Acquisition & Engagement

3 Biggest App Store Optimization Takeaways from Apple’s WWDC 2014

Becky Doles

Alright everyone – take a deep breath. Breath in… breath out. Apple’s WWDC conference is over. We didn’t get the big hardware announcements most people were hoping for… but in our opinion, we got something just as good: improvements to the app store.

As expected, there were a lot of cool new features accompanying OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, but the big changes that seem to be flying slightly under the radar pertain to the app store. Here are the three most important improvements to note, what they mean to app store optimization, and a few questions they bring up.

Trending Searches: Apps Near Me 2.0

Apple tried to do something similar when they introduced the apps near me feature with iOS 7. It sucked. We’re hoping the new trending searches is much better. We’re not sure if these will be real-time updates (like Twitter), if they’ll be somehow tailored towards you and the apps you’ve already downloaded, or what will determine if a search query is ‘trending.’ We’re assuming it will be better than apps near me though – Apple tends not to make the same mistake twice.

ASO Implications: The new trending searches will be intriguing on two levels, as it pertains to ASO. First, it will be interesting to see what exactly determines a trending search. On Twitter, trends are often related to big global news. It’s hard to imagine thousands of users searching for the same thing in a short period of time. I’m sure Apple has figured out a great way to show what’s trending – but I hope it is more complex than just a sheer number of global searches (in which case popular apps like Facebook or Candy Crush Saga would most likely dominate these).

We’ll also wait to see how having a query related to your app in the trending section will impact visibility in other parts of the app store. Will the increased related searches (which will most likely lead to more downloads) also help give you a boost in search? How will the trending section impact Top Charts? We’ll see how it all plays out, but we’ll be monitoring the app store closely to find answers.

Spotlight Improvements: Quick and Easy App Store Access

Although the new Spotlight received some attention, there was one aspect in particular that we think is a game changer (and which we predicted months ago). You will now be able to search in the app store from Spotlight. This is BIG. Apple has made huge strides to improve this feature, and it’s great to see the app store getting involved. Previously, you could only search for apps you’d already downloaded. Spotlight was great for sorting through the myriad of apps that clutter your phone, but it left something out – finding new apps.

ASO Implications: Again, there are a lot of unanswered questions that we’ll have to wait for answers to. How many apps will they show? And what will determine if yours is the one that shows up?

Based on the one example they gave in the screenshot, it’s clear that your title, which is already an important part of ASO, will play a big role. One of the key changes Apple made sure to highlight about Spotlight is that it will take context into consideration. In the example you see here, a friend texted this person about Minecraft, which then showed up in Spotlight when they searched for it. Will Spotlight only show apps in the app store if there’s context to it? Will sharing an app via SMS become a more important part of your marketing strategy? I guess we’ll have to wait and see – but it’s exciting!

Video Previews: Bye Bye Unhappy Users

I’m a little worried that Apple is losing their innovation muscle. This WWDC seemed to be the conference of copycat features. iCloud Drive = Dropbox and Voice Messages= Voxer. They continued this theme with the app store search, integrating video previews, which were already a part of the Google Play store. Not that we’re complaining – these are all awesome features. We’re excited to see video previews coming to the app store.

After all, it’s no secret that screenshots can be misleading. Even the really well done ones have a hard time portraying what it’s really like to actually use an app. With this new feature, app developers will be rewarded for putting time and resources into creating a great video.

ASO Implications: This will be great for everyone – except maybe the people with bad apps that trick users into downloading them with equally bad screenshots. The chances of a user downloading an app they immediately delete will drop (hopefully), which will be good for apps because it will lead to a higher quality, more engaged user. Although we can’t say yet, I’m hoping that Apple rewards apps with videos in the way of a search ranking boost. As a marketplace, it would make sense for them to do so. Videos give a better sense of what it’s actually like to use an app. This, in turn, gives users a more accurate inclination of what they will get if they download it, which ultimately leads to a happier customer.

Honorable Mentions: Scrolling, Bundles, and Editor’s Choice

Those are the big three. There were a lot of other great new changes that made the honorable mention team. Apple switched from swiping side-to-side to a continuous scroll, which means apps will have less time to capture the attention of a user (hint: icons, screenshots, and title will become more important). It will also make it less painful for the user to scroll through a larger number of apps. Someone can easily scroll through 30-40 apps with three quick swipes (although this doesn’t mean users will want to do this).

They also now made it possible to make app bundles, which will provide another channel to market your app and will also make it easier for publishers with lots of apps to cross promote titles.

The last member to make the honorable mention team is the editor’s choice logo. Although they have a whole section dedicated to this, you will now be able to identify, in normal search, which apps have acquired this honor. We’ll see if Apple also gives these apps a boost in ranking – you wouldn’t want the editor’s choice apps to be all the way down in past 100, would you?

We’re excited that Apple is working hard to improve the app store. Hopefully this is just the start of something much bigger.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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