ARE YOU LOSING MONEY? If you develop themes for launchers or apps like GO Launcher, GO SMS, Next Launcher, Apex, ADW, or other apps then you've probably noticed you're installs have reduced dramatically. That's because a recent anomaly in the Play Store search feature has caused an issue where your themes aren't being returned in the results correctly. Many themes won't display in the result even if you search for them by their exact name.
I'm going to take a moment to give you a couple of examples so you can see what I'm talking about and then I'm going to go over what the negative impacts are and then let you think about how we should approach this problem together.
First let's think about how the end user is searching for the themes they want to download. If I like Star Trek and I wanted to some Star Trek inspired themes how would I search for them? I'd probably type in the search bar the name of the app I want the theme for and then Star Trek. like this, "GO SMS Pro Star Trek" or if I know the name of the theme I'd type that. I think everyone will agree this is the typical way people search.
Now let's go to the Play Store and do some searching. I like basketball so I'm going to search for a "GO SMS Pro basketball theme". I'm using this as an example because I've been following this search result for six weeks and I know what the outcome should be. You can search for whatever you like.
Trying the search terms "GO SMS Pro Basketball Theme", I have gotten three relevant results on every search over the last six weeks but now there is only ONE RESULT. Now the interesting thing is, if I abbreviate my search "GO SM PR Basketball Theme" I'll get all THREE RESULTS.
GO SMS Pro Basketball theme
GO SMS Basketball Theme 2014
GO SMS basketball bubble Theme
THIS IS CRAZY! If I type the exact name of the app I'm looking for it may not show up in the results at all. Let's try it with the "GO SMS Basketball Theme 2014" in the search bar. Over the last six weeks, searching for this app by its name has not been a problem, but now, searching by exact name returns ZERO RESULTS.
Searching for a theme by it's name may yield a result or may not. Try some for yourself. I've tried many themes from the list "Top paid in personalization" and none of them come up as a relevant result. All of them should
I should mention that some searches still yield results for the subject. Searching for "GO SMS Pro Weed theme" still gets results although not as many but a search like "GO SMS Pro Diamond theme" yields no relevant results at all when there should be at least a dozen.
HOW IS THE END USER GOING TO FIND WHAT THEY WANT? That's a very pertinent question. If you want a Star Trek inspired theme for GO SMS how are you going to feel when you search "GO SMS Pro Star Trek" and get ZERO RELEVANT RESULTS?. Try that one...there should be at least ten results for it. In fact there are at least three Star Trek inspired themes on the "Top Paid in Personalization" list. and a couple on the "Top New Paid Android Apps" list. I point that out because if these themes are on top lists then they should certainly show as relevant result when searched and certainly when searched by app name.
I reported this issue to developer support. I advised them that I had observed this anomaly with the Play Store search feature during the last week. My primary concern was that end users would experience the frustration of failed searches for themes of interest and that Google and developers would potentially lose millions in revenue. Of course they misunderstood the report and sent me a typical canned response. I responded to that canned response with an even more detailed report, citing examples and pointing out other specific observations but they sent another canned response.
The question is, what do we do? How can we approach this problem? The end user needs to be able to locate relevant choices when they search but this anomaly prevents that. It even prevents the end user from searching for an app if he/she knows the exact name of the app. Searching by developer name doesn't work either.
I feel the frustration of having attempted to report this to developer support and now I'm eager to see your responses.