Google Play SEO and Google’s discoverability recommendations

Google had a great session during this year’s Google I/O event on Google Play SEO and discoverability (Getting Discovered on Google Play) that surfaced general advice as well as, for the first time, some details on their secret sauce.  It’s well worth a watch and covers points not only useful to Google Play specifically, but also to mobile app discoverability in general.  Below is a summary of the elements discussed that I think are worth keeping in mind when launching your apps into the marketplace.

Not surprisingly searches provide the vast majority of app installs.  They can be categorised in the following manner:

  • Categorical – user has a general idea of what they want to know (I want a cooking app, a train schedule, I’m looking for a job).
  • Navigational – user knows exactly what they are looking for based on friends or marketing etc. e.g. Angry Birds.
  • Recommendations – those appearing on the personalised Google Play homepage, and also include recommendations from friends.

You can help discovery by providing good metadata for your app:

  • Most important is the in-store title – be short, clear and make sure you include worlds that will help with SEO e.g. “Beautylish: Makeup Beauty Tips” as a title captures the main function of the app in a succinct manner that can be easily searched for.
  • Choose a title that is resilient to common user typo mistakes, and don’t choose names that are close variants of popular apps.  6m+ unique phrases are searched for monthly, 50% are misspelled – the point to remember is that Google aggressively “correct” to help the user, but could easily auto correct to something similar that isn’t your app.
  • Functional, vivid Descriptions – you can be as long and as self praising as you want, but absolutely make sure your main message is relayed first before anything else, as no one is going to read through an onslaught of marketing prose just to find out what the app actually does/offers.
  • Screenshots/video – set expectations/avoid disappointment by making sure your images and videos truly reflect your app.  This will help avoid uninstalls, bad ratings and negative reviews.  Google say videos are fast becoming a key tool in selling apps.

Keep the feedback loop (reviews and ratings) front of mind, set expectations and deliver on your promises:

  • Make sure the right users are reviewing and rating your app – are you reaching your target audience?  Who are they?  Are you targeting low to mid end phones on slow connections or those with premium devices?  You can tailor this via the Google Play console.  If your app ends up being reviewed by consumers it isn’t meant for, you could end up with unfairly bad reviews hampering future success.

Create the viral loop for your app:

  • Apps rated highly by friends will appear on the Google Play homepage even if they never appear in other top charts.
  • Encourage community and interaction through the provision of social/comms tools within the app itself: email, “post to…”, notify a friend, +1s by friends (there is an api available to allow a user to plus 1 from within an app) etc.
  • Create a social eco system presence for your app – encourage users to promote your app through channels other than Google Play.
  • Web Anchors – trusted links to app in blogs, articles etc. can help boost your ratings even before submission.

Google’s search and discovery system takes into account all the statistics it’s collecting at various stages of your apps lifecycle:

  • Installs – e.g. if an update is made and lots of people are now installing this, it will help push the app up the rankings.
  • Uninstalls – uninstalls that quickly occur after install are especially noted right now, regardless of total installs.
  • Long installs – note: Google did say that high rated apps with naturally shorter life spans will be evaluated accordingly.
  • Engagement – work in progress that will value both complex long periods and short frequent periods of use.

Google also covered “Top Lists” charts and how they work in Google Play.  Top Paid, Top Free and Top Grossing are specifically targeting first time users and users with new devices, whilst Top New Paid and Top New Free are concerned with bringing new apps to return users’ attentions:


Worth noting if you’re on the verge of an international launch – if the original launch was 6 months ago in one country, the app won’t appear again in the global “Top New” charts with a good release in another country that generates further installs.  So think about your global rollout strategy – the 30 day window is important if you want to make as much impact as possible by making the most of combined global downloads.

The key takeaway? It’s all about the app…

There’s a lot you can do to complement good development by optimising content for the Play store and considering your launch strategy, but at the end of the day there’s no substitute for building a great app with a great user experience:

  • When developing keep in mind Google’s Android guidelines and recommendations (and of course in the case of iOS Apple’s HIG).
  • Make your apk smaller – smaller APKs get installed more and uninstalled less by users, who’ll tend to delete what takes up the most space first.
  • Core and SDK code analysis is coming – Google will start to look at code, sdks and libraries to better understand what app is really doing, so keep this in mind when developing.

Having a great app that offers a great user experience allows you to focus on the lifetime value of every one of your users, and in turn the key metrics of user acquisition, user retention and user monetisation.  With a well built app that encourages repeat use you can work on long term user retention and how you manage revenue per active user – a quality app build and design will keep people using your app/service, and give you the time to fine-tune it to make money.


One thought on “Google Play SEO and Google’s discoverability recommendations

  1. Pingback: 4G and advertising, Google Play SEO recommendations, Mobile NFC and APIs to make data mobile | New Technology Development Team Blog

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