Global app revenue is expected to reach $76.52 billion in 2017.
That’s a big pie.
And as with any big pie, there’s plenty of competition jockeying for every slice. There are currently over 4 million total apps available across the top 5 app stores. The Google Play store alone has over 1.6 million apps listed, with Apple’s app store coming in close behind.
It’s a saturated market, and in order to compete, you need the ability to optimize your app listing for both store searchability AND direct user appeal.
This process is called App Store Optimization (ASO), and just like SEO in the late 90’s, it’s rapidly become it’s own dedicated industry. For a multi-store overview, check out BuidFire’s Ultimate Guide To App Store Optimization.
Today, we’ll be looking specifically at the Google Play Store.
Unlike when optimizing a landing page, optimizing a Google Play Store listing comes with some extreme limitations in terms of what you’re able to do. You can’t simply create anything you want in order to sell viewers on your app. You are given only 6 different areas to customize, and how users find and respond to your app will be based entirely on what you do with them
The 6 app listing areas we can optimize are:
In this guide, I’ll show you how you can make the most of your Google Play Store app listing by teaching you how to optimize each of these key areas.
Let’s get started!
1. Optimize Your Title
Your title is possibly THE most important part of your app listing. It’s also one of the more challenging pieces to nail down.
Because you are trying accomplish two very different goals:
- Get your listing to show up for the right search queries
- Get people to get excited and click on your listing
In other words, it needs to be attractive to both the app store search engine AND the actual people who are doing the searches. Fortunately, since Google’s app store uses Google’s search algorithm, we have a bit more insight into it than some of the alternatives.
To begin, let’s look at what Google itself tells us about your listing title:
- Your title should be unique and accessible, avoid common terms, and reinforce what your app is about.
- Keep your title focused – longer titles are likely to be truncated depending on the device your users are browsing on.
- Avoid using subtle misspellings of general terms, as users may end up correcting misspelled search terms.
The most important takeaways here are that your title should be brief, unique, and descriptive.
In other words, your title shouldn’t be like a typical blog headline that runs around 70 characters long and makes some elaborate promise. That works great for blog content but not so much for app listings.
Instead, shorter titles tend to work best for. Short, descriptive titles.
For example, if I type in “Productivity”, I get the following screen:
You’ll notice that there’s only room for around 2-3 words in the titles displayed. Anything more is cut off, so it’s best to create the best possible 2-3 word (or 25 characters) title in order to attract clicks.
Obviously, if you have already selected a brand name for the app, you are fairly limited in what you can do, which is why it’s best to make the app name highly relevant to the actual purpose of the app.
For example, “Photo Editor Pro” is typically a much better title for a photo editing app than “BeautyPlus – Magic”, because it makes the app’s function immediately apparent rather than requiring users to risk clicking on an app that doesn’t meet their requirements.
In review, the 3 requirements for a great title are:
- Relevant keyword
- 2-3 words or 25 characters
- Describes app function
If you can accomplish all three of these things with your title, you’ll already be ahead of most of your competition.
2. Optimize Your Icon
As you can see in the images we showed above, the title isn’t the only thing users see when browsing for new apps. Your icon is also a HUGE factor in helping users decide whether or not to click on your app.
So what distinguishes an effective app icon from a mediocre one?
In turns out there are a number of distinguishing factors that differentiate “iconic” app icons (heehee) from those of their forgotten competitors.
- Distinct Shape
- Limited Color Palette
- Unique Creative Element
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
When I say “shape”, I’m talking about the shape of your icon’s core. Obviously, every icon is square, but the core of the design will display a certain shape, and that’s where you want to be distinctive. For example, what do you notice about the shapes used in this row of icons?
The core shape in EVERY single one of these icons is either a square or a circle.
Every. Single. One.
There is nothing distinctive about circles and squares, particularly when every other app being made is using this shape to form it’s icon.
These icons, on the other hand, display a very unique shape that grabs the eye and distinguishes the app from examples like those above.
