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Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 05:25 am PT (08:25 am ET)

Apple adds keywords to App Store additions for easier search

Soon after Apple admitted that improvements were needed in helping users locate App Store software, developers have been asked to add a list of keywords for their submitted applications to improve discovery.

In a change revealed to AppleInsider, developers are now asked to enter up to 255 characters worth of keywords, separated by commas, which will be used for search in the App Store on the iPhone and iPod touch.

The addition has been made to iTunes Connect, the service where developers and artists submit their content to the App Store and iTunes.

"It is important to enter keywords for all applications as soon as possible so your application can continue to be successfully located on the App Store," the update from Apple reads. "Keywords can be updated with the submission of a new binary."

With over 65,000 applications currently available in the App Store, it can be difficult for users to find new applications with the current categorization methods. During last week's second-quarter earnings report, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the company is looking for new ways to categorize software in the App Store.

"As you know, today we do it by type of app and also have show popular apps and top-selling apps, et cetera," Cook said. "We realize there’s opportunity there for further improvement and are working on that."

Analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Co. was highly critical of the App Store search last week. He said he still has reservations about the destination due to poor search capabilities and a plethora of $0.99 software flooding the marketplace.

"If the App Store is going to drive iPhone sales, the applications on the web site have to be unique and valuable to shoppers in ways that can’t be matched on competing smartphone stores," he wrote. "In short, they should populate the 'killer app' category, which has been a key driver of hardware sales. To accomplish this will require that the most engaging applications are written for and can be easily discovered on the iPhone App Store."

Behind the scenes, Apple has quietly fixed some problems with the App Store search. Weeks ago, a search for "EA," the brand for Electronic Arts, returned results with 15 games from a company called Digital Chocolate. The reason: In the games' descriptions, the word "each" was abbreviated to "ea."

But now, the first 18 results in a search for "EA" are Electronic Arts games.