February 16, 2023

Google Play ASO: Optimize Your App Listing for 2023

So you’ve launched an app and want to get it up and running in the Google Play Store. What’s the best way to do that? This is what you need to know. 

Google Play ASO

With over 2.7 million apps on the Google Play Store alone, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for developers to get their app discovered by potential users. That’s why App Store Optimization (ASO) has become crucial for any app looking to stand out in a crowded marketplace. With each passing year, ASO strategies and best practices evolve to keep up with changes in technology, user behavior, and the app stores themselves.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the latest trends and tactics for optimizing your app listing on the Google Play Store in 2023, and provide you with actionable tips to improve your app’s visibility, downloads, and overall success.

And if you’re looking to learn about ASO for apps available on Apple devices, go to our guide to ASO for iOS.

Table of Contents

How Does the Google Play Algorithm Work?

The Google Play algorithm is a sort of black box and it’s unconfirmed how it actually works. That being said, with yellowHEAD’s vast experience working with many apps and learning the algorithm, we can assume certain things and work according to several best practices we’ll share here.

The Google Play algorithm is always evolving and incorporating more variables into its process. Naturally, the Store wants to promote its highest-quality apps to encourage higher user satisfaction.

App developers need to think of their ranking as a recommendation; when a user searches for a specific keyword, the algorithm is basically telling them, “this is likely the best result for you; this is the second-best result,” and so on.

It’s especially crucial to follow these best practices when the main keyword has lots of competition. In these cases, it’s crucial to be “recommended by the algorithm”.

The Google Play algorithm originated in the Google Search algorithm, so it is helpful to have a good grasp of SEO to obtain good results in ASO.

The algorithm takes into account relevant keywords in the description and evaluates their ASO weight and density, and this helps the algorithm understand what might be best for the user. Based on the keywords in the metadata, the algorithm creates a list of apps fitting the search terms.

What Do Users Actually Look At?

When users come across an app in the store, they commonly look at some elements of the store listing more than others. Here are some stats to know:

  • On average, only 5% of visitors tap “Read More” to view the full description.
  • Most visitors do not scroll through all the screenshots
  • On average, visitors spend between 3 to 7 seconds on the store listing page
  • Including a video can create a huge uplift in conversion

It is therefore important to keep a focused and goal-oriented strategy when taking on A/B tests for your listings.

Google Play Metadata Optimization

The keywords used in the metadata (title, short description, long description) are indexed in a hierarchical format and this determines the weight given to each keyword.

Keywords in the title have the most weight, followed by those in the short description, followed by long description keywords. Keeping this in mind will help tailor a keyword targeting strategy that is right for your app.

Both frequency and density are important. You’ll want to target the main keyword several times in the metadata, but be sure to avoid being spammy and using a keyword too many times.

Google’s updated metadata guidelines need to be taken into consideration. Google really wants to “clean” the store from spammy messaging, forcing app developers to specify their app’s main objective.

App Title

App title keywords carry most of the ranking weight, and Google Play allows room for up to 30 characters. The character limit was reduced to 30 from 50 in September 2021.

Short Description

With app tiles having limited space, the short description’s 80 characters are more important than ever. It’s an important space for keyword targeting since it has the next-highest weight after the title. All this affects conversions, so don’t overlook this aspect.

Google Play Short Description Tips:

  • Constantly test the short description for best conversion.
  • Think about what differentiates your app from competitors and keep focusing on that.

Long Description

When users click on the small arrow next to the short description, it reveals the full description of the app, known as the long description.

The long description allows for 4,000 characters, but the keywords used here still need to be used wisely. Make sure keywords are used in an authentic way that has real meaning to the reader. This will signify to Google that they are intrinsically related to your app and highly relevant to users searching for these keywords.

It’s a great piece of keyword real estate because you can add long-tail keywords that weren’t able to fit into the title or short description, and they will still influence the algorithm.

