Sponsored Search Results in Google Play

Sponsored Search Results in Google Play

Google recently announced that over the next few weeks, Google Play ads will begin to appear in the search results on Google Play.

Google shared a gif on how it would look in practice, which looks a lot like how Google delivers sponsored results in web search.

google play ads

For now, this is being released to a “limited set of users… from a pilot group of advertisers”.

This is big news for mobile app marketers and reaction is mixed.

Is this another avenue for the best monetizing apps (currently games) to buy up inventory and the “rich get richer” – resulting in an even worse discovery experience for mobile users?

Or does this open up a brand new channel for publishers to reach their target audience in a new cost-effective way?

First – from Google’s perspective, some of the ad spend that has flowed through Facebook and mobile ad networks can/will now flow through Google.

Why wouldn’t Google do this?

One potential drawback could be that a promoted app could then impact the organic search results.

When users download a promoted app,  the spike will surely result in a higher ranking in  organic search results.  Resulting in more downloads.

Is the real value of sponsored search results in Google Play in the opportunity to spike an app’s organic search ranking?

What about the impact to publishers not named King and Supercell?

With more than 100 billion monthly searches on Google Play – sponsored search represents a huge opportunity for app publishers.

Overall – Google Play ads and sponsored search appears to be a very positive development for publishers.

The current model for advertising is inventory-based, without any real keyword targeting outside of the category of the app the ad appears in.

The likes of King (Candy Crush) and Super Cell (Clash of Clans) eat up a lot of available mobile ad network inventory.  That means – a messaging app competes for mobile app ad inventory with Candy Crush in unrelated apps.

With keyword targeting on Google Play, a messaging app could target a wide range of feature-based keywords and phrases where it just wouldn’t make sense for an app like Candy Crush to bid at the same rates.

Like web search, and organic results in the Apple App Store and Google Play, relevance matters and will increase in significance.

This will be a space we watch closely and plan to share our findings and experiences.

In fact – now is a good time to sign up for our blog!

App Marketing

App Store Localization in Mobile App Marketing

App Localization is important because mobile is a global phenomenon – with smartphones surpassing PCs and expected to exceed 2 billion devices in 2015.

Consider for 2014:

  • App revenue grew 70% in the top 3 Countries (US, Japan, South Korea)
  • Japan held the #1 spot globally in Google Play revenues, while US was #1 in downloads
  • China and Japan are #2 and #3 for Apple/iOS downloads ahead of the UK, Canada and Australia

For many apps, localizing a mobile app for new country makes a lot of sense.

Both Apple and Google make “entering” a new country as simple as clicking a button.

You want to create a new app listing for Japan? Just submit a new  app name, keywords etc.. and they handle pricing, currency exchange etc..

Add in the power of Google Translate and it becomes very easy to think that just translating existing metadata for marketing purposes is OK.

Simple right?

You throw in your existing target keywords, app name, description and screenshot text into Google Translate and slap the output into your new country’s app listing and consider it done.

Bam – next.

Let’s call that translation.  And it can be not worth even the small amount of time, but it can lead to embarrassing or worse results.

App Localization

At the other end of the spectrum, a complete localization effort would generally include adapting the in-app content, text, colors, buttons and images to the appropriate meaning in the new country.

Even for “simple” apps, a complete localization can be a large undertaking in both time and expense.

App Marketing Localization

Before an investment in a complete mobile app localization effort, start with localizing the app name, keywords and screenshot fields available for each new targeted country.

So why not just throw current keyword field into Google Translate and call it a day?

The goal is to build a list of target keywords and phrases based on how users search in their country. There are several reasons why just translating English words to another language and assuming “close enough” can be worthless.

Google Translate often translates words and not meanings

If translation is taking the English “I am hungry” and changing it to the Spanish “Estoy hambriento” – fine. But Spanish speakers don’t say “Estoy hambriento”, they say “Tengo Hambre” – or “I have hunger”. Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.25.34 PM This is not to disparage Google’s translation tool, but more to highlight what may not be apparent if you only speak one language (looking at you English speaking Americans)…

Translating English words to Spanish does not convey the meaning in the same way as understanding how Spanish is spoken.

People across languages speak in idioms that are not easy to translate


  • An arm and a leg – it is expensive
  • Cut corners – to take shortcuts, find a cheaper or easier way to do something,


  • Bob’s your uncle – typically following a set of simple instructions – “and there you have it”
  • Hairy at the heel – someone is dangerous or untrustworthy


  • Having pig – getting lucky
  • I understand only train station – it is all Greek to me

Part of the irony here is that the best way to define the idioms of other languages and countries is through another idiom!

