App Store Changes Adds Keywords, Restricts Name Changes, Search May Ignore Description
Apple made some changes today to improve the discoverability of apps and at the same time cut down on modifications made by developers to artificially change the sort order of their apps. Starting today, developers can log into iTunes Connect and put up to 100 characters of keywords for each of their apps. Even though in some places in iTunes Connect it is quoted as 255 characters, the limit is actually only 100 characters. These keywords will reportedly be used to aid in search.
In addition, Apple has made a restriction that the name of the application can no longer be changed between versions of the application. This change was made to keep developers from changing their name repeatedly to capitalize on search terms and alphabetical list position (i.e. AAA Game Name vs. Game Name). If a change of the application name is needed, a new binary will need to be submitted. This allows Apple to review the name when the app is submitted as well. Previously, name changes between versions were not subject to Apple review before they went live.
Keywords, much like the name of the app are not allowed to be changed between application versions. Reportedly for the same reasons, to allow Apple approval of them. Reportedly other application names and copyrighted terms will not be allowed in the keywords. How Apple will police this is unknown, but it will be yet another reason that Apple can reject an app submission.
An unconfirmed source has also told us, after talking with their app store contact at Apple, that the next step to be implemented will be to ignore the app description in search. Purportedly to cut down on so-called black hat SEO optimization that may lead to confusion by consumers due to one app mentioning other apps in it’s description. After this change, a search in the app store will only take into account the app name, keywords, and reviews. At the time of writing, app descriptions are still searchable.
These changes leave developers with less search optimization they can do with their apps, but perhaps cuts down on some misuse of the metadata as well.