In an increasingly mobile world – one where mobile traffic is set to overtake traffic from desktop and laptop computers – App Store SEO could soon wedge its way into the traditional SEOs repertoire. With Apple announcing Appstore.com URLs (during the Super Bowl no less) it might be time for Apple to look at the maddening way they are currently ranking apps, and the real lack of a viable way to optimize and rank apps by terms of authority, rather than using ancient SEO practices that drive current practitioners crazy.
It’s no secret that mobile traffic is growing. As far as growth is concerned, it’s by far the largest growing segment of internet traffic and it’s largely ignored by many of the bigger SEO firms in the industry. This means the gates are still wide open for competition, and the App Store URLs might just be the perfect place to stick your foot in the door.
Current App Store SEO
As we speak, there isn’t a ton of traditional SEO work one can do on mobile apps. Optimizing the app for search engines isn’t a thing – yet, and we’re still not to the point where apps are indexed in traditional ways. We’re basically dumping keywords into the app description and title in hopes to capture a certain amount of search traffic via those searching for something not-so-specific.
Right now it’s very much a crap shoot that caters to those that are best at marketing their apps off of the App Store, rather than those properly optimizing and marketing the the apps on it.
Rand Fishkin says it pretty well…
“The inputs for app store ranking algorithms are both limited and hard to control. Get keywords in your app name, keywords and description, get a large number of positive reviews, and… well, actually, that’s pretty much it (to be fair, there are a few other metrics and best practices, but compared to web search, it’s puny).” — Rand Fishkin, SEOMoz
This is why the app store URLs could signal a departure from traditional app SEO (or lack thereof) to a system that caters to what modern SEOs do best; get things found.
App Store URL Implications
Many SEOs think that the current URL structure and the iTunes algorithm that decides what apps appear on the front page is still largely broken, which makes for a lot of unknowns when it comes to app SEO. Good SEOs don’t like the unknown.
With AppStore.com URLs, you aren’t trying to optimize a page on iTunes in order to influence their algorithm. These new URLs have an actual home on the web rather than just within iTunes, or your iOS device. The major hurdle Apple faces is getting people to actually use these vanity URLs rather than searching the traditional way. People don’t grab their laptop and Google an app that they’re looking for. They’re using the built-in search function on iTunes or their iOS device. In order for this to truly mean anything for SEO, Apple has to change consumer behavior, and that’s quite a task.
If I’m searching for “camera filters,” chances are the first results are going to be titled “camera filters” in one way or another – and if they aren’t, they’ll have the text in the description, or used repeatedly within the reviews. Then they’ll be ranked accordingly by the number of downloads and the percentage of positive reviews. The thing that makes this a crapshoot is that the above logic isn’t always the case and the app with higher authority might not appear as high as those that have the exact match title. This is SEO circa 2002.
Let’s take a look at a search for “camera filters” in iTunes.
As promised, an app named “Camera Filters” is the first result while Instagram – arguably the king of camera filter apps – is ranked a lowly 9th. This is maddening, because one would have to assume that Instagram – having 40k reviews, a 5-star rating and (I’m assuming) quite a few more downloads – would be the top app in this domain, or at least close to the top. In traditional SEO terms, it’s almost not even on the first page (if we’re talking Google results). This is the current state of app SEO. This is also why most SEOs avoid this area like it contains the Ebola virus.
A Switch to Traditional SEO
The alternative would be to use traditional SEO in the app marketplace, which is something Apple isn’t currently doing. Angry Birds isn’t downloaded because people search for “birds” and it happens to be the first result. Angry Birds gets downloaded by those that know exactly what they’re looking for. New apps aren’t nearly as lucky. These are the apps that need to be found in order to be downloaded and ranked in order to (presumably) be given top billing in searches for specific keywords.
The App Store URLs are little more than vanity pieces now, but with an actual home on the web, it opens the doors to some interesting SEO ideas that could come into play more and more over the next few months. We’ll keep you updated.