On July 23, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an investigative report revealing that Apple’s own mobile apps are often first in the App Store search results ahead of its competitors’. “The company’s apps ranked first in more than 60 percent of basic searches, such as for ‘maps.’ Apple apps that generate revenue through subscriptions or sales, like Music or Books, showed up first in 95 percent of searches related to those apps,” the report said. However, Apple has denied the allegations.
In categories like maps and books, Apple apps are less popular than those from Google and Amazon. Based on data from SensorTower, an app analytics platform, Apple Books is ranked 223rd, as compared to Amazon Kindle, which occupies the 3rd spot. According to the report, Apple’s App Store's dominance gives it an “upper hand” as it generates $50 billion (Rs. 345,053 crores) in annual spending.
In another example, the report highlights the case of the Audiobooks.com app: it held the first spot in the audio books category on the App Store for over two years when it was overtaken by Apple’s own Books app last September. However, Ian Small, the General Manager of Audiobooks.com, told WSJ that the change was “literally overnight”. It is worth noticing that the app had over 35,000 customer reviews and a 4.8-star ranking, as mentioned in the report.
However, Apple has denied the allegations saying that it has a total of 42 factors for ranking search results although the tech giant didn’t reveal any details about the search algorithm it uses. “Apple customers have a very strong connection to our products and many of them use search as a way to find and open their apps,” the company said. “This customer usage is the reason Apple has strong rankings in search, and it’s the same reason Uber, Microsoft and so many others often have high rankings as well.”
Moreover, Apple tells developers that App Store search results are influenced by ratings, downloads, and user reviews. Additionally, the company has a guide on how to optimise the discovery of apps on its Apple Developer site. It lists all the major organic ways in which a developer can improve the ranking of apps in search results.