If you are like me and have ever searched for an app in Apple’s App Store you know it’s a frustrating experience, especially if you don’t know the name of the app. Even typing in some likely keywords often didn’t work. Frankly, it’s been a mess.

Earlier this month, Apple began to quietly make changes in the way the App Store searches are parsed.

For example, before the changes, if I typed ‘HDR’ for an App Store search, I got a few HDR apps if they had HDR in their name. No more. Type ‘HDR’ and you get some search categories, like ‘HDR Free’. Click that and all the free HDR apps come up, and they don’t have to have ‘HDR’ in the app name. That’s a tremendous improvement.

These changes, unannounced by Apple, are really pleasing developers who have suffered through Apple’s hit-and-miss search results.

It appears that previously searches were directly tied to app sales rankings. That may still be a factor, but the changes now allow for better app discovery because an obscure app may be just what you want. A ‘best-seller’ search may not be relevant, especially if the app is a new release.

Some studies say about half the apps sold are sold after a search of the app store. With results that were not good, searching the store could be a maddening experience, both for the buyer, and the seller who may never connect with a customer.

It’s pretty clear from my experiments that the App Store is doing a better job with keywords, where before they were often ignored. And the keyword searches are clearly going beyond the keywords developers provide, but using other content sources to get a more intelligent search.

The app store searches are still not perfect. While looking for an app that gave accurate sunset and sunrise times, I found a lot of apps but not the particular app I was looking for. So it’s clear there’s still a way to go.

After an hour of searching I can say that things are much better now, and search results give you a better mix of competitive apps that simply would have been ignored a month ago.

Apple isn’t commenting on the changes, but I suggest our readers try some searches and see if things are working better for you.

Apple still isn’t quite at the level of search result quality i get with Amazon, but these are positive changes.

For iPhoneographers faced with literally thousands of photo apps in the store, these better search results are going to be a big deal.

What do you think? Have App Store searches improved for you recently? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below, regardless of whether they are good or bad.