Google Play Store Application Optimization

January 5, 2021

Search engine optimization is a tool you may be familiar with using to help rank your website by utilizing keywords to make your website more discoverable to relevant searches. The same process can be used when creating a mobile application.

Although website optimization might differ slightly from optimization for mobile applications, they bind to the same algorithms. The difference lies in how you get users. For a user to have your application, they have to download and install that application. According to statista there are over 3 million applications in the Google Play store alone, and the number keeps growing day by day.

number of google play store apps
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At the same time, the number of application downloads has also been increasing:

growing application downloads trend
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The big puzzle is how you can make your application discoverable to relevant users who might want to download it. Getting your application ranking at the top in a crowded app store is a big hustle. For that reason, you need to understand App Store optimization, or the process of optimizing your application ranking so as to appear higher in the store’s search results and be visible to potential customers.

This guide will discuss practical insights that will help your application climb the Google Play Store’s visibility ladder and increase download conversion rates.

Prerequisites

To follow this guide and its implementation, prior knowledge of keyword research will be essential. Keyword research helps you pick relevant keywords related to your application to boost your application in search results. Keywords are different for different applications. This guide will help you research the right keywords for your application.

How Application optimization works

Application optimization helps drive more traffic to your application page by making your application visible to relevant user searches. Application optimization drives users to download your application when they see that it will help them find what they are looking for.

To identify your customer base, you need to relate to what users want in order to find keywords that a user is likely to type in the Google Play Store search box. When these keywords are optimized, the application becomes visible to relevant potential user searches. Greater visibility translates to more downloads of your application. By the end of this guide, you will learn the critical ranking factors to improve your application discoverability and download conversion.

Google Play Store listing ranking factors

This is a list of information that you include when publishing your application in the Google Play Store. We’ll discuss each one of them with use cases to show how to implement them in the right way to optimize your application.

Phrasing of the application title

The way you phrase your app’s title (name) depicts your application in both search results and visual impressions. A title visually captures the user’s attention to help them decide which app to download. The title should be briefly optimized to capture the user’s attention and describe the app’s services altogether.

Google allows you to include at most 50 characters in your title space. This allows you to include more powerful keywords other than the application/brand name. These words explain your application briefly. A title should be unique, easy to read, and relevant to the application.

Below are two examples of titles with a short title description:

app store title example
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app store title example
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These are two different applications, but can be considered competitors as they provide the same services. The titles are straightforward, easy to read, and relevant to the services they provide.

Setting your app icon

Again, visual appeal is essential. An icon should be straightforward in order to represent your application’s significant selling points, such as the title and the major functionalities. An icon plays a direct role in user interaction, and it is one of the most influencing download conversion factors. A user may decide whether to download an application based on the appeal of the icon alone.

What matters in an icon:

  • Vibrant colors
  • Eye-catching, innovative shapes
  • Not too vague or generic; an icon should reflect directly and specifically what your application intends to provide to a user.
  • Not too cluttered; an icon should not include much content within itself. Just one central element of your application will be fine.

app package name example
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The above icon is straightforward and gives you a clear idea of the application. The icon is related to the way the application is used. The shape is not overly crowded, nor is it vague. With just one look, you get what the application is about.

Application Package Name

An application is identified by its unique package name, which forms the application URL. A package name plays a huge role in the search ranking factor. Before publishing your application, ensure your application package has some high-performance keywords included. Once the app is published, you cannot change the application URL. Make sure it is well set because you can’t change it later.

For example:

app icon example
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The user included the keyword “eightballpool” as part of the application URL. This is a relevant keyword as it is the application name and a straightforward description of what the app provides.

Descriptions

Google Play Store provides two description previews for your application: a short description and a longer main description (“About This App”).

Short description

This is a quick, straightforward description, usually one sentence or phrase, that highlights the most important pieces of information about the application.

app short description example
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Main description

The main description explains the application more in-depth so that a user can get more details on what the app provides. Google allows 4000 characters, and you should utilize as much as possible using the relevant searchable keywords.

Here is an example of a well-structured description:

app main description example
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The above description represents a keyboard application. Notice how the seller plays with the relevant keywords like “themes”, “keyboard”, “love”, “romantic”, etc. and how they combine them within different sentences and paragraphs as they explain the app. The seller balances the description’s clarity with keywords relevant to the application.

At first glance, this description simply acts as a user manual to explain how to use the application. However, behind the scenes, the description plays a critical role in making this application visible to the right users.

Tips for a good description
  • Explains the services that your application intends to provide to the users
  • Well organized and structured
  • Clear and valuable information about your application
  • Brags about your application’s unique features
  • Breaks information down into small paragraphs for better readability
  • Plays with keywords that you haven’t used yet while still maintaining focus on the most relevant keywords for searchability

Application screenshots and short videos

Google Play Store allows you to include a short video and screenshots of your application. Any screenshot you choose to include in your store listing should capture your main application features, which should be clear to understand.

