Keywords Won’t Fix App Store Search


AppleInsider reports on Apple’s (s aapl) plodding efforts to fix the biggest problem with the App Store (besides the mercurial and arguably unfair approval process), finding stuff.

Through iTunes Connect, the submission service for the App Store, developers may now use keywords totaling 255 characters.

“It is important to enter keywords for all applications as soon as possible so your application can continue to be successfully located on the App Store,” the update from Apple reads. “Keywords can be updated with the submission of a new binary.”

With the unrivaled success of the App Store and its alleged 65,000 apps, it has become harder and harder for consumers to find what they are looking for. This was noted by Apple COO Tim Cook at the conference call for last quarter.

We are always looking for ways to categorize apps differently, and we do have some ideas in this area. As you know, today we do it by type of app and also show popular apps and top-selling apps, etc. We realize there’s opportunity for further improvement and are working on that.

Unfortunately, keywords are probably not the answer. Unless Apple closely regulates the system, unscrupulous developers could abuse keywords in the same way meta tags are abused for web search. Misleading keywords boosts ranking in search results, be it on the web or at the App Store. Of course, keywords are easy to implement for Apple, but if the company is looking for a simple and effective improvement to search, the browse function is a better choice.

Browsing games by popularity

Browsing games by popularity

Under Quick Links, in the right sidebar of iTunes Store home screen, Browse allows for quick and easy searching of the App Store via three categories: iTunes Store, Category and Subcategory. Using App Store ? Games ? All shows a list of 2500 items, which can the be sorted by column. It also includes the ability to add columns, like Popularity. The biggest drawback is that only one column can be used for sorting at a time, so you can’t search for, as an example, most popular paid games.

One could easily imagine greater granularity — a few more categories and sorting by multiple columns. More importantly, Apple would be in control of the search system, rather than developers who might find it hard to resist gaming keywords for fun and profit.


Junjet Trasmonte

I think this one of apple’s security that they don’t mind having some fallbacks. Sticking to basic features also ensures them that their data will not be easy to scraped by data-mining guys. Their data is very valuable that exposing them too openly will give them much more headaches. That is putting myself in their shoes, but i guess I might be wrong. :)


I’m really starting to resent Apple. I have 30 apps in the store and have spent a lot of time using their developer tools. Like most of iTunes connect, the new keyword “feature” is horribly broken. It just doesn’t work.

1) Once you enter keywords, you can’t change them without uploading a new binary! Seriously. 2 weeks+ to update your keywords, so choose carefully.

2) Once you enter keywords, the text in your description – even the title of the app – no longer show up in searches. Just the keywords.

3) Of course, the text in the description remains searchable for apps that don’t use keywords. So why on earth would I want to use them?

Apple is great a convincing customers to buy things, but iTunes Connect ABSOLUTELY SUCKS. You’d think with the kind of money they are making off of us they could hire some real developers…


Good idea on the browsing. Being a database expert, I’d say the failings of the store are also related to:

– Poor categorisation and not enough categories (endemic in today’s computer world)

– Lack of any filtering capabilities (beyond a few very top level general categories)

– Lack of any filtering or weighting of user inputs into the system (a one line review by a retarded crack-head treated as being of equal value to a well thought out five paragraph one).

Basically, by trying to “keep it simple” they just put things into a very small group of obvious categories so you get stuff in a category that really doesn’t belong there and the amount of things in any one category is too much to view. They also treat user inputs (reviews, etc.) as a sort of giant chum bucket when in fact it’s the only real source of the kind of information needed to make sense out of the data. “Star reviews” are essentially the same as those one liner reviews that go “Great!” or “Stinks!” and a different kettle of fish from actual reviews. They also have no way to pick out the “good” reviewers or good inputs form the trash.

The problem with any database is always categorisation, and today’s answer is usually to just stick it in a big data bucket and use search, but that has severe limitations. The only real way to do it right is to find the correct inputs for the categorisation information (in this case mostly the users), to filter that, and to apply it to the data.


Actually, it’s 100 characters. iTunesConnect front-page says 255, but when you enter them, it throws back an error that 100 is the maximum.

Just one of way too many annoyances regarding the back-end part of this business.


Neat, I’d never noticed that browse mode was possible with the iTunes store. I do wish that you could perform a search and then browse the results. There are a bunch of times that I want to, say, search for “geotag” and then look at results sorted by popularity, rather than just see a big field of icons.

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