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article imageApple may let developers pay for better App Store search rankings

By James Walker     Apr 15, 2016 in Technology
Apple may be planning to radically change the way apps are promoted in the App Store. The company is said to be investigating how it could offer paid search result placements to developers, giving app creators more exposure in exchange for cash.
Developers would be able to pay to get their app shown at the top of search results relevant to what a user is looking for. The creator of an entertainment app could pay to have their product promoted in searches for "music" or "video" while a racing game could appear in searches for "cars."
The secret project was revealed in a Bloomberg report that cites people "familiar" with the company's plans. The aim is to give developers a way to get their apps more prominently displayed in the App Store, opening them up to more users but potentially making it harder for smaller apps to get established.
The move would dramatically alter the way in which the App Store works. The store's search facility currently bases results on relevance and popularity without giving developers a way to directly influence rankings, a model that is now showing its age.
Apple curates lists of top apps for each category but the App Store is widely seen as in need of a shake-up. Developers have been asking Apple to rework the store's discovery features for years but the company hasn't responded in a significant way to date.
Aside from a move to keyword-based search, it has received little attention to its fundamental systems since launch seven years ago. In that time it has grown to hold over 1.5 million apps, making it difficult for consumers to navigate the collection. Letting developers of popular apps pay to make them more visible could make browsing the store simpler and allow customers to find new apps more quickly.
Google's Play Store already includes the paid search feature that Apple is said to be investigating. Android developers are able to market their apps more aggressively to customers by handing money to Google.
Krishna Subramanian, co-founder of social media marketing firm Captiv8, told Bloomberg that Apple introducing paid search would be "huge." Subramanian said "Anything that you can do to help drive more awareness to your app, to get organic downloads, is critical."
The strategy is reportedly spearheaded by Apple Vice President Todd Teresi who has also led the company's iAd advertising efforts. Development is said to be in the early stages so app creators and consumers shouldn't be expecting to see any major changes for several months.
Despite the lack of discoverability, the App Store is still a major money-maker for Apple. Last year, the store experienced a record-breaking holiday season in which customers spent $1.1 billion in two weeks and burned through $144 million in a single day. With new mechanisms to let customers interact with more apps, Apple could grow the store even further with its new secret strategy.
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