When designing or redesigning your app’s icon, look for opportunities to create a unique shape that catches the eye and sets your app apart.
Limited Color Palette
Colors can be an asset or a liability to your design, and as a general rule in today’s landscape, less equals more.
Simply put, the more colors you add to the equation, the harder it is to make your design pop. It requires a world-class designer to make 5 colors look amazing in an icon design, but if you cut that down to 2 or 3, you can create some really exceptional looks with limited design skills.
Simple color schemes tend to be far more iconic, but keep in mind they need to be paired with the distinctive shape we talked about previously. Otherwise you end up with exceptionally forgettable icons like these.
Because of the benefits of a limited color scheme, it’s almost never a good idea to use a photo in your icon design. There are some notable exceptions, but most businesses will benefit from keep the design simple with a limited color palette.
Unique Creative Element
Many top performing apps have icons that fit perfectly with the previous two points: they have distinctive shapes with 2-3 colors and that’s it. This 3rd point, however, tends to be required now that smartphone applications have become an extremely over-saturated market.
If you want to stand out today, you need to be unique. This doesn’t have to happen within the icon, but if design is your strength, it’s a great place to attempt a homerun.
When I say “unique” I’m talking about adding a creative element that nobody else has. There is no formula for this, but I can offer some example of apps that pulled it off.
The above apps distinguish themselves via the incredible addition of unique textures into their icons. We see a watercolor spread effect, a rainbow sheen, a realistic keyhole, and an unbelievably lifelike stitching pattern.
These unique elements really make the icons stand out.
In the above example, the icons are made to look like a 3D model of a relevant item related to the app’s function. Combining a unique look like this with a descriptive title is the perfect way to tell viewers EXACTLY what your app will do for them.
3. Optimize Your Description
The purpose of having an effective Title and Icon is to get initial clicks from browsing smartphone users. Once they have clicked, however, it’s time for you description to do the heavy lifting.
Again, let’s start with Google’s recommended best practices:
- Focus on your users and what they will get from your app.
- Review your app’s description on the Google Play app and web store to ensure that the most vital text is visible “above the fold”.
- Use SEO Best Practices in your Description, but be mindful of Google Play Content Policies regarding SPAM and IP Infringement (e.g. keyword spamming, impersonation, etc).
Basically, Google is telling you what every great website copywriter already knows: FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS! Additionally, like with any landing page, it’s important to optimize the copy above the fold, ensuring readers will select to continue reading the rest of your description.
Let’s look at an app listing.
As you can see, you really only have two lines before the “Read More” section. Use this section like you would a traditional value proposition headline on a landing page. Describe what you are doing and how it will help the reader.
Once the reader selects “Read More”, you have a lot more room to make your pitch. You’ll want to write something reader-focused while also including the right keywords. For a more in-depth look at app listing keywords, read BuildFire’s Ultimate Guide To App Store Optimization.
4. Optimize Your Images
In addition to your description, a feature image and collection of screenshots displaying your apps functionality are essential to closing visitors once they’ve click on your app listing.
Your feature image can either be a 1024px by 500px JPEG/PNG or it can be a Youtube video. This is the first big image/video people will see once they land on your listing, so it’s important to make it synergize with your description and sell new visitors on your app.
While using a video does take mobile users outside of the app store in order to watch it, virtually all of the top-selling apps today use videos in their feature image section. In other words, it’s almost mandatory to have a video for new apps seeking to compete.
But don’t worry about dropping a bunch of coin. You can quickly and easily create professional-quality feature videos with a tool like PowToon.
Next come the screenshots.
The Google Play Store allows you to “add up to 8 screenshots for each supported device type: Phone, Tablet (7 inch & 10 inch), Android TV, and Android Wear.” To even publish a listing, you are required to provide at least 2 screenshots.
To publish your Store Listing, you must provide a minimum of 2 screenshots.