Most people likely won’t read the entire long description, but it should be readable and visually pleasing, easy enough for people to scan through. This can impact conversions. Either way, the Android algorithm definitely will read it, so utilize this area well.

Play Store Metadata Violations

Google Play is constantly updating its best practices. These are some of the latest things to avoid in your app description or your app will be banned:

  • Words or emojis that denote performance in the Play Store will be banned, such as “Top 10 apps” or use of the trophy emoji .
  • Use of all-caps letters, emojis, and emoticons unless the brand name is in all caps, i.e FILA).
  • Use of words like “best” “#1”, or “free”.

Google Play Store Tags

When it comes to your app’s store listing on Google Play, you have to make a smart decision. Only 5 tags can be associated with an app listing, so choose them wisely!
This is how we pick the best ones.

How to Choose Google Play Store Tags

  • Find the most relevant tags by reviewing Google Play’s recommendations
  • Only choose tags that describe your app
  • Monitor app visibility after choosing your tags and optimize

Google Play Creatives

Creatives are a crucial part of an app listing. Here are some things to know. See our complete guide to app creative best practices for details and specs.

Google Play App Icon

The app creatives have a huge impact on the success of an app, in particular, the app icon. This asset is one of the first elements that a user is exposed to on your app page, so it has a major impact on branding, conversion, and user retention.

Google Play Store Feature Graphics

The feature graphic is the thumbnail image on top of your video. If you have a video on your store page, the feature graphic takes up most of the device view, making it a major asset for conversion.

These are some important tips to keep in mind regarding feature graphics:

  • Keep prominent visual elements and the focal point toward the center of the graphic, but take into account the play button is placed in the center. Make sure it’s not hiding any key elements like the brand logo, app name, or main UI.
  • The edges of the feature graphic are cropped by about 70 pixels on each side, so make sure nothing important is placed in these cutoff zones.

If you don’t have a video in the listing, and your app is featured in the store, the Feature Graphic will appear in its place.

Google Play Screenshots

Your app screenshots are a great way to communicate what your app is about and its main value propositions. This is the reason we aim to use graphic assets to tell a story, rather than simply relying on text.

The order of your screenshots also factors into its App Store success since the first screenshots have much more visibility.

Landscape or Portrait Orientation?

On Google Play, there is room to play around with the image orientation. You can upload between 2 to 8 screenshots. The maximum screenshot dimension needs to be less than twice as long as the minimum dimension. Within that range, go wild!

App Promo Video

App video is optional, but ASO experts know that it shouldn’t be overlooked. Google Play allows each app to show one video in the product page, appearing at the beginning of the screenshot gallery. The video and the screenshots should work in unison and take into consideration the style of the graphics in the store.

In Google Play, videos need a landscape orientation since they’re played through YouTube.

See our “10 Commandments for App Preview Videos” for our top recommendations.

A/B Testing on Google Play

The A/B testing platform in Google Play is built-in and allows brands to test the icon, feature graphic, screenshots, video, short description, long description, and a mix of a few (or all) of them.

It allows for up to 3 variants against the current version, plus testing for up to 5 markets at a time.

The metadata and creative assets play major roles in apps conversion, so here are a few recommendations to get better results overall:

  • Test for at least 7 days, even if you have a winning test after 24 hours. This allows you to analyze all kinds of user behaviors. For example, users have more time to install apps during the weekend, but also delete them more, so retention may be lower.
  • Avoid testing brand-new assets. Rather come up with a strong hypothesis and test one element at a time to learn about user preferences and behaviors (plus, this can also help the product itself).
  • Don’t test worldwide. You will be surprised how users in different countries respond differently.
  • Track the outcomes diligently. Ratings, CTRs, number of downloads, and user retention rates are all indicators of user satisfaction. The algorithm recommends higher-ranking apps more (which pushes its rank even higher).