A good screenshot includes:

  • The application’s main features
  • An idea of the visual flow of your application
  • A clear representation of how your application design and the user interface look

The following is a good example of well-illustrated screenshots:

app store screenshot example
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When implementing this in a game app, make sure you include a short video that briefly illustrates how to play a game and the screen orientation supported by that game.

For example:

app store screenshot example Image source

app store screenshot example
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This video and a screenshot shows that the application has a sideways screen orientation rather than a vertical one.

Application Category

Always indicate your application category. Searches are related to the application category, so make sure it is a category that makes the most sense for your application and what a user might search for. If a user searches for a game app, other game apps will be recommended to that user. Placing your application in the accurate category will increase the likelihood that it will be suggested to relevant users that will like your content.

Google Play Store Optimization Strategies

Application Updates

Google Play Store considers freshness when dealing with an application. This shows that your application is regularly updated and may lead to it being promoted in the “Just Updated” section.

google play store just updated section

google play store just updated section

The development of an application is evolutionary. At times, you need to modify features, add new features, or fix a bug. A top-ranking application needs to keep up with the latest technologies and improvements to reflect user feedback and preferences. Updating your application regularly minimizes the chances of fatal errors, as you are already solving them through the updates. This will result in getting more positive reviews.

When you publish an update, always remember to clearly indicate the new features you have added or the bug you have fixed in the “What’s New” section.

google play store what’s new section

Update strategy

The best way to notify the user whenever you have a new update is by using Google core API that provides an in-app update flow within the context of your application.

The API alerts users whenever you have a new version on the Play store by instructing them to update the application without opening the Play store. The API introduces an update interface within your application to show users that you have an update available. While users are using the application, they can update it immediately to bring the new updated features on board.

google play store update example
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The update process is well maintained by the Google Core API. A user doesn’t have to activate auto-updates in the play store; the API will handle the update flow within the application.

Here is a guide that will help you implement in-app updates in your Android mobile application.

Play Store Ratings and Reviews

App rating is the cumulative figure of users’ feedback on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. It is your Play store ‘badge of honor’. Reviews are comment messages that users give as feedback.

google play store ratings and reviews

Play store ratings and reviews play a massive role in your application downloads. When a new user wants to download an application, they will often check reviews to decide whether to download your application. If positive, potential customers are more likely to hit “download” on your application.

Reviews and ratings tell a story about past user experiences. A good rating gives you a higher advantage over your competitors. However, in this case, one or two reviews and ratings may not make sense. They sound like an incomplete story. Having fewer reviews and ratings will leave the user questioning whether your application will deliver, resulting in users favoring your competitors’ products instead.

Reviews and ratings are more than a user side note. They are an integral ranking factor and play a huge part in your Google Play store application optimization. According to app store optimization, ISO, ratings, and reviews significantly affect your application’s organic search discovery.

Play store rating and review strategies:

Ask users for reviews

Google Play store considers the volume, freshness, and the type of rating and reviews submitted on your application’s Play Store page. As a seller, you need to adopt ways to encourage users for reviews and ratings. However, you should be strategic in the way you do this.

When to ask for reviews

Only ask the user for reviews when they have interacted with your application for long enough. This will drive to more positive reviews. Even if a review is negative, it explains what that user has experienced with your application, which can help you see what to improve.

Identify the best time to ask a user for a review. Typically, you don’t want to ask a user to rate your application, for example, in the middle of a game. This will lead to a bad user experience, and the chances are higher that users might write negative reviews. You should strategically determine when it is appropriate to show a review dialog. For example, after a user has finished playing a particular game level, that would be a perfect moment to suggest a review. This will ensure the user gives a review that accurately reflects their experience playing that game without interrupting their game flow.

Another example would be that you have, say, an e-commerce application. In this case, it would be inappropriate to ask a user to review the app in the middle of making an order. You don’t want to interrupt an order, and you want the user to have enough experience with your application services. In this case, you might ask a user to write a review right when the order has been completed in order to capture the right moment. You don’t want to show the review dialog when a user has not interacted with your application enough to give feedback.

How to ask for reviews

Google announced an in-app review API that prompts users to submit Play Store ratings and reviews without leaving the application and without opening the Play Store. Users’ reviews/ratings will eventually be displayed in the Google Play Store. This encourages users to give feedback on your application by making the process simpler. Here is a guide that will help you implement in-app reviews in your Android mobile application.

google play store reviews api
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Additional reviews and ratings strategies

  • Reply to every review in your application. Adopt a communication framework to engage with your users by replying to their reviews. Whether a review is bad or good, always reply to them in a professional and respectful manner.
  • Ensure you address every review with concise and positive feedback. Even if a review is negative, it explains what that user has experienced with your application.
  • Don’t be generic. Address each review one at a time with specific feedback relevant to the review.
  • Acknowledge and thank users for taking the time to leave a review.

