Since we started to publish each chapter of our ASO University, we decided to touch our older ASO guides as well. Instead of updating them, we decided to rewrite them in conjunction with the recent changes to ASO and the language of the ASO University. After having a look at the iOS App Store guide it’s time to get started with the Google Play App Store Optimization guide.
In this guide, we will be looking at Google Play app store optimization and how to adjust your strategy to its own distinctive environment. In its basic sense doing Google Play App Store Optimization is a bit closer to doing SEO. So, before delving into doing Google Play App Store Optimization, let’s have a look at what do we have in common with SEO and borrow from SEO to enhance our ASO strategy.
1.SEO vs. ASO
I don’t want to take too much of your time by giving a detailed explanation of the differences between SEO and ASO. I will have a basic look at them and highlight the points that are relevant to Google Play App Store Optimization.
How Does SEO Work?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization), is the process of increasing the rankings of websites on the search engines. For that matter, ASO and SEO are quite similar. However, SEO is much more complex and there are so many more different practices to learn when doing SEO.
So, how does SEO work? Similar to ASO, SEO aims to increase your rankings in the search results through ‘keywords’. The basic strategy is to tell the search engines which keywords and phrases are relevant to your website and how popular your keyword is. So, basically, you indicate some of the keywords you want to rank for and based on your popularity the search engines will rank you in a spot for those keywords.
Well, that’s probably all that SEO and ASO have in common. The ways they get to those ends is drastically different. ASO is done only inside the app stores whereas SEO is much much wider.
But, there are a couple of practices that are shared between SEO and Google Play App Store Optimization.
Google Play Store, SEO for Mobile Apps?
Google Play App Store Optimization is quite different than doing ASO for the App Store especially in terms of increasing visibility. Unlike the Apple App Store, there isn’t any Keyword Fields to put your keywords in. Instead, you will be ranking for some of the keywords in your Long Description.
The way that Google ranks you for the keywords in your Long Description is where ASO for the Play Store resembles SEO. As the Long Description can be as long as 4000 characters long, there’s no way that Google is going to rank you for every keyword you use in your Long Description. At least not equally. That’s why we will borrow a term that is native to SEO, Keyword Density.
Keyword Density is a simple term that refers to the number of times a keyword is repeated in a body of text.
When doing Google Play App Store Optimization, you will encounter this term quite often. When you are going to target some keywords for your ASO strategy, it’s imperative to have a good keyword density for those keywords in your description. Repeating your most important keywords is the best way to show Google which keywords are the most relevant to your app.
2.Increasing Visibility in the Google Play Store
You probably have heard these dozens of times before but the ranking factors in both app stores are drastically different. Many claims that increasing your visibility in the Play Store is easier than the App Store.
We both agree and don’t agree with this statement. Firstly, it’s easier because there are fewer factors that affect your rankings and you are not limited to a 100 character long Keyword List.
It’s harder because most of the keywords you target should be spread across your Long Description in a way that it still makes sense to someone who decides read it.
Before delving deeper into how to increase your rankings in the Google Play Store, let’s have a look at what factors have an impact on your rankings.
Ranking Factors in the Play Store
-App Title: The App Title just like in the Apple App Store has the biggest impact on your rankings. Unlike what Apple did with the launch of iOS11 by reducing the character limit from 50 to 30, Google recently increased the character limit of your App Title to 50. As the App Title is your strongest ranking factor, having 20 more characters to use in your App Title is a huge development.
-Description (Short & Long): The Description is your second most important ranking factor and is the only other place where you can put keywords you want to rank for. The first 80 characters of your Description are often referred to as the Short Description. It’s unsure if the keywords ranking in the Short Description have a bigger impact on your rankings than the ones only in your Long Description. By repeating your focus keywords up to 5 times throughout your entire Description, you will indicate Google that those keywords are related to your app and people searching for your app will use these keywords.
-Download Numbers & Velocity: The same story with Apple App Store. The more download your app has the more credible it’s considered by Google. Thus ranked higher. In addition to that, the increase in download numbers over a period of time is also quite important for your rankings.
-Retention Rates: Google has been trying to combat Black Hat ASO for quite some time. Previously, the download numbers were one of the strongest ranking factors. So, if you bought downloads you would rank high. However, as Google evolved they also started to value the retention rates of those downloads as well. Basically, if someone downloads your app and uninstalls it in a couple of days that won’t be as near as effective as having them use the app for extended periods of time.
-Reviews & Ratings: Again, another way to show Google that your app is a credible and renowned one. If your ratings are high and you have a high number of positive reviews Google will consider your app high quality and will rank you higher for relevant keywords.
-Developer Name: Not much to say here, if you have some well-known apps, Google will rank you for search queries that contain your developer name to allow you to appear in the search results when someone searches for your developer name.
-Crashes, Bugs, Battery Life & File Size: All of these are rumored to be considered by Google when ranking your app. So, if your app has problems with these factors you probably won’t rank very high as these are indicators of a bad app. These factors are also quite important in a different way too. All of these factors affect your retention rates as well. As retention rates are an important factor too, even if they don’t directly affect your rankings, they will have an indirect impact through influencing your retention rates.
