How Apple’s Changing Up Search: From Siri to Safari to Spotlight – #SMX Liveblog

Search engines Google, Bing, and Yahoo, step aside, because Apple’s changing things up. This insightful SMX East session “How Apple’s Changing Up Search: From Siri to Safari to Spotlight” discusses the many ways Apple products are impacting search and what marketers should know and do about it.

Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land (@dannysullivan)

Speaker: Emily Grossman, Mobile Marketing Specialist, MobileMoxie (@goutaste)

Emily Grossman: Marketers Should Ride the Apple Bypass into Engagement Land

Most people at SMX will talk about Google, Bing, and Yahoo. But today’s session is all about Apple.

Why Apple?

Apple is growing in terms of hardware. TechCrunch reported 3,000 iPhone sales a minute. The devices Apple sells are across the board, from laptops to TV devices. In 2013, CEO Tim Cook said Apple is not a hardware company and that there are many other things that they want to do to grow revenue.

Apple has owned these markets: App Store and Apple Music.

These markets are threatened by YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play and Google Search. Google Search gives information for free in an independent market place. In some ways, search has become the ultimate threat to Apple.

Apple created three tools to address the search engine threat:

Three Apple Tools SMX East

  1. Spotlight: Allows you to search content on your device, web content, and other content as Apple introduces it.
  2. Siri: Similar to Spotlight, but searches are done through voice command.
  3. Safari: This mobile browser has been pulling in suggested results from Apple for a while now (i.e., Apple-suggested search results in Safari).

Apple wants us to think of these three tools collectively as Search.

Mac Users Are Growing and Loyal

Mac Users are Growing SMX East

The Safari browser has 53 percent of the mobile market share because iPhone users are unlikely to change their default browser.

Apple is using its three tools to cut in line, cut out Google, and cut out the web.

Apple cuts out Google SMX East

Ride the Apple Bypass into Traffic (or Engagement) Land!

Grossman gives this caveat: Don’t take this as no more Google or no more SEO. We’re not in a situation where Apple has a worldwide market share for search. Don’t abandon your Google SEO.

Cutting in Line

Predictive Search — Apple has a less sophisticated version than Google Now does of predictive search. But Apple is predicting queries and suggesting results before the user even executes the search.

Cutting Out Google

Spotlight and Siri default to Bing search over Google search for suggesting search queries.

Siri and Spotlight use Bing, and Twitter is even offered as an alternative search source before Google.

Safari still defaults to Google but provides alternative options.

Cutting Out the Web

Apple is doing this by suggesting map locations, emails, phone contacts, and especially apps.

We think of search engines as organizers of web content. Apple is trying to suggest as much information as they can outside of the web. Siri suggests contacts, apps, and Apple Maps first (in iOS9).

For a suggested specific location, rich results are from Apple Maps not Google Maps. They provide directions and an aggregated-data screen for a phone number and website. This is powered by Apple Maps Connect. Grossman suggests that you:

  • Set up a business with Apple Maps.
  • Choose your categories.
  • Make your Apple Maps listings as attractive as possible.

She thinks the most interesting thing is that Apple publishes information on where they get their local information from. A major way for your business to cut in line is to get a customer to download your V Card.

Email Optimization: This is happening now!

  • Put the most important keywords in the subject line.
  • Putting them earlier in the subject line is better.
  • Apple prefers recent emails to older emails.
  • Mobile devices can pull only what is stored on the device (less than on a computer).

Optimization Tips for YouTube, App Store, and More

Grossman moves to the topic of YouTube optimization, because YouTube videos are dominating in Apple Search.

YouTube Optimization tips SMX East

[Editor’s note: Here’s another SMX East liveblog that covers YouTube optimization in-depth: Being Found on YouTube.]

Apple Search also suggests iTunes content. Publishers and content marketers take note! Publish content to iTunes.

Apple’s App Store commission is now at a run-rate of $9 billion! This explains why Apple is looking here to pull up suggested apps in search results.

Deep App Screen Results: The newest thing in search app indexing in the new iOS 9. You can jump from a search result to a specific page in an app.

Apple deep app search results

Apple is encouraging Deep App Screens in lots of places. You will see this in Apple Maps, in YouTube app, and you can get stacked results:

Apple stacked app results

Apple Search App Indexing

Apple offers developers three ways to enable deep app indexing for their app content:

  • CoreSpotlight
  • NSUserActivity
  • Web markup

Indexed app screens can be public or private (user-specific). In a messaging app where all content is private, users see only their messages.

Apple Search sources from two indexes: Device Index (private) and Cloud Index (public).


  • Used for indexing app screens that contain private/personal data.
  • Does NOT require corresponding web content.
  • Add code to APP.
  • This is a private Device Index.


  • Used for indexing private and public navigation points in the app.
  • Does NOT require corresponding web content.
  • Add code to APP.
  • This can be a private Device Index and/or public Cloud Index.

Web Markup

  • Used for indexing public app screens that mirror content on the web.
  • DOES require corresponding web content.
  • Add code to WEB.
  • This is a public Cloud Index.

App indexing 3 SMX East

To get your website crawled by Apple, you can submit your URL here:

Known Ranking Factors

When it comes to getting your app to rank in Apple Search, there are some known ranking factors that can either help or hurt your chances.

Positive Ranking Factors

  • App installation status
  • Personalized app engagement
  • App result click-through rate
  • Keywords in the title
  • Aggregated engagement metrics
  • Structured data on web
  • Canonical app IDs
  • Strength/popularity of the web URL

Negative Ranking Factors

  • Low engagement
  • Over-indexing
  • Returns
  • Keyword spamming
  • Interstitials
  • JavaScript-blocking Applebot (web only)

So pay attention to engagement, installs, click-through, and structured data on your website to help your app show up in Apple Search.

Apple doesn’t want interstitials in your app — they don’t rank deep app screens as high if they have interstitials.

In the future, you may be able to use Apple TV Search with Siri for tvOS and speak the query, “Show that Modern Family episode with Edward Norton” — and then see it.

Who’s It Going To Be: Apple or Google?

Closed garden or open garden.

Google is pushing HTML5 apps and it’s an experience that feels like an app. Grossman feels this is the path of least resistance. The API/feed option is going to be the future, rather than apps. Apps will go up and then go down. The most popular app where you’re spending twice as much time is the browser. The browser is very powerful. However, she still recommends that, in the short-term, you should have an app so you can take advantage of opportunities that are uniquely available there.

Want to know more?
Read our liveblogs from Emily Grossman’s sessions at:

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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