English words and brand names can have different meanings in other languages

Electrolux at one time marketed its vacuum cleaners in English with the tagline: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” NOTHINSUCKS Ford blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil because the term in Brazilian Portuguese means “tiny male genitals”. app localization See more here.

Kind of a fun post, but the point is clear – just translating the English words from the name, keywords and screenshots is close to worthless.

Instead, treat each country as their own ecosystem of search and see how they search for features related to your app.  Find your local audience using their words with app store intelligence software.

How many Phrases can an App Rank for?

How Many App Store Keyword Phrases can a Mobile App Rank for?

As mobile app marketers know, much of Apple’s app store search and discovery data is hidden.

Here is what we know about Mobile App Search:

  • The app name and the app’s keywords field are indexed
  • Downloads and download velocity impacts rankings in app store search
  • Ratings quality and velocity have an impact
  • Description is indexed – if not weighted heavily
  • Reviews are indexed – if not weighted heavily

We know the popular opinion among mobile app developers, studios, agencies and marketers is that Apple app store search is broken.  This post – from Ged of the Icon Factory and shared by Marco Arment of Tumblr, Instapaper and now Overcast fame – shares the sad state of discovery for app store users.

An App’s Name is indexed for search, and is weighted more heavily than words used in the app store keywords field. The result is an app like “Happy Park Best Theme Park Game with Facebook and Twitter Friends” ranks 5th and 7th in my “Twitter” search results for device and desktop respectively.  Instagram and G+ also in top 5.

Twitter Results

Now, if the searcher were searching for Twitter’s app – that comes up first and she’s done.

But if searchers are looking for apps related to Twitter and instead getting games and other social networks, it shouldn’t take long for searchers to recognize 2-3 word phrases are required for receiving relevant results.

According to Gummicube’s App Store Intelligence – using Datacube, we see that by a large margin in almost every category – trending searches are 2+ word phrases.

In fact – today in the social networking category – we show a full 25 of the top 25 trending searches are for 2 word phrases.   In many categories – 3 word phrases make up 2-3 of the 25 top trending phrases.  In fact, 1 word searches are generally for brands (Facebook, Twitter, Skype).

App Store search encourages users to use more specific searches (2+ word phrases).

Our data confirms this is what users do.

It follows that the very best strategy for app store optimization then, is targeting relevant phrases.

Many of the current keyword tools for app marketers fall very short.

In fact – many are downright bad with the “Bad data in, Bad data out” model.

  • You need more than a keyword tool to determine the ideal combination of your 100 characters and app name for max reach
  • You need more than traffic estimates based off of web search
  • You shouldn’t have to guess what the market thinks is a relevant category and what are the associated relevant phrases in each category

App Store Keywords Coverage

With an estimated 65 million downloads daily, $20b in app revenues in 2014 and well over 1m apps – long tail search in the app store is now a worthy topic.

The top 4 publishers represent 70% of app installs.  The top app charts from 2013 and 2014 are almost identical (same apps, same publishers).  With the breaking apart of major apps into smaller apps – like Facebook messenger –  the top spots in the app store (overall) are now reserved for publishers who can pay their way (LTV > CPI) see Supercell or King, or publishers with a significant web presence (see Facebook).

You want to compete with this?

You want to compete with this?

Find Your Audience

The focus of modern mobile app marketers is targeting and ranking for as many relevant app store keyword phrases as possible, and identifying new channels to run user acquisition campaigns.

Having access to app store data and not web data matters.

Having access to tools that help you identify relevant keywords, relevant phrases, trending phrases, and the best combination of keywords to maximize the 100 characters for relevant phrases is a marketers best friend.

Let’s get back to the original question – how many app store keyword phrases can an app rank for?

One Gummicube client was averaging 40 downloads a day when they came to us to help them manage their app optimization.

After 9 months of engagement, the same app is averaging 5,000 downloads daily with $0 in ad spend or paid user acquisition.

The strategy from the beginning was not to rank #1 for “messaging” or “text” – but rather to target an ultra-relevant group of 2-3 word phrases.

Each month, the team would reevaluate the use of the 100 character keyword field, and re-target based on current trending search phrases.

Today this app ranks for 149 one, two and three-word phrases:

  • In the top 10 for 7 single keywords
  • In the top 10 for 100 phrases, where 20% are 3 word phrases.
  • Ranked for 26 total single keywords
  • Ranked for 123 total phrases

For this app, ranking for 146 search terms, and ranking in the top 10 for 107 search terms meant the difference between 40 daily downloads and 5,000.

