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Greetings. I’m Jeff Johnson and I founded Digital Ruby in 2009 in order to learn how to run a software company, teach myself mobile programming and expand my skills and knowledge. I craft iOS apps, websites and server software.

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Apple Limits App Titles to 50 Characters, Still Doesn’t Get Search

Sep 1, 2016

Today (September 1, 2016), Apple announced to developers that they would be limiting app titles to 50 characters for new and updated apps. Their reasoning is that developers try to keyword stuff their titles to show up for more search results. This is a HUGE problem on the app store. Most top apps have titles that are stuffed with keywords to the max.

Check out this image of top photo and video app titles (zoom in if you can’t read it):

Did you see You Doodle in there? I’ve stuffed my title to the max just like everyone else because the keywords field is a joke.

At any rate, no mention was given to existing apps. What about the millions of apps that will never be updated? I assume they get to keep their long list of title stuffed keywords. Apple did say that they would eventually be removing abandoned apps, but who knows how long this will take. Maybe an app will have to be updated once a year to stay on the store or something, who knows.

The bigger problem is that this is a band-aid on a gushing wound of an app store search problem. I’ve already written about my suggestions for fixing the app store search problem extensively. My app You Doodle contains dozens of features and will never rank high for all of it’s features. Losing these keywords from the title means I will need to simply focus on brand awareness of “You Doodle”.

An arbitrary limit of 50 characters seems laughable in an international market. Russian native speakers will be lucky to get a few words in their title before running out of characters. China, Japan and Korea will get around 25 words. English, maybe 7-10 words. As an international company, I would have expected Apple to make a word count limit for titles, not a character limit. A word count of 10-12 seems reasonable – you get your app title and a nice sub-title for that killer feature. I realize they don’t want titles truncated on the store, but this is really not fair to the Russian language – it’s just more verbose with it’s character counts. I’ve never heard someone complain about a truncated title. Who really cares?

Apple will be coming out with search ads in the fall. Pay Apple some money and your app will show up at the top of search results for your paid keywords. Great for Apple, not so great for indie developers. The big boys who can crank out apps and throw lots of money at search ads will take all the downloads. This scares me a lot, which is a big reason I am diversifying my income stream away from just iOS apps.

If Apple indexed the app description and got rid of the keywords field that would make a world of difference. They could also extend the keywords field to 100 relevant words or something in lieu of indexing the app description. Google Play indexes the app description which is great, especially if your app has a large selection of great features, they can all show up in search results. However, Google Play has it’s own issues. For example, a new app does not show up for an exact search of it’s title if it has common words. You Doodle took months before it showed up on the first page for a search of “You Doodle”.

The App Store is really great and definitely has it’s problems, but it’s allowed me to support my family and has been an historic achievement in human history, so I can’t complain too much 🙂

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I'm Jeff JohnsonJeff Johnson (jjxtra) and I've been doing software development since age 7. I make Mobile apps, Unity plugins and server software.