Apple is apparently fiddling with the way in which it handles App Store searches. Previously, what an app was called and which keywords it used seemed to be the greatest influence in how it ranked. Now, how many downloads, and perhaps even what the app does might be what's getting ranked. TechCrunch reports there might even be some Chomp algorithms at work, the App Store discovery app Apple purchased earlier this year.
Matthäus Krzykowski, cofounder of app search and data company Xyologic, has another explanation. He says that Apple has been incorporating download numbers into its rankings for a while now, and he suggests that what really changed is that Apple has gotten better at “topic detection”. In other words, it’s now better able to infer what you’re looking for when you type in a search term, so if you type in the word “gas”, you probably want apps that help you find gas stations or low gas prices, rather than driving games or apps that happen to have the word gas in their title (like fart apps). His team also says that the search rankings seem to be looking at other indicators of popularity, like ratings and comments.
That theory seems to be backed up by Chomp’s description of its technology: “Chomp’s proprietary algorithm learns the functions and topics of apps, so you can search based on what apps do, not just what they’re called.” In other words, if Apple is getting better at topic detection, it’s plausible that Chomp’s technology played a role.
App Search has been painful for a long time, returning results that had similar names but wildly different purposes, or suffering from keyword stuffing and other unsavory scam/spam practices.
At this point anything Apple can do to improve App Store search and discovery is welcome, even their experimenting with different methods and algorithms. There's very little place to go but up.
So go hit the App Store, run some searches, and come back and tell us -- are you getting better results? And if so, just a little better or much better?