Evaluate and Optimize Keywords Monthly

A monthly evaluation and optimization of targeted phrases based on category trending data is the best way to ensure coverage of the most common relevant phrase targets.

The correct category and maximum coverage of relevant phrases could mean ranking for 30-40 relevant phrases for new apps.

And as we can see – it is possible to rank for hundreds of relevant phrases with a sustained effort at reaching those searching for apps like yours.

You can learn more about Gummicube Data, our App Store Optimization Services here.

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How to Market an App

How to Market an App

When we discuss how to market an app, we are essentially focusing on what activities maximize the ROI of app development and mobile app marketing investments.

Vanity metrics like downloads are cast aside for metrics related to retention and engagement.

Daily Average Users (DAU) and Lifetime Value (LTV) are the focus.

We don’t just want downloads, we want relevant downloads of users who find value in our apps.

We want to optimize click-thru and conversion rates in our user acquisition campaigns.

IMAGE:  Mobile App Marketing with App Store Intelligence

Optimize for Organic Installs

Users who find your apps organically (via Apple App Store and Google Play search) are generally the most sought after set of users.

Organic users have proven to be both more engaged and produce a higher LTV than users acquired through ads.

A strategy around optimizing your app for organic installs creates a long-term competitive advantage.

How to Market an App

We break our strategy into two parts:

  1. Discoverability (ASO) – maximize the exposure of the mobile app to potential users with relevant searches
  2. Conversion Optimizationmaximize the conversion from users who see the app in search results to app install


More than 50% of mobile apps are discovered via search.  Ads, friends & family and top app charts all pale in comparison to the number of apps downloaded via mobile Apple App Store and Google Play search.

This means optimizing your apps’ name, keywords and description for ranking in Apple’s and Google Play’s search results is critical to your apps’ success.

Investing in an ASO service that can help you rank for hundreds of relevant phrases can produce a much better ROI than almost any other user acquisition campaign.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Once you have your keywords strategy in place, the goal is to continuously improve the conversion rate of searchers to users. From seeing your app in the search results, to installing your app.

The elements of a mobile app that impact whether an app is installed include:

  • icon
  • title/name
  • descriptions and call to action
  • screenshots/preview video

A/B & Multivariate Testing Creatives

There is no better way of determining which icons, screenshots or videos resonate with your target audience than by asking them.

Part of Gummicube’s complete mobile marketing solution includes hosting live focus groups – providing feedback from 1,000s on which creatives and calls-to-action convert best.

If you are not currently a Gummicube partner, you can leverage social media or your email list to test your creatives and make sure you are selecting designs that the market will respond to.

Paid User Acquisition

Mobile app user acquisition costs continue to increase with CPIs breaking $2 in 2014.

As non-mobile apps continue to dump advertising budgets into mobile advertising, identifying channels for paid campaigns and optimizing those channels becomes increasingly important.

Regardless of the channel, the numbers we are working with are:

  • Impressions
  • Click Thru Rate (CTR)
  • Conversion Rate (CRO)
  • Lifetime Value (LTV)

Given a high enough LTV, there are plenty of opportunities for impressions (example: Supercell’s Super Bowl ad).

What we want as mobile app marketers is for people who see our ad to click on it (CTR), to install our app (CRO), and to stick around and find value and purchase in-app items, see ads, …..monetize.

Maximizing click thru rates, and optimizing conversion rates has a lot to do with getting in front of a relevant audience, with a clear call to action using their words.

We need an understanding of:

  • the words prospective users are using when searching for similar/related mobile apps
  • the features prospective users are searching for

App Store Intelligence helps us understand how users are searching for mobile apps, enabling marketers to target new keywords and phrases in their paid campaigns, as well as offer ultra-relevant calls to action in the vernacular of the market.

Our app store data shows that the vast majority of searches are for 2+ word phrases and are almost all features related.  

Highlight the features of your app you know the market is responding to to further increase CTR and CRO.

Add App Store Data to your Product Roadmap

The market is telling mobile app publishers what they want by the features they are searching for daily.

Routinely monitoring trending searches related to your target keywords and phrases, and in your app’s category can provide additional data on where to invest and what to prioritize.

Ask and test your focus groups with new features, optimize based on results, and continue the app marketing lifecycle as your apps and the market continues to evolve.

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App Store Optimization (ASO) Blog | Mobile App Marketing