tune things so you get the results you want in all cases, but we are trying to optimise for surfacing apps that you won’t find easily on the app store, rather than exact matches for known apps by name.

    • elilabes - 7 years ago

      oh thats okay, makes sense yeah snapchat got lots of bad reviews because people couldnt work out how to use the filters hahaha, ill be checking in with how your service developes

  4. iamrefresh - 7 years ago

    How about adding a wishlist? I know it is cutting edge tech that Apple has only implemented in multiple places. Hopefully they can find someone that program well enough to be able to save and retrieve data to and from a database. …ahhhh, one can only dream.

  5. Luis E - 7 years ago

    For me, every time it’s worst, I used to work in a data mining organization and we had way better algorithms, at least they should be able to recognize the miss-spell errors based on apps names, even if it’s one letter of difference, you won’t be able to find the app that you are looking for.

  6. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    Still is shyte. Searching for “photos extensions” gives me 6 results, while there are quite a few more extensions. It’s almost as piss-poor as OSX iTunes search, which also sucks big time. I just hope they’ll never bother creating web search engine, I would expect that to be DOA.

  7. fcalazzo (@fcalazzo) - 7 years ago

    Frankly I wouldn’t know who to send a message to but I wish Apple would also update the random algorithm for iTunes/Music. Don’t you find it annoying, even with thousands of songs to feel the random selection picks songs pretty much always in the same order or with constant criteria (e.g: when the selection after a few hours of playing switches to two consecutive songs by the same artist et al.). With all the engineering they have and the resources we faithfully provide (in my case since 1991), one would think they could do much better than that.

  8. There is one particular graphic I found ( which is very insightful when it comes to how this new search algorithm works. In the graphic, you can see how all of the different factors which Apple’s looks at are weighted in their app store search algorithm. This graphic was part of a much deeper free white paper on App Store Optimization here-

  9. pound23 - 7 years ago

    AppStore search rankings are still really bad. We have built an amazing app called “Spanish SOLO”. It’s got high production values, slick UI, and really amazing technology. In short its the type of app users are looking for, but our search rankings suck. Search terms like “Learn Spanish” are currently returning Chinese programs ranked higher than our app. Also ranked above us are apps that have not been updated since 2010 or are showing screens for iOS4.
    As an indie developer of high quality, we have a long slog ahead of us as we try to rise above a bunch of Zombie apps!
    Help Apple! You should flag high quality apps or rate them for quality and use those ratings for search ranking.


Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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