Android App Marketing and Google Play ASO

The primary place an Android app is listed is in the Google Play app store.  Google uses this app listing to index an app for app store search results and rankings.

Optimizing an app for discovery and conversion in Google Play is where Android app marketing starts.

This process of optimization for discovery and conversion is called app store optimization, or Google Play ASO.

Google Play App Indexing

The algorithm Google uses to index mobile apps is not public, but we do know what elements of an app listing impact indexing and ranking:

While the app listing helps Google determine what searches an app is relevant for, conversion plays a big role into where an app ranks in specific searches.

Google Play App Store Discovery

Before a conversion can occur, an app must be discovered.  A user searches Google Play and immediately see results for apps Google feels meets their query.

To help Google understand what searches are relevant to an app (or conversely, which apps are relevant to a search), Google relies on several elements from the app listing.

We have created short, useful guides for how to maximize the benefits and opportunity provided in each of these elements.

App Titlehow to format an app title with examples

Short Descriptionhow Google uses this field, and where potential users see it

Long Descriptionwhy getting this right has more impact on app discovery than any other field

Converting Views to Users

Anything that is viewable impacts conversion rates, including the app title and descriptions.  But visual elements tend to have the biggest impact on what users expect and how they understand an app features.

Conversion rates are highest where creative elements highlight features that align with user searches.

The creative elements include:

App Iconslearn how to optimize app icon design for conversion

App Screenshotshow the best apps use screenshots, and what the content of a screenshot must include

Discovery and Conversion Work Together

Where an app ranks for specific searches in Google Play is the combination of what the app is indexed for and how well the app converts when shown in specific search results.

As such, discovery by a relevant target audience should be the goal of any optimization effort.

Much of this starts with determining who the target audience is, and how they are searching the Google Play app store, including the specific search terms they are using.

Learn more about developing a target keyword strategy and building a keyword bucket of relevant search terms.

Google Play App Name – crafting a great App Title

The name of an app in a Google Play app listing is called the app title, and plays a big role in how Google indexes an app for appearing in search results.

Other components of a Google Play app store listing that impact how an app ranks and for which app store searches include the short description and the full description.

Google Play App Title

Google Play app name length

It is generally recognized that the less space in a field, the greater the importance (or weight) given to the field. Like a pyramid with the Google Play app name at the top.

For example, Google provides only 30 characters (spaces included) for the app title, with the words used in the app title carrying more weight than either short or long description fields (which have 80 and 4,000 characters respectively).

Not only are the words used in the Google Play app title important for indexing, the App Title also tells the user in a few seconds what you app does.

Because the title of an app impacts both discovery and conversion – an optimized title maybe the most critical piece of an ASO strategy.

An optimized Google Play app name

An optimized app title starts with understanding which features of an app are most in-demand or differentiating, and how the market is referring to these features.

Google recommends “brand name + key function”.

For Google Play ASO purposes, format the app title using the app name and the most important relevant feature (or function).

Google Play ASO is much more about relevance then trying to rank for words or phrases that have a lot of search traffic. Because conversion from search impacts what an app is ranked for, targeting relevant features (keywords and phrases) produces a far better result than aiming too broadly.

App Name Examples

A good example of an app title that makes good use of the 30 characters is hotels.com.

Google Play App Name Example

The Google Play app name follows the recommended format of “Brand Name” and  targets a feature that is both their most important and clearly explains what the app is.

 App Name Guidelines

From time to time, Google updates the guidelines and restrictions to app names in Google Play.

The most common restriction to avoid is creating an app name with another’s brand in the beginning or start of the app title.

Google Play app name guidelines

Complete Google Play app name guidelines can be found here.

App Icon Design for Google Play

Before a potential user sees an app’s description, screenshots, video or ratings, users see an app’s icon.

Google Play App Icons

Used as sort of an app logo – the app icon’s primary role in app store optimization for Google Play is in conversion.

There are many theories on app icon design, from which colors to use to the use of text vs no text.

Generally, the goal should be to efficiently communicate the app’s main features or otherwise align to them. “Efficient” app icon design in this case means “simple”.

Because of the impact of the App Icon design on app conversion, we we recommend asking potential users, via a focus group or polling an email list.