App Store Localization

Most apps can be used by users anywhere in the world, so it makes sense to make them available in many different languages. This allows it to be included in the search results across geos, thereby increasing worldwide visibility and conversion. However, it’s not enough to just translate it. Each language and region has its own culture and rules and keeping those preferences in mind boosts its appeal.

See the full list of the languages for Google Play.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when localizing your app page for Google Play:

  • One app listing is designated as the default, which means it will be used for all countries that don’t have a dedicated listing.
  • It’s vital to conduct keyword research as a step in your localization process to pinpoint popular local keywords. One way of finding long-tail keywords for localized markets is by searching on that country’s Google search and Play search suggestions.

To get a measure of search volume and relevance for each specific country, we recommend putting together long-tail keyword combinations and uploading these to a keyword tracking tool. We also suggest checking out the competition to see who ranks in top positions for those keyword phrases.

Localization is not only for countries with different languages; it’s also for countries like the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia that share a common language but have different expressions, preferences, and behaviors.

We see this because keywords and search volumes differ from those in the US. For example, “diapers” may be a strong keyword in the US for baby care apps, yet the parallel term “nappies” is popular in the UK.

If your app is for local use (e.g. weather, real estate), be sure to search keyword terms that are city or region-specific. For example, “New York City apartments” versus “London apartments” will have different search scores depending on which country you’re targeting.

Localization doesn’t stop with your metadata. It’s also extremely important to localize graphics.

ASO localization means localizing people or characters and adjusting the messaging to best suit that geographic location.

Research the local culture, traditions, and even dress codes since perceptions differ wildly. For example, a character dressed in a tank top might be fine in one market, but look scandalous in another and turn potential customers away.

About Google Play App Reviews

The importance of app reviews can’t be highlighted enough. With the increase in competition, reviews are more important than ever and signal to the algorithm which apps deserve a higher ranking.

A few of the best practices worth following to generate lots of good reviews:

  • Prompt users for a review at opportune times, such as after a user moves up a level or wins a prize.
  • Make sure to comment on all reviews.
  • Learn from your reviews. It’s the best indicator of users’ pain points and what they think of certain features. Plus, it’s a great source for keywords: by taking advantage of the way users word things, you can make your messaging resonate with them better and boost conversions and retention.
  • Make it as easy as possible for users to rate the app. Don’t make them leave the app to do it. Use Android’s in-app prompt API for Google Play.

How to Get An App Featured on Google Play

Getting featured in the Play Store can bring an app additional visibility, but apps need to deserve it. Some aspects to keep in mind before applying to be featured are:

  • App Quality: Make sure your app is of high quality and up-to-date with the latest Google Play features and updates. Also, make the app compatible on all Android devices.
  • Go Global: Google favors apps that cater to users all over the world. Localizing is one way to do this since it makes apps available to more people. Follow suit with the store listings and keyword targets.
  • Get Noticed: Getting buzz in the media is one step toward getting noticed by the Google editorial team. PR activity can lead to even more organic growth.
  • Reviews and Ratings: Apps with high rating scores and good reviews are more likely to get featured. They are indicators of a good product.

Google Play Store Optimization Hacks

The main “optimization hack” we can truly recommend is utilizing the power of data and making data-driven decisions. Each app is so different, so data is the only way to figure out what will really work best for a given brand. While we’ve covered many of the top best practices in this article, nothing compares to actually testing different variations of app page elements. Sometimes even a seemingly-small change, like an icon’s background color, can affect conversion rates!

How to Make Apps Searchable on Google Play and Increase App Downloads

When it comes to optimizing an app’s organic performance in the Google Play Store, ASO experts have many tools and techniques at their disposal. The key is to understand how to piece them all together to achieve better performance. Basic things, such as links to your app from the company site, newsletters, and social media will make an app rank higher and more often, attract the right users, and hopefully create another happy customer.

If you would like more information on how to optimize your app to maximize conversions and best reach your brand’s goals, contact our ASO team.

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