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.