App icon design tips

Regarding the use of text vs no text in an app icon, icons on Google Play tend to fit into a few buckets:

No text at all

Facebook Messenger Icon

A single letter

Facebook icon

A small amount of text – 4 characters or less

Soda Icon

Lots of text – a name

Amazon Icon

Looking at what the market is currently responding can provide guidance as to what approach will work best for an app.

For example, looking at the top ranking free apps in Google Play, 30 of the top 35 use no text or a single letter (like Facebook or Skype).

Google has provided additional app icon design guidelines here.

Designing Google Play Screenshots

Those following along with our other posts on Google Play app store optimization will know that many elements of an app listing, the metadata like the Google Play app name and descriptions, are directed by which features are most sought after and differentiate an app.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.33.12 AM

Creating an app listing that targets specific searches from a specific audience even impacts creative elements including app icon design and Google Play screenshots.

The app’s best features

This theme of focusing on the most in-demand features continues in Google Play screenshot design.

Screenshots play a large role in converting app listing views to users.

Note that screenshots are featured prominently, without scrolling down (known as “above the fold”) on Google Play.

Google Play Screenshots

Potential users (the app’s target audience) are searching the app store using keywords and phrases unique to mobile app store search.

An optimized app title, description and short description will help get an app indexed for relevant search terms, and the app’s icon and screenshots will help convert the searcher to a user.

It is important, then, to highlight features in the app that a target audience is searching for.

Display trending functionality

Screenshots do what the icon and descriptions can’t.  They provide a way to show a potential user what an app does and what its best features are, instead of telling them.

Show them what they care about first.

The market is who defines what the most searched for features are, and how they refer to these features.

Is the target market using “photo collage” or “photo blender”?

As expected, there are search terms that maintain a high level of interest, and terms that gain popularity.  The app store is dynamic, and adjusting screenshots to meet the current demands of the market can pay dividends.

We see significant trends at least seasonally, and often monthly in various categories and app types.

Screenshots for all devices supported

Similar to creating screenshots that highlight in-demand features, support of specific devices is a feature that must be communicated. The way to communicate support for a device size or type is by including screenshots in the format of the device.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.28.04 AM

Google Play makes this easy, allowing you to add up to 8 screenshots for each type of device you support, from 7″ and 10″ tablets to Android TV and Android Wear.

Google Play screenshot guidelines

Google requires 2 screenshots for each supported device except Android Wear – which only requires one – and allows up to 8. Use all 8 for every device supported.

Additionally, there are some requirements around size and format to be aware of. Screenshots must be in JPEG or 24-bit PNG format. Their minimum dimensions are 320px and their maximum is 3840px, and the maximum dimension of your screenshot can’t be over twice as long as the minimum dimension.

Similarly, Google recommends some best practices when uploading Android Wear screenshots. It’s commonly considered best to upload images with similar dimensions to your regular screenshots, and include images featuring both square and round devices. They also advise including a screenshot of your app running on an Android Wear device.

Aside from the technical requirements, the restrictions on design are unlimited!

Publishers can choose to use text to explain a feature:

Screenshot example

Or can show how the app can be used:

Screenshot functions

Or include reviews, awards, or whatever best position the app for conversion.

For more information from Google on screenshots can be found here.

Google Play Short Description

Using the pyramid analogy from our post on naming an app, the short description has limited space and as such, carries more weight in the indexing of an app on Google Play when compared to the bigger “full description” field.

Google Play Short Description

Those familiar with SEO might equate the short description to a combination of the indexation benefits of using headers (H1, H2 etc..) and the conversion benefits of the meta-description field.

Number 2 below shows where the short description is displayed in the Google Play app listing from a mobile device.

google play short description

Google Play Guidelines

Not to be confused with the full description – which allows 4,000 characters, the Google Play short description is limited to 80 characters.

This field was previously named “Promo text” and serves much of the same purpose today.  The short description is the first bit of text potential users see in an app listing when in the Google Play app.

Once a user has installed the app, the short description is replaced by “what’s new” text.

More information on restrictions and guidelines can be found here.

Feature-based Marketing Copy

The short description is a unique field to Google Play (Apple does not have promo text or short description).  Like most of the elements of an app listing, the short description impacts how an app is indexed and how well it converts viewers into users.

Assuming the most important feature or target phrases are in the app’s title, the short description provides space for introducing additional features using targeted keywords and phrases.

For elements in an app store listing that affect conversion, we recommend working with focus groups to determine which versions of these elements convert your target audience best.