- JPEG or 24-bit PNG (no alpha)
- Minimum dimension: 320px
- Maximum dimension: 3840px
- The maximum dimension of your screenshot can’t be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension.
While these images are called “screenshots”, they don’t have to be raw screenshots. Rather, you can incorporate your screenshots into promotional images as demonstrated by Duolingo.
Evernote does this as well:
While it may not seem like a big deal, adding that extra bit of promotional copy can make a big difference, which is why most apps you’ll see these days use this format.
When selecting screenshots to include, try to highlight shots that demonstrate the most intuitive aspects of your app’s UX as well as some of the most popular functions. Include the best shots first and then you can add pretty much whatever you want.
5. Increase Downloads
Thus far, we’ve covered every part of your listing that you have 100% control over. But we’re not quite done.
One of the primary factors Google looks at when arranging store search results is your number of downloads. Download counts are considered both cumulatively as well as in the recent short term.
While you don’t have direct control over how many people download your app, of course, there are a number of things you can do to quickly increase downloads and give yourself a shot at getting onto the list of trending apps, which will skyrocket your total downloads.
These strategies are best implemented simultaneously, as that will give you the best chance of spiking downloads over a 48 period.
1. Make It Free
People love “free” and have been conditioned to pay next to nothing for apps. If you have a winner that needs exposure, make it free for a limited period of time in order to encourage maximum downloads.
A price drop could work as well, but since the goal of these strategies is maximum downloads, free tends to work best.
2. List On Voting Sites
Sites where people are actively looking to view, upvote, and engage with new products/content are a great place to go for quick download boosting. Sites like Product Hunt, Reddit, Inbound.org, BizSugar, etc. allow you to post content or a direct product feature and the community upvotes their favorite entries.
If you can organize a group to help upvote your entry initially, you can get more views and, if people like it, begin snowballing for some massive exposure!
3. Condense Your Paid Advertising
It takes money to make money. If you’ve invested in creating an app, you probably have planned out a marketing budget. If you’re willing to go for a download blitz, try condensing a month’s marketing budget into a single 24-48 hour window along with your other efforts.
As I mentioned before, hitting certain download thresholds in a short amount of time can boost your app listing’s ranking within the Google Play Store, resulting in an exponential increase in downloads.
6. Increase Positive Reviews
The final way in which we can increase the ranking of an app listing is via the number and percentage of positive reviews. Similar to downloads, while you don’t have direct control over the reviews you receive, there are ways to increase both the quantity and quality of views you receive.
The best, most “white hat” way to increase positive reviews is to simply prompt users to review your app. Many app developers make the mistake of requesting a review too early or too late in the user lifecycle.
If you request a review before the user has had a chance to benefit from your app and develop an appreciation for it, they typically won’t oblige. Alternatively, if you wait too long and try to prompt a review after the user has gotten over the initial excitement of your app or simply forgotten about it, you might lose out on reviews as well.
The sweet spot tends to be after around 5 uses, but you can always split test and see what will work for your unique app.
Simply asking for a review at the right moment will land you a decent amount of positive reviews from satisfied users, and as review guidelines have become more and more stringent, this is really the only white hat way to prompt reviews.
In addition to asking for reviews, the best way to encourage positive feedback is to provide a fantastic user experience and do something many app developers fail to do… TAKE CUSTOMER SUPPORT SERIOUSLY!
Simply responding to complaints and questions in a timely manner will help prevent negative reviews and encourage positive engagement with your apps and brand.
Well that about covers it. After all, there’s only so much you can do.
- Include a succinct, descriptive title
- Create a distinctive icon
- Write a benefits-drive description
- Include attractive, promotional screenshots
- Implement strategies to spike downloads
- Prompt users to review at the right moment
If you’ve had any big wins (or massive failures) in optimizing your app for the Google Play Store, I’d love to hear from you. Sound off in the comment section, and if you learned something from this post, don’t forget to share!