An In-Depth Look at Google Play ASO

Candace Boren
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April 12, 2023

Given that apps have revolutionized the lives of many, it’s no surprise that mobile technology has created enormous opportunities for both consumers and businesses. With more than 6.2 billion smartphone users worldwide, it’s clear that mobile apps are flourishing and our reliance on them will continue to grow. 

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While this is good news for app developers and businesses, it is a challenge to stand out amongst competitors. In an app store world where users have thousands of choices, an app can get easily lost. To stay afloat, businesses must create reliable and functional apps to reach their targets — and take the right steps to display them in stores and maximize app store optimization (ASO). 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through Google Play’s ASO — from understanding the basics of how it works, tips for increasing the visibility of your app, and much more. 

What is Google Play ASO?

Simply put, Google Play ASO is a method that can be used to optimize the visibility and user appeal of an app to get more downloads and better conversion rates. 

Why is ASO important?

ASO is important for a multitude of reasons, some of which include the following: 

  • It maximizes visibility

Regardless of how great your app may be, if people can’t find it, they can’t download it. Unless it’s easily discoverable, the number of installs won’t budge. However, ASO allows you to maximize your app’s visibility so you can reach as many prospects as possible and ensure your app performs well. 

  • Improves appeal for users

Making your app visible isn’t enough. You need it to be visible to the right users. Because it matches your app to relevant keywords, ASO can help you get your app noticed by high-quality and relevant users at the right time. 

  • Increases organic app downloads

A solid ASO strategy will increase the number of organic installs and ensure long-term results. It is essential that you continually work on your ASO to keep your rankings high when people search for keywords related to your app. 

  • Enables marketers to lower user acquisition costs

By focusing on organic growth with ASO, you can cut your user acquisition costs. This not only helps you save money on ad spending, but also ensures steady, continuous growth. 

How does ASO work?

ASO optimizes various elements of an app's listing to improve its visibility and ranking in app store search results. Just as people use search queries to find different websites on the internet, app store users use search queries to find different apps and games. And just as search engines recommend additional websites based on user preferences and popularity, app stores can recommend additional apps to users. Keyword optimization, category rankings, search and paid ads, and top charts are all common ASO tactics. 

Ranking factors in the Play Store

Keywords that people use to find apps are the biggest consideration. The reason? Google’s algorithm searches which apps match those keywords in their metadata. To rank those keywords, Google uses the following elements: 

App title

The most critical metadata element in the Google Play Store is the app title because the keywords here reveal both keyword relevance and eligibility. Since app titles influence your app store optimization efforts, you’ll want to test and update your app titles frequently. According to statistics, 215 of the top 1000 mobile apps are updated a minimum once per week and 62% are updated once a month. 

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Descriptions

Long and short descriptions allow you to familiarize your audience with your app. Once you’ve selected your app title, optimizing your short and long descriptions is a worthwhile investment of your time. Typically limited to 80 characters, short descriptions help provide background information to Play Store visitors and are used by Google to gain a deeper understanding of what your app is actually about. 

In contrast, long descriptions have a 4,000 character limit, so you can create a detailed description of your app with the aim to convince visitors to install it. However, it’s important to recognize that most users aren’t interested in reading long descriptions. Therefore, the best strategy for long descriptions is to explain your app’s features briefly and clearly and provide a call to action. When you do so, be sure to include the most important keywords at the beginning to increase the rate of conversions. Using focused keywords repeatedly (up to five times) can also help Google better understand your app. 

App downloads and conversion rate

When your app has a lot of downloads, it’s considered more credible and thus, it ranks higher. With high rankings, visitors are more likely to find your app and your conversion rates will increase. The number of app downloads and the download velocity are key if you want your app to show up in category rankings and top charts. 

Retention rate

For a long time, app download numbers were one of Google’s strongest ranking elements. However, when Google Play ASO evolved over time, retention rates of those downloads also gained tremendous value. The goal is not only to have someone download your app, but also to ensure they do not uninstall it shortly thereafter. 

Reviews and ratings

Customer ratings and reviews are an additional way to show Google that your app is useful and appealing. When app ratings and reviews are high, your app maintains more credibility and Google will recognize it to be high quality. Subsequently, with a high quality standing, your app will rank higher for relevant keywords. 

Developer name

Google will rank you for search queries that have your developer name. When you have a well-known brand name, you appear in search results more often and you can secure more page visits. 

Crashes, bugs, battery life, and file size

If your app crashes frequently, has bugs, drains batteries, or runs into file size limitations, this can negatively impact your rankings. These factors can also affect your reviews and retention rates. 

Backlinks

Backlinks have a positive influence on your Google Play ranking. More important than the number of backlinks you use, however, is their quality. Google’s algorithm determines the quality of a backlink based on the keywords used in the link as well as the relevance of the source website. To maintain credibility, make sure your backlinks are related to your app’s content. 

