Apple Announced Critical Changes Coming for the App Store (Affects on App Store Optimization)

Apple just announced great things coming for iMacs, iPads or Siri at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). Besides promising new hardware, they also declared significant changes for their iTunes App Store. Here are the most important WWDC news for app developers and marketers.

Games are no longer called Apps

Apple promised a total makeover of the App Store. One of the most significant changes will be the implementation of totally new tabs. That means, with iOS 11, a new menu structure will come. The new menu points “Today”, “Games” and “Apps” will replace “Categories”, “Featured” and “Top Charts”.

The biggest part of the app store now has its own dedicated tab. Apple decided to create an independent “Games” tab, that more concretely separates games from apps. That allows a detailed categorization of game genres and should help users to discover the best featured games of the day and charts only about gaming. The “Games” tab features the day’s biggest game releases according to Apple’s editor team and allows users to watch a bunch of game promo videos or game play videos by editors. Besides listing top paid or top free apps, there is furthermore a listing called most beautiful games and a top categories section.

Since games got their own tab, also apps are shown in a dedicated area. The “Apps” tab shows pretty much the same as the “Games” tab, like editor recommendations, apps of the day or top categories but with a focus just on apps.

This might be a real game changer: For the first time ever, they are about to feature in-app purchases as well. Apple shows new levels, characters or game play updates extending your game to users directly in the app store. Users can click on them to start the process of getting it right away.

Daily Updates & Editorial Stories

Users will be shown a daily update of what’s new in the App Store; right when they open it. This new tab is called “Today” and shows editorial stories telling users more about a recommended app or game and about what makes it great.

The tab shows story cards in a feed including app features, how-to-articles, an app and game of the day, and app collections called “daily list”. By clicking on these cards, users have the opportunity to read more about the featured app or game as well as about the developers, to download the app right away or to share the story it with friends.

Total Layout Makeover

Every app and game has its own product page in the App Store. However, this is about to look quite different than we are used to. On WWDC 2017, Apple announced to relaunch a completely redesigned App Store in fall 2017. It should become more engaging by emphasizing videos, ratings and features.

With the help of a Play-Store-like badge, called “Editor’s Choice”, it becomes more obvious, when an app got featured by Apple. Furthermore the new layout lays more focus on ratings, download numbers and videos. Especially for games, having a great designed app videos will become more important than ever, since app preview videos will automatically start playing on mute when a user visits the app page.

New App Store Fields — New ASO Factors

Let’s now come to the most important news form WWDC 2017 for all App Store Optimization enthusiasts: There are two new App Store elements for your iTunes Connect app page.

New: Subtitle

Completely new for the Apple App Store, there is now a subtitle field below the app name throughout the App Store. The subtitle field is limited to 30 characters and should include a brief summary of what the app is about. Shown together with the app title and icon, it should encourage people to visit your app page.

First ASO experiments have shown, that this field is relevant for search ranking results.

New: Promo Text

Similar as Google Play Store handles it, also Apple now provides an extra field for a short promotional summary. The “Promotional Text” appears at the top of your description. It is limited to 170 characters and can be updated at any time without having to submit a new app version.

The promotional summary is likely not to be indexed by the App Store algorithm.

The promotional text will be somewhat like an extension of the “What’s new” section as it is considered to share the latest news about your app or in-app purchases, upcoming features, limited-time sales or other specials in your app.

Changed: App Description

Writing an app description is not so new for iOS developers. However, what is crucial to know, is that the app description no longer can be changed without submitting a new version of your app. Instead, only the promotional text can be updated on the fly.

However, this might be a hint, that the app description is going to be indexed then.

Changed: App Name

Until now, besides keywords, the app name was the most important App Store ranking factor. Back in 2016, the length of valid app names was already decreased from 255 down to 50 characters. Now, they are going even further and are going to set the character limitation for the app title field to 30 characters. (So far, you can still make use of al 50 characters but we will keep you updated on this!)

Side-Note: Google Play is increasing their character limit for app titles from 30 to 50.

Which impact do these changes have on App Store Optimization?

These changes might have huge impact on your App Store Optimization strategy like you were used to. What is especially remarkable, is the fact, that the App Store team gains even more power and possibilities in recommending which apps to download.

  • To get featured by the Apple App Store will have an even greater impact on your app downloads as your app is shown even more prominent than before;
  • There are two more keyword-algorithm-relevant App Store fields now: Promotional Text & Subtitle;
  • They did not completely get rid of algorithm based top charts, however, users will have to scroll down in the according “Games” or “Apps” tab to get to the top paid or top free listing of apps; And there, only the Top 3 is shown above the fold;
  • As there is space for a lot of hand-picked choices by Apple’s editor team, this might increase indie developers’ chances to get featured when delivering an outstanding app or game; However, it looks like, only one to two featured apps are shown without having the user to scroll down; (instead of up to 9 featured apps, like it is now)
  • You will have to change your app name accordingly to the new 30 character limitation soon; (we will keep you updated on this)
  • Carefully write and rethink your app description in future as it stays immutable until your next major app update; Thus, it is likely, that Apple plans to index keywords in app descriptions as well;
  • App reviews, ratings as well as top category / charts position, and age rating are shown in a more noticeable way; It is likely, that these elements will also grow in importance for the App Store algorithm;
  • Users will finally see the average rating of your app instead of only ratings for the current version; Keeping your app up-to-date won’t have negative effects anymore.
  • App Store search results are going to look different; Coming with iOS 11 and the new App Store layout, App Store search results will not only show your app page but also developers, in-app purchases, categories, stories / tips&tricks and collections (editorial content, provided by Apple);
  • App Preview videos will become even more important with iOS 11; Up to 3 videos can be uploaded to your product page; Also, you will finally can localize app preview videos;

It all looks like Apple is moving towards a more human-centered service rather than revising their algorithm. There is no doubt, that this will have great impact on how users discover your app and how you could optimize this.

Note: App Radar Publisher is already updated in terms of new fields and character restrictions making it easier for you to draft your next App Store update. Check it out in the App Radar Dashboard.

No App Radar user yet? Then try out App Radar ASO Tool and App Radar Publisher 14 days for free to optimize your app store rankings. Get to know more here.



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Silke Glauninger

Always looking for new spots to explore and innovative ideas 🚀 “Full-Stack“ Marketer