Optimizing Your Ranking Factors
Even though there are fewer factors affecting your rankings that you can control in Google Play Store, optimizing them can be quite complicated. So, let’s have a look at the ways to optimize those factors.
a.Optimizing Your App Title
As your strongest ranking factor is the App Title, you should pay close attention to your App Title. Thankfully, Google has increased the character limit of the App Title to 50 characters. This allows you to rank for more keywords in your App Title. You can add a couple of your most important keywords to your App Title to ensure that you rank higher for your focus keywords.
Keeping your App Title short and precise on the other hand is also suggested. As you don’t want your app to look like bad quality, spammy app. So, don’t just stuff keywords in your App Title. Instead, use those extra character limits to use keywords that also explain what your app does.
So, you have two options here. First, you can go for branding over ASO. You will only use your brand name in your App Title. This is a practice followed by big brands who are already at the top of the Top Charts.
As the second option, you can go for the ASO route. You will aim to include your most important keywords in your App Title without making it look spammy!
b.Optimizing Your Description
Now, this is probably the most important part of Google Play App Store Optimization. Other than your App Title, your Description is all you have got to show Google which keywords are related to your app. That’s why you should take your time when preparing a description. With everything about App Store Optimization, always test! Test! Test! Don’t just stick to the first description you come up with. Test different versions, try to pinpoint useful keywords that will help you rank higher.
Your Description is split into two parts: the Short Description & the Long Description. While not confirmed, it is accepted that the keywords in your Short Description rank higher provided that they are repeated also in your Long Description as well.
Before delving into the details, let’s have a look at how does Google index the keywords in your description. When Google ranks your app for keywords, it follows a process similar to that of the search engines do in SEO. You provide the algorithm a body of text that is full of keywords that are relevant to your app/website and based on their density the search engines associate your app/website with those keywords. After that, the search engines look at the credibility of the website by viewing the number of visits. If they are visited often, the search engines take that website as a credible one, thus they rank those websites in a higher rank for those keywords.
This process is quite similar in the Play Store too. By repeating your most important keywords in your Description you tell the Google Play algorithm that your app is most relevant to those keywords. After that, the algorithm looks at your download numbers and reviews & ratings to measure the credibility and quality of your app. Based on those it ranks you in a certain spot for the keywords.
You can read this blog to find out how an actual developer finds keywords for their App Store Optimization strategy
When you are preparing your description, keep these points in mind but do not forget that the description should be written for the users, not the search algorithms. Do not under any circumstances stuff your keywords into your description. Your app will not be approved and you might get banned from the Play Store for spam content. Even if you manage to elude Google, your app will leave a very bad impression on potential users and they won’t download your app.
Instead, make a simple, easy to read and descriptive description. It should communicate with the users well and describe the app in detail. It’s called the description, after all, isn’t it?
The first 80 characters of your Description which is often referred as the Short Description is also vital for your app. It arguably has a higher impact on your rankings and it also has quite an impact on your Conversion Rates as well.
That’s why getting the most out of those 80 characters can be one of the most delicate steps you should take when doing Google Play App Store Optimization.
c.The Importance of Retention and App Quality
Google pays extra attention to the quality of the app while ranking the app. Just as we have discussed in the chapter dedicated to SEO vs. ASO, when Google ranks you for the keywords you want to rank for, it looks at your download numbers, reviews, ratings and retention rates to measure the quality of your app. Reviews are particularly important here.
As the rate of the total users and the ones who leave a review is quite low, if an app has a high number of reviews it means that people are taking their time to write a review for the app. If this doesn’t signal a high-quality product for an algorithm, I don’t know what does.
Optimizing these factors might seem quite hard to do, but you can have a saying over them by having a good product, responding to user requests, fixing bugs and crashes while also letting the users know that you are working for them, creating content constantly can help you to prevent these factors for becoming an obstacle to your app growth.
3.Increasing Conversions in the Google Play Store
While the ranking factors and way to optimize them are drastically different than the Apple App Store, in terms of the factors that affect your Conversion Rates are quite similar.
The most notable difference is on the search results page. Unlike the lively results page where you show most of your creatives in the App Store, the Google Play Store is much more simplistic than its counterpart. One the results page only the App Icon, App Title, Publisher Name and the Rating of the apps are displayed. All of the other assets are shown on the listing page. So, to show the other assets users must tap on your app name on the search results. This makes Google Play App Store Optimization a bit less complicated in terms of conversion rates.
So, let’s have a look at the assets you have that have an effect on your Conversion Rate and how to optimize them.
The App Icon is probably the first thing that the potential user sees about your app. It appears in the search results, the app listing page and basically everywhere related to your app. Therefore, do not hesitate to pay a good designer to create an awesome App Icon for your app!
Even if the App Icon can be viewed as a creative asset of your app there are a couple of points that are important to keep in mind when creating a good App Icon.
