Is Apple Upping Up Its Search Game?

September 3, 2020

Kerrie Ashall

Since it started back in 1997, Google has dominated the world on online search, currently holding a massive 87% of the market.

However, several developments over recent weeks suggest that this could soon be coming to an end with the potential development of a search engine by Apple. These rumours are nothing new. When the Applebot was announced back in 2015, the SEO world got excited this could point to something big.

So what is all the fuss about? Why are SEO experts getting excited about a potential Apple search engine, and could it be true? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

1. Applebot has become more active

According to several SEO experts such as Jon Henshaw from Coywolf, Applebot has suddenly become much more active, crawling websites much more frequently than it has done in the past.

“Checking my server logs on WP Engine revealed that Applebot had been regularly crawling my sites daily, something I haven’t noticed until now,” he said.

The Applebot is used for Siri and Spotlight Search to search websites and rank them in much the same way as Google, so this sudden increase could suggest something is indeed in the works.

2. Apple have announced more job vacancies

A quick look at the Jobs at Apple web pages show an increase in the number of job vacancies for search engineers across Siri Search, Apple Maps and the app store itself. As one such advert reads;

“The App Store engineering team is looking for engineers dedicated to improving the search experience across the platform in order to aid content discovery and acquisition.”

However, this isn’t necessarily cause for excitement- most large companies continue to recruit new staff when developing and improving new platforms, features and tech.

For example, back in 2013, Apple acquired the entire social search firm, Topsy to help with indexing and searching expertise, and ended up developing Spotlight Search as a result. An increase in recruitment could simply point to their continued desire to improve Apple products for their customers.

3. Apple have recently updated their Applebot support page

The Applebot support page has been completely revamped over the last few months, with information on web ranking factors also updated. This include the following changes:

  • New information on how to verify traffic from Applebot
  • Expended robots.txt rules
  • New section on search rankings and ranking factors they use
  • Expanded information on Applebot user agent with information on desktop vs mobile versions
  • New section to say they don’t only crawl HTML but render pages in a similar way to Google.

Like the increase in search engineer vacancies at Apple, these could simply suggest that they continue to improve and refine their existing tools. Having said that, these changes are focused on search rankings, crawling and performance…

4. UK and European regulators aren’t happy about Google’s dominance of the market

The deal that Google has with Apple that makes it the default search engine on Apple products such as Safari for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS could soon be coming to an end.

For a long time, both users and regulators across Europe have expressed their frustration about the way in which Google dominates the search market.

Back in July, Google were forced to create a ‘search choice’ screen for android users setting up their new devices. Given greater choice, more users could make the switch away from Google, creating a gap in the market that Apple could fill. Could this already be part of Apple’s plans?

5. Apple have already bypassed Google search with Spotlight Search

Spotlight Search is the Apple tool that allows you to find information stored on your phone or on the web and aims to help you find what you need faster. In the past, this has led the user through the Google search engine to their result.

However, the new version of Spotlight Search for iOS and iPadOS 14 completely skips Google and takes users directly to the web pages they need. As explained on Apple news website, Mac Rumors“…you can hit the “Go” button to open the website directly without having to tap a link in the search results.

Combined with the other developments we’ve seen recently, this is perhaps the most interesting of them all and does seem to suggest we’ll see more from Apple search.

Final thoughts

Apple is famous for always being visionary, putting privacy first and going beyond user expectations. If the rumours about Apple developing their own search engine are in fact true, this could potentially reshape the world of search, open the market up to further competition and change the way that website developers and SEO experts achieve the best results.

This can only be a good thing, pushing towards new technological advancements and a better overall user experience for us all.

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