Consider other channels

Use social media. Social media are always excellent platforms to create awareness about your application, especially on the initial launch. Be mindful as you personalize review solicitations that your application must satisfy a user’s need.

Address bugs in a timely and consistent manner

Always be on the lookout to avoid bugs; avoid anything that will negatively affect your app’s user experience. In this case, make your logic stand out with the UI flow that is easiest to interact with. This will trigger positive feedback that translates to a positive review with a 3 4 5 rating. The more positive ratings your app has, the more new users will consider downloading your application.

KPIs

Be sure to establish and analyze clear KPIs. This will give you insight into how regularly users install or uninstall your application and how many users you retain.

The illustration below shows how many new users this app gets and the number of users lost. The Google Play Store also records any crashes that occur as users interact with your application. This will help you stay on top of any bugs that might affect user experience. Otherwise, this will lead to more users uninstalling your application.

google play store kpis

From these figures, you can figure out why users are uninstalling your application. Here is a chart that highlights some of the common reasons why users uninstall applications.

google play store app uninstall reasons
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Google Play Store analytics also record traffic sources, or where your users come from, the acquisition rate, and the conversion rate of your application. Every time an application appears to a user and is downloaded, the Play Store calculates the conversion rate for you.

From these figures, you can draw very conclusive metrics.

google play store metrics

The figure below records metrics based on the store listing factors we have discussed above. Out of 1394 visitors, 246 downloaded this application. This shows the inefficiency of the application in terms of the conversion rate. This may mean you need to look at store listing factors such as application icon, title and description, and positive reviews to increase your conversion rates.

google play store metrics

google play store metrics

As previously mentioned, most of the users who visit your application page come from Google Play searches. Out of 14 visitors on Nov 23, 2020, 13 visitors came from keyword searches. As you can see, it is essential to be strategic when structuring your relevant keywords and handling other store listing factors.

google play store metrics

There is a lot more you can learn from the analysis of your KPIs. Always keep an eye on your Google Play console to check how your application is performing, take the necessary measures based on the metrics that perform low, and adopt practices that will maintain your well-performing figures.

Keeping a pulse on your competitors

Be sure to regularly conduct an intensive search into what your competitors do better than you. If possible, download their applications and check how their features outperform yours. With this, you will have a better idea of their application flow, such as their user interface and design.

Within their Play Store listing, check how they showcase the listing ranking factors such as title, media, and description. This will give you a set of the main keywords that make your competitors discoverable by the customers you share, which you can utilize to better optimize your own keywords.

However, don’t directly copy keywords that your competitors use. Based on what you find, conduct keyword research related to the field of your competitor. Using the relevant keyword tools, you’ll get more keywords related to your competitors’ search results, which you can include in your application in a way that showcases the things that make your own application unique.

A lot of mobile users find applications through direct keyword search. However some finds application on different platforms, such as social media, referrals, and blogs.

Building backlinks means including your application information on other websites. Make sure you build backlinks on websites that are relevant to your application. Include the application features in a blog post and talk about its benefits. Take screenshots and videos of your application and include them in this post, and be sure to include a Google Play Store link where users can download your application.

Most published applications have websites that host in-depth application information. Such websites should also be well optimized to drive more traffic to these websites’ pages. This makes it easier for users to find your application from web searches.

Conclusion

Optimization is not a one-day or a one-time activity. It never ends. It’s essential to keep up with the current trend of your application to boost your downloads. You should be frequently and regularly performing optimization updates to improve your application’s growth and user experience. Ignoring optimization practices will lead to unsatisfactory performance.

Make sure you are always considering:

  • New technologies
  • Creating regular updates to enhance good application performance and implementing users’ feedback
  • Ratings and reviews - You always want to ask the user for reviews and respond to them when they give feedback about your application.
  • Keeping pace with your competitors by frequently analyzing and comparing the keywords that your users are most likely to search for.
  • The little things - Even if something seems like a small detail, never overlook it. You may underestimate how critical something like the application icon or the reviews may be to your download conversion rates.

In between, ask yourself questions as if you were a user. For example:

  • Would you download a one review application?
  • Would you download a 1-star rated app?
  • Would you download an application with an unclear or misleading title?
  • Would you download an application with a bad icon or screenshots that don’t showcase the application features?

Ask yourself these questions so you can be sure you do not put your potential users in a situation where they have to make these same judgments about your application. Make sure you show them why they should download. Reflect on what the application provides and minimize what it does not.

As you practice these optimization practices, always ensure that you are abiding by Google Play Store regulations. This way, you avoid your application being suspended or removed from the Play Store.


About the author

Joseph Chege

Joseph Chege is an undergraduate student taking a Bachelor in Business Information Technology, a 4th-year student at Dedan Kimathi University Of Technology. Joseph is fluent in Android Mobile Application Development and has a lot of passion for back-end development.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.