The App Icon should be a simple, easily recognized image that shouldn’t be too detailed. It should be something people can notice quickly and forget slowly so that your brand identity is strong.
Try to avoid having words in your App Icon. Make sure that when people see your App Title they will get an idea of what your app is about. Always test your App Icons, don’t stick to the first good version you find. Use social platforms such as Facebook to ask people for ideas for your App Icon.
The second most important factor affecting your Conversion Rates is the App Title. After people see the App Icon the next thing they see and read is your App Title. That’s why it’s crucial to have a clear and simple App Title.
Your App Title should be easy to read and should have your brand/app name in it (obviously). Also, it’s quite helpful if you can spare a couple of characters to tell a little more about your app.
You should pay very close attention to your App Title as it’s one of your most important assets. It both influences your Rankings & Conversion Rates. Furthermore, it’s one of the most important factors that affect both.
-Reviews & Ratings
In the Google Play App Store Optimization, Ratings play a much more important role than in the App Store. As they are one of the few things that appear on the search results page they have a profound effect on your Conversion Rates.That’s why it’s important to have a decent rating (a rating higher than 3.5) to tell the users that your app is a good one. A rating below 3.5 is often viewed as a signal for a bad app.
That’s why it’s important to ask for ratings from your users. But it’s more important when you ask for those Ratings. We will discover asking about reviews later in this guide.
Reviews play a more secondary role as they are visible on your product page. Users who visit your product page, most of the time, check your reviews as well. That’s why having positive reviews or responding to negative reviews is always good.
The Developer Name is one of the few assets shown on the search results page. Having a well-known brand name can help you secure some page visits but there’s not much you can do about it.
The Short Description is the first 80 characters of your Description that is visible on your product page. Therefore, it has a strong impact on your Conversion Rates. It should summarize your app and draw the attention of the users with a simple call to action phrases while also containing keywords for your rankings. The short description plays a central role in your Google Play App Store Optimization strategy as it has a strong impact on both conversions and visibility.
Screenshots play an important role in increasing your Conversion Rates. Maybe a smaller part because they are only visible on your product page, not in the search results.
However, they still have an important role to play in converting the app page visits into installs. Just don’t forget to check the Google Play guidelines and make sure that they are in line with what Google wants from you.
Your screenshots should capture the most important functions of your app and you should arrange their order based on their importance as only 3 of the screenshots will be visible by default. The rest can be seen by swiping them on the product page.
Bad screenshots can give the impression of a bad app, even if it’s not. That’s why overlooking the importance of such creative assets can be quite harmful to your overall success rate.
The video preview plays a much smaller role for Google Play App Store Optimization in terms of increasing your Conversion Rates. It’s not thrown directly at the users as it’s in the App Store. Instead, it’s on your product page just like the screenshots.
However, if people decide to watch the preview video it can be quite effective in convincing people to download your app or, in case of a bad video, to stay away from it.
That’s why, unlike for the App Store, if you don’t have a budget for a decent video it’s best to stay away from having one altogether.
Keep in mind that the Video Preview should meet Google’s guidelines and shouldn’t be the video used in your iOS app.
Similar to the App Store, the first ten seconds of your video is vital. Those ten seconds is the time period where the person watching it makes their verdict about the video and the app.
4.Getting Featured in the Google Play Store
Getting featured is often viewed by app developers as winning the lottery. However, there’s some stuff you can do to increase the likelihood of your app getting featured. Even though it’s not a part of Google Play App Store Optimization, it still plays a prominent role in the overall success of your app. This is also the number one goal you should accomplish to have success at Google Play App Store Optimization.
So, let’s explore the steps you can do to increase your chance of getting featured in the Google Play Store.
-Have a high-quality app: This might sound obvious but it’s probably the most important factor. Google, naturally, wants to feature apps that are very high-quality products. Therefore, make sure that the UI, creatives, and functions are all top notch. A high-quality app also works seamlessly and should be free of any issues such as bugs or not-working tabs & buttons.
-Follow the Guidelines: Your app should fulfill the Google Play guidelines. Also, it shouldn’t be against them. Make sure that your app is in full compliance with their guidelines so that it doesn’t get rejected because of problems arising from an easily-avoidable factor.
-Use the Latest Technology & Features: Follow the developments around Android apps. If your app uses one of the latest tech developments it has a significantly higher chance of getting featured.
-Keep It Simple: One-trick ponies are often too complicated to use as they try to cover too much stuff resulting in poor user experience. Your app should be simple and should be easy to use if you want to get featured in the Play Store.
-Be Proactive and Friendly: The Google teams all over the globe who are responsible for selecting the featured apps are quite friendly people. Once you feel that your app is ready, don’t hesitate to contact them. Keep in touch with them and try to get them excited about your app. Be kind and brief when pitching your app to them.
So, that wraps up our guide. We hope that this guide was able to teach you everything about Google Play App Store Optimization. We will try to keep this guide up to date and make sure that you are getting the most up to date knowledge about Google Play App Store Optimization.
In our next chapter, we will talk about the importance of Localization to your App Store Optimization strategy.