Extensive Guide to App Store Optimization (ASO) in 2015 – Part 2: Google Play Store

By Ioana Cailean on June 12, 2015 70 Comments

Do you have an Android app? Then you’ve come to the right place to learn more about app store optimization (ASO). After talking about the requirements, tricks and tipps for the Apple Store yesterday, today’s guidelines refer to the Google Play Store.

According to Fiksu, Google Play Store search represents 80% of quality organic downloads. Optimizing for Google Play Store is quite different from Apple Store and the differences will be highlighted below. The ranking for Play Store is similar to Google’s search engine – and yes, that’s a complex world. We’ll walk you through it below!

Source: Apptamin

Here are some of the most well-known ranking factors:

  • Volume of ratings
  • Value of ratings
  • Volume of installs
  • Download growth: last 30 days
  • Number of uninstalls
  • App usage frequency
  • Backlinks: webpages linking to your app page

We will have a closer look at the following factors again: keywords, visuals, and off-site factors.

A little less important: keywords

Unlike the Apple App Store, there is no specified “keywords” field to list all your keywords. Instead, it is similar to web-based SEO, where keywords in the app title and description all affect the search results. So, proper keyword research should be done, similar to Apple App Store keyword research.

A little more challenging: find a nice app name with only 30 characters

The app name for Google Play is limited to only 30 characters. The name should include your focus keyword or phrase, which is proven to improve rankings up to 100 spots. Aim to keep it short and straight to the point – well, there’s no other choice.

Much more room for your app functionality and its benefits

The app description is limited to 4,000 characters, significantly more than the Apple Store. A well-known industry practice is to use the target keyword 4-5 times in the description, which can improve rankings 10-20 spots according to Fiksu. A clear explanation of the app’s functionality and its benefits is very important, but be careful not to spam. Check Google’s Content Policy for spamming keywords!

Source: Apptamin

Essential for branding purposes: visuals  

Similarly to the Apple App Store, visuals are another factor to wow your potential users. So, make the icon high resolution and eye-catching, Google provides a very extensive icon design tips page. The only difference is that there is an area for a promotional Youtube video in the Play Store.

It is important to use all available screenshots (8 in total) for each device type (Phone, 7 inch Tablet, 10 inch Tablet, Android TV). A matter of course: try to put the most interesting and engaging screenshots first and be sure to add descriptions on each screenshot. You can use this tool to automate screenshots for several localized versions of your app. Note: the maximum dimension of your screenshot cannot be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension.

One more: feature graphic

Having this is a requirement to be featured on Google Play (don’t be stupid, it’s free promotion!). With the feature graphic, focus on images instead of text, but if using text, place it in the center in the frame (horizontally and vertically).

And now even in motion: the promo video

Add a promo video by simply entering the Youtube URL. But it’s not just a nice-to-have: the video is another must-have in the store as it is more engaging than images. This is displayed in the first position or in the feature graphic position on mobile. Take care of the precious time of the user: It is better to keep videos short as people have short attention spans (30 seconds – 2 minutes max). Try to present the most interesting features earlier in the video to hook them in. If you have a device running Android 4.4 Kitkat or above, you can video capture from your phone directly to create material for this video.

A bit more complex: off-site factors

The Google Play Store has a more complex ranking algorithm compared to the Apple App Store. It’s difficult to confirm in detail what all the ranking factors are, but here are some of the main ones:

  • Number of ratings
  • Number of downloads
  • Growth of downloads in the last 30 days
  • Number of uninstalls, to prevent this from happening
  • Reopening/usage frequency
  • Links to your Play Store

A closer look: reviews & ratings

Reviews and ratings are crucial for apps to appear higher on rankings and convince users of the quality of the app. This is applicable for every app store. Especially in the Google Play Store, you can avoid negative reviews by making developer communication channels very clear and available for feedback somewhere inside the app. As already outlined in the context of the Apple App store guidelines, you should find ways to ask for reviews when users are most engaged, but not when they are busy performing a task within the app. Always ensure:

  • You don’t ruin the user experience!
  • You ask a question like: “Are you enjoying this app?” first. Only ask for reviews when they click yes. You can also use other tools to confirm engagement!

What else can I do? Use Google+

Not many people use Google+, but you should. Google favors Google products and it is proven to boost ranking. There is a Google+ login that you can get for your app and the more +1s your app gets, the higher the potential rank it can achieve.

The volume and velocity of downloads influences the Apple App Store rankings greatly, but not as much when it comes to the Google Play Store. In the Apple App Store, it is mainly the downloads within the last 72 taken into account for ranking, while it is the previous 30 days on the Google Play Store. This means that paid promotions generating a large quantity of downloads within a short period time is less effective on the Play Store – further emphasizing the importance of perfecting other aspects of ASO for your Android app.

Take care of your existing users

The number of users and the uninstall rate is another factor. This means it is important to retain and retarget the users that download and install your app. Many app developers aim to make their app addictive to promote engagement. There is also a possibility to send push notifications, since on Android it is on an opt out basis (users will be automatically subscribed when they install your app).

Last, but not least: use of backlinks

Backlinks are now an essential factor to Android App marketing. This is because Google now indexes app pages and even as far back as 2012, links from large media outlets have been increasing search rankings similar to web-based SEO: “Getting people to write about your app improves your search rankings in the Play Store” (Google I/O June 2012).

With the ever-growing average cost per install and the increasing number of downloads needed to break into the the top app store charts, it is becoming increasingly harder for small-time app developers to challenge the significant budgets of industry leaders. App store optimization is a low-cost method to increase app exposure when you do not have a large budget. By strategically optimizing certain keywords after in-depth research, you can challenge the likes of the top dogs.

Happy app store optimizing!

This two-part guide on app store optimization was written by Jacky Chou and Albert Liu, Junior Campaign Managers at Trademob. Jacky is an engineer, digital marketer and has extensive experience with a Stapler. He founded Indexsy, providing a no-nonsense SEO resource site as well as a place to market his digital marketing services.  Albert dedicates his time to crafting user acquisition campaigns and navigating the stormy waters of the Apple Store and Play Store.