Ranking top in app store search results is every app developer and publisher’s dream. It can quickly turn into a brand’s source of fame, install rates, and revenue. But getting there is not easy, especially when you’re competing with millions of apps that are already there and thousands that are joining the fray every day.
In this article, I will describe some of the mechanics behind Google Play’s app ranking algorithm and how you can give your app a boost in the app store’s search results.
The main driving factor behind app ranking are parameters such as total installs and download velocity, but Google Play’s app ranking algorithm is much more complex and intricate, and many other parameters come into play.
A noteworthy fact is that more than 50 percent of Google Play’s daily active users (DAU) search for apps every day, and the app store processes more than six million unique search phrases every month. Therefore, with the right tweaks and settings, you can improve your presence in specific search results that apply to your app and increase your installs, which will in turn improve your app’s overall ranking.
Choose the right category
Find a category that suits your app and at the same time isn’t clogged with competition. App category is an essential ASO parameter, and newer categories which are less crowded are more likely to see your app climb the charts and provide opportunities for higher ranking and optimal app store placement.
Give your daily installs a boost
Having a steady flow of daily installs will improve your ranking, which in turn will give you more organic installs. But now, you might argue, you’re dealing with a “chicken and egg” problem. How do you get those initial installs in the first place? Well, as I’ve discussed in previous articles, there are many ways, free and paid, that can help you drive installs to your app.
Improve your app’s rating
The feedback and reviews that users make about your app are a crucial factor in determining its ranking in search results. It is also one of the key metrics that the editorial staff looks for when reviewing top games and apps. Maintaining an overall 4 out of 5 rating average should be a major goal. But there is more to app rating than just the 4 star average. Here are other factors you should consider:
• The total number of reviews
• Keywords used in each review
• How frequently your app is being reviewed
• How recently has the app been reviewed
• Average rating per version of app
Google Play also uses parameters such as geographical location and device type in reviews to personalize search results for users. So when a user makes a search, apps that have received good reviews from devices of the same type or from users of the same origin will be favored by Google Play.
Oh, and one more note on reviews: Don’t even consider generating fake reviews for your app. The folks at Google Play are pretty smart and have some arcane tools at their disposal that will help them detect scam campaigns, which will eventually lead to penalizing your app or kicking it off the shelves altogether. There are many ways you can generate good and organic reviews for your app, including using opportune moments during in-app experience to unobtrusively encourage your users to write reviews.
Do your SEO homework
Apple’s App Store has a keywords field to go with the app description. Google Play instead harvests keywords from the name and description fields, which means you have respectively a 30- and 4,000-character space to fit in your app’s keywords. App name space is limited, so you have to choose wisely.
Google’s search engine Page Rank also comes into play when determining Google Play app ranking, so you should consider tapping into traditional SEO methods to boost your app’s standing. Here are a few things you might consider:
• Include links to your page in your site and blogs
• Reach out to the media and try to get your app reviewed by reporters and prominent bloggers
• Consider cross-promoting your app with other apps you own or through cross-promotion networks
Google Play tends to favor new apps over older apps when sorting search results in order to give new titles a chance and see if users like it. Apps that have been around for a while will have a harder time climbing up the ladder and will need strong app store listing factors such as title, description text and social elements.
The takeaway is to take advantage of your freshman boost while you’re new in the game, in order to lay a strong foundation for your app’s ranking, and to later deliver updates and newer versions to re-boost your app in the future.
Plan for the long term
A fresh start is good, but you also have to keep your app on a good footing in the long run.
It’s no secret that Google gathers a lot of data from its users, and it puts them to good use (at least in this case it does). So instead of just counting mere install numbers in determining app ranking, Google Play takes into account how much users stick to your app after they install it. This involves the number of daily and monthly active users (DAU/MAU), the number of install/uninstall and long install rates, and the amount of engagement and user activity that your app generates. Therefore, never suffice to simple install numbers and have a plan to engage and re-engage your users.
Google takes into consideration the number of downloads over time, so while having a burst of downloads over a short period is helpful, it is also important to plan for a continued flow of downloads in the long term. Make sure that your marketing strategy continues to feed your app with loyal users because apps that acquire and retain satisfied users are awarded with higher ranks.
Don’t aim at fake search targets
Click-through rates (CTR) will quickly give your app ranking a boost. After your app appears in search results, the more users click on it, the higher it climbs the ladder, because CTR is an indication that your app is making a good impression on users and is likely to respond to their needs in that specific search topic. That said, it is therefore important that you aim at keywords and categories that are actually relevant to your app. If you add some low traffic keywords to your app’s name and description while your app has nothing to do with the topic, not only will you not help improve your app’s standing in Google Play, but you’ll also risk damaging its reputation and score. Focus on edgy keywords that are applicable to your app, enjoy a considerable amount of traffic and provide low competition.