Over the past few days, several people have noticed that direct links to iOS apps for relevant search queries aren’t surfacing in the first few results on Google’s search engine results page. While there exist many channels like the App Store, Appshopper.com etc. to discover apps, Google search is one of the most common ways people find apps.
Both TechCrunch and TNW have highlighted various search queries where a direct link to the iOS app should be the first result, but Google doesn’t even surface iTunes URLs in the first few result pages. Here are a few of them:
- “Snapchat iPhone”
- “whatsapp iPhone”
- “alien blue iPhone”
- “flipboard iPhone”
- “flipboard iPad”
- “tiny wings”
There are many other search queries that exhibit similar behaviour. What’s strange is that similar searches for Google’s own apps return iTunes URL as the top or the second result. Even stranger is the fact that Google’s results show alternative download sites like Softonic and CNET, or worse, sites that host pirated apps, on the first page, above direct links to apps.
To be clear, Google is still indexing iTunes links (try a search for site:itunes.apple.com), it’s just that these links aren’t ranking high enough for relevant search terms.
Google also has a separate “Application Search” section on its website, which earlier had an option to show only iOS apps. Strangely, this option doesn’t seem to be live now, with the feature offering filters only for Android and Windows Phone apps.
We don’t know for sure if this is a strategic move by Google, or a technical error, but it’ll surely make finding apps difficult for iOS users.
Update: Google has given the following statement to Search Engine Land:
We’ve been having some issues fetching pages from the iTunes web servers, and as a result some people may have had problems finding iTunes apps in search easily. We’re working with the team there to ensure search users can find what they’re looking for.