Dropbox Branding and App Store SEO Shenanigans

I disable the option for automatic updates to apps installed via the App Store on all my devices. I think Apple is correct to make automatic updates the default — for typical users, they should just have the latest versions installed automatically. But I like knowing what apps have been updated. Some apps actually tell you more than “Bug fixes” in their release notes, too.

Typically what I do every few days is scroll through the list of updated apps, see if any of them look interesting, (and take the opportunity to just delete any updated apps that I no longer use), and then hit “Update All” and check back again in a few days.

Last week I noticed an update for an app on my iPhone with a name that struck me as odd: “Dropbox: Cloud Photo Storage”. I have long had the regular Dropbox app installed. I also have Dropbox’s Paper app installed. But I never installed nor would install a dedicated photo-storing app from Dropbox.

I quickly determined that this was just the regular Dropbox app. Dropbox has simply renamed it to include “Cloud Photo Storage” in the name for SEO purposes. This apparently works so well, at the moment, that some apps are putting these descriptions before the actual name of the app in their App Store listings. App Store entrepreneur Jake Mor explicitly recommends this in a long Twitter thread delineating his current recommendations for App Store success:

Take the top result of #46, and change your app’s title to “Keyword - App Name”. For example, “Personal Trainer - FitnessAI”.

I find this unsurprising but depressing. (Mor’s whole thread is a bit depressing.) The App Store should discourage SEO nonsense like keyword spamming, not reward it. I don’t blame developers for using unseemly naming tricks that work; I blame Apple for running a search engine that rewards such chicanery.