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Checklist for a successful ASO strategy

If you want to get your app in front of the right users, your ASO strategy must be focused. To make sure you don’t miss anything, here’s a helpful checklist. 

  • Research markets and regions

Create a clear app store optimization strategy by researching and understanding your market. Doing so will help you explore how users discover apps in your category. 

  • Do proper keyword research

Think about the main features of your app and consider using synonyms when describing your features. It’s wise to analyze similar apps and competitors in the category. Exploring auto-suggestion in app store search bars and investigating the terms people commonly use in your app category can also help you establish a proper keyword research and prioritization process. 

  • Pick a unique name for your app

You want to be sure your app's name is easy to read, relevant, and unique. When choosing a name, remember character limitations and adhere to app store guidelines. 

  • Write easy-to-understand metadata

When writing metadata, focus on information quality. Include a short description, subtitle, keyword field, and app description. Structure it clearly, use all available characters when possible and applicable, and put particular emphasis on the first couple of sentences.

  • Perform A/B testing

It’s important to create variations. Run experiments, evaluate results, and implement changes as needed. During A/B testing, steer clear of forbidden keywords such as best, free, top, new, and so on.

  • Tell a visual story of how your app works

Use screenshots and videos to highlight your app’s main features and illustrate how your app works and looks. When you do, pay close attention to layout and size requirements

Tips for increasing the visibility of your app

Follow these tips to stand out from the other apps in your category and increase your app’s visibility. 

Get featured

Getting featured on Google Play can increase both the visibility of your app and the number of downloads. To pass Google’s screening test, be sure you have a good app rating, offer a smooth user experience, and have a flawless app store listing.

Top Charts

Ranking in the Top Charts on Google Play can be a powerful way to increase visibility and drive more downloads for your app. However, it can be challenging to influence your rank in the Top Charts using purely organic methods, as your ranking is primarily determined by your app's acquisition velocity (the rate at which users are downloading your app).

It's important to note that different categories have varying levels of competition. For example, the number of downloads required to rank in the top five apps in one category may not be enough to rank in the top 10 of another. Therefore, it's important to choose your app's category wisely, keeping in mind the relevance of the category to your app and the competition level in that category. If your app doesn't fit into one clear-cut category, you should analyze the competition and evaluate the likelihood of ranking highly in different categories' top charts.

Appear on another app’s store listing

Being featured as a "similar app" on another app's listing in the store can drive traffic to your own app. While the specific factors that Google takes into account when selecting similar apps are not publicly available, a few known elements include:

  • Keyword alignment: Apps that rank for the same keywords in their metadata are more likely to be considered similar apps.
  • Category and Google tags: Apps that belong to the same category or have the same Google tags are more likely to appear as similar apps.
  • User behavior: Google tracks users' interactions with the store and store listings, and similar apps may be influenced by the apps that users have previously downloaded.
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Tags

Google Play tags can be used to help Google better understand your app's content and purpose. These tags can be added to the app's store listing and can help Google create clusters of apps across categories, allowing them to show users more relevant content when browsing the store. This can help to increase an app's "Explore Traffic," which is the amount of users that discover the app through browsing the app store rather than searching for it.

3 ways to improve conversion rates on Google Play

Because Google wants to make sure its users have a good experience in the Play Store, it prioritizes apps that have high conversion and retention rates. Here are three tips to help your conversion rate grow. 

  1. Creative assets 

Optimizing your creatives can greatly impact users. Take advantage of your app’s icon, promotional videos, and screenshots as conversion incentives. Color symbolism can influence a user’s perspective, and an icon design that represents your app functionality can make your creatives more striking and noticeable. Highlighting your brand name or changing your icon design to align with different seasons can also make an impact. Use high-quality screenshots that are localized and consistent with app expectations and showcase your unique selling promise. Promotional videos are also a good way to give users a good idea of the feel and experience of your app. 

  1. Improve app ratings and reviews

As previously stated, app ratings and reviews are a good indicator of a good app since they reflect users’ actual experiences. Google’s In-App Review API displays ratings and reviews. In addition, respond to any negative reviews. Doing so illustrates that you care and are willing to implement changes to improve your user experience. 

  1. Write compelling descriptions

Because users tend not to read long descriptions and therefore represent a small audience, it’s wise to concentrate on writing compelling short descriptions. However, rather than stuffing all your target keywords into your short descriptions, try to strike a good balance between conversion rate optimization and keyword optimization. To do this, summarize your app’s content, features, and benefits. When you run A/B tests you will be able to determine what works best for your app. 

MarinOne and Google Play ASO

In such a saturated market, becoming a leader requires a lot of effort. However, with innovation, creativity, and the right tools, you can take advantage of technology to make your app stand out. 

MarinOne can help you manage your mobile marketing strategies to hit revenue targets and optimize your app campaigns. Our customizable, enterprise-class solution offers everything you need in a single platform to take your app advertising to the next level. 

To see how, contact one of our MarinOne experts today. 

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