iOS 9 ASO – What Developers Need to Know to Step Up Their App Store Optimization Game

Tired of seeing ASO articles telling you to put keywords into your app’s title?
Yeah, me too.
This brings up an important point though. Until now, App Store Optimization has been very simplistic, especially compared to web SEO.
Quite frankly, there wasn’t much to write on the topic. You really had to be creative or have access to a ton of data.  
Of course, simple and easy are not the same thing. It still takes a lot of work to get ASO right.
Tasnim can attest to that here.
If you are just getting started with ASO and are wondering: what is App Store Optimization? Be sure go through our course. It is way faster than reading through dozens of random blog posts.
But just like SEO matured and got much more complex over the years, ASO is maturing and there will be more nuances to understand. We are finally starting to see that in iOS 9 ASO.
In this post, we will explore the changes in iOS 9 update and what you will need to know to step up your ASO game.

Deep Linking in iOS 9 ASO…Explained

The promise of app deep linking has been around for awhile, but we are finally starting to see it take hold and have a meaningful impact on iOS apps.
What are deep links? If you aren’t familiar with the term, I’ll explain it real quick.
If you already understand it, you can skip to the next section. 
Simply put, Deep Links allow the content in your app to be searchable.
All the content. 
This opens up your content to the public and existing users of your app…like never before.

The Search APIs

Before I get into some specific examples, it is helpful to understand the big picture. The new search functionality is implemented in iOS 9 via three APIs.

core APIs

Image: Apple Developer

What They are Used For

  • NSUserActivity – Stores a history of what the user has viewed on a device, so it is easier to go back to later and suggest new content.
  • CoreSpotlight – Indexes the content in an app. This is the best way to index private app content.
  • Web Markup – If your app content is also available on your website, adding web markup will relate your website information to your app content and open it up to public search.

Now that we have the technical stuff out of the way, let’s look at some examples…

Search That Goes Deeper

When iOS 8 first came out, I wrote a post on how Spotlight was helping to solve the app discovery issue.  In iOS 9, Spotlight gets even smarter.
It is now tightly integrated with deep links, to give users a much richer experience. Instead of having to know which app to open to get the information you are looking for, you get specific in-app information.

Public Search

For example, if you searched for “restaurant” in iOS 8, you would get links to apps that could give you restaurant information.
app store results
But in the new set of iOS 9 features, you now get actual restaurant suggestions from inside apps. For example, these suggestions came from the Maps app.
Oh, I love Roy’s.
Search results
[sc name=”Position – 1 – Shortcode” ]
That’s an example of public data, but now let’s look at an example of how it helps people access private information on their mobile device.

Private Search

Airbnb indexed their app’s content and now you can search for reservations and even messages inside Spotlight Search. It makes it so simple to find all the details about your trip to Napa, for example.
You can see the entire Apple presentation explaining this feature here.

apple presentation of ios 9 aso and other features

Image: Apple Developer

The first step to leveraging deep linking is to make sure that the content in your app can be indexed by iOS 9. To get more information on how to do that, visit the Search for Developers page.

Applebot Provides More Context and Content

But searching within apps is only half of the story. Most content-based apps also have public information available on their website.
Applebot indexes websites, relates web content to app content, and makes that information available within iOS 9 and Safari search. It acts like any other search bot and it respects your robots.txt file.
The bottom line is that your app becomes much more visible because your public content is now indexed and fills any gaps in the indexing of your in-app content. To validate that your APIs are installed correctly, Apple has a handy tool that will double check your work.
Simply copy in the URL and click the button…
Search validation


That is how App Store Optimization is shaping up in the latest iOS update. The basics of ASO will still be around, so if you aren’t familiar with them, learn about them here.
But they will start to become a smaller part of the app discovery puzzle…thankfully.
If you have a content-based iOS app, you need to implement deep linking as soon as possible. Remember that you can also use deep linking on social media, which is huge for leveraging your following to get more installs. 
You will still need to create great content and do keyword and market research. But now you aren’t limited to just 100 characters.


  1. INTUZ iPad App Developers
  2. Stamford

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