Many marketers who do SEO think mainly of Google, and sometimes Bing. But the reality is that any platforms with search have people who try to optimize for a better result. People work hard to try to rank on search engines like YouTube, Amazon and the Apple App Store.
It’s not just optimizing performance based on the algorithms. Some companies, including Apple and Amazon have changed their search algorithms to favor the companies themselves. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Amazon altered its search results in ways that boosted its own profits. This was despite a lot of internal pushback.
According to WSJ, Amazon’s retail business pushed for the product search system to take profitability into account. Programmers tasked with running the search algorithm, reportedly opposed the idea. In part because it goes against the ethos of the company that claims to put the customer above all else.
Amazon’s legal team also raised concerns about the idea. Pointing out that the decision would likely draw scrutiny in The European Union. Google was fined $2.7 billion in 2017 for elevating its own shopping service in the organic search results.
Apple has been known for the same behavior on its owe app store search engine. According to a report from The New York Times Apple’s iOS App Store heavily favored the company’s iPhone and iPad apps, ranking them higher than more popular third-party options. This changed with a recent algorithm update.
The Times says they studied App Store search results (dating back several years) for queries like “music” and “podcasts” finding that Apple regularly favored a handful of its own apps, before getting to apps made by third-party developers.
Writing for Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling said “Visibility and position in App Store search results can be a make or break proposition for developers and startups in particular. Apple now says it has voluntarily remedied the issue in the App Store.
Despite this, the government will continue to scrutinize Apple’s behavior. And the results of any investigation into Apple’s search algorithm and its economic impact may hold implications for Google as well.”
People working in SEO, were overwhelmingly not surprised by this, but definitely find it annoying. Mason Pelt the owner of a Dallas SEO Agency said “I believe Apple, Amazon and Google, are only impartial to the point they have to be, for fear of consumer backlash or regulation. Finding out Apple, Amazon, or Google favored their own products, isn’t surprising. ” Adding in a lecture to a group of small business owners, that “Relentless.com owned by Jeff Bezos still redirects to amazon.com. Why? because they are relentless.”
When asked for tips Pelt said “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you until you have some teeth.” He explained that Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple, but that the only reason he felt the complaint benefited Spotify, rather than ending the company was because Spotify already had millions of users.