Google released a valuable (and massive) document for app developers in late 2014 titled “Finding Success on Google Play.” The 81-page presentation took me a few weeks to dig through, but I found it valuable for a number of reasons. The first is that Google is basically telling you what it looks for in their search algorithm. The second is it’s a great resource to understand, while not a definite, what Google considers when deciding whether to feature an app.
If you’re an Android developer or considering putting your first app on Google Play, this is well worth a read. In an effort to save you some time though, I’ve pulled out 15 of the most interesting, and sometimes important, points Google made. While some of the information is widely known, there were some unique tips that you may have overlooked in your marketing and development strategy.
“Sign-in to the Developer Console to start publishing your app” – Page 8
Tip: “Review and accept the Developer Distribution Agreement, before paying the one-time $25 USD fee — we charge this fee to encourage higher quality products on Google Play.”
Take: I love this rationale and I’m sure it works to some degree, but the cost is so nominal it’s not going to deter crappy apps from entering the space. We see the same thing on iTunes, where their fee is an annual $99. There is still such a high number of apps that shouldn’t be on the App Store.
“Test your app with users to get invaluable early feedback” – Page 9
Tip: “Decide whether you want to run alpha and beta tests, or just beta tests.”
Take: When I first got into the app space a few years back, testing was a huge pain point. Then, TestFlight came into the market and things got easier. Google has since leapt over Apple, who acquired TestFlight in 2014, in the testing space. They offer different testing groups, staged rollouts and feedback loops.
“Release updates progressively to ensure a positive reception” – Page 10
Tip: “In the Production tab, choose the rollout percentage of users you want to receive your app.”
Take: This is a huge benefit to app developers, especially from a review perspective. Limiting the audience that sees your app helps drive a sampling of feedback, including whether there are crashes, before impacting a larger population. You’ll just want to time any of your marketing and public relation efforts around the 100 percent rollout.
“Set pricing and distribution by country to maximize local interest” – Page 11
Tip: “Optimize your pricing based on what’s typical in each country (for example, countries might prefer prices ending with .95, .99 or .00.”
Take: This is definitely one of the most valuable tips I learned in the deck; probably because it was one of the only ones that I haven’t considered. In another step to optimize for you audience, Google is suggesting you understand local spending habits. Makes perfect sense when some users will feel a comfort in the “.99,” while other users may be accustom to rounded off figures.
“Read and reply to user reviews to understand opinions about your app” – Page 14
Tip: “To reply to a review, click Reply to this review. The user is sent an email when you reply, including an option to update their review or contact you by email. You can edit your replay later too if, for example, the user updates their review or rating.”
Take: Replying to reviews is another one of this great Google Play features that Apple hasn’t implemented yet. If you’re not replying to every review, even if it’s just to say thank you, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
“Improve your app based on Optimization Tips” – Page 16
Tip: “In the Developer Console, click on All Applications. Select the application you’d like to view and click Optimization Tips.”
Take: Google is essentially handholding you through the process of making your app the best it can be. It’s also telling you things to do that they weigh in their ranking algorithm. For example, if they tell you to add a video, it’s because they value you using YouTube and will help your app as opposed to an app that doesn’t have one.
“Test against the Core App Quality guidelines” – Page 24
Tip: “Request only those permissions your app needs.”
Take: I’ve download apps from Google Play that requested permissions requiring several screen scrolls to review. That’s definitely going to scare off some prospective downloaders. Target the essential needs of your app and request only those.
“Create a compelling Play Store listing so users download your app” – Page 32
Tip: “Keep your app’s description short and to the point…” then “Include a variety of words in your app description that represent the core features of your app, so that when searching users can find your app.”
Take: This is Google essentially telling you that your description is what’s indexed in search. Research, however, says a keyword should be used about five times for your app to index well. But, if you keep your app description short, as Google recommends, that will look like keyword stuffing. Find a balance between the two. People don’t read full descriptions so include the most important info at the top.
“Nurture your community on Google+ and other social networks” – Page 38
Tip: “Post regularly, so your followers stay engaged and don’t be afraid to ask user to +1 or share when appropriate.”
Take: Reviews matter in both Google Play and the App Store. In fact, they used to be only a small portion of the algorithms, but have since taken a much larger share. Increase your +1s (and reviews) and you’ll see better keyword rankings in the Play store, which means more downloads.
“Drive app engagement through Google Search with App Indexing” – Page 47
Tip: “In your app, add deep-linking support and define how to reach specific content.”
Take: Deep-linking is probably one of the most underutilized technologies in the app space, and also one of the most unknown. Yet, companies like Google, who obviously dominate search, are using deep-linking to help user’s find content in apps. It will become a standard must in 2015.
“Sell subscriptions with Google Play In-App Billing to create an ongoing revenue stream” – Page 58
Tip: “If possible, ask users to sign-in before you ask them to subscribe, to move them further down the funnel to reduce the barriers to payment.”
Take: The sign-in piece is applicable if you’re using Google Sign In. That will take the friction out of completing an in-app purchase through Google Wallet. It also will help you specifically identify users who haven’t been monetized yet.
“Use data to build better apps” – Page 66
Tip: “Only track things that may be useful long term — tracking the “jump” button in a game, for example, may create data that doesn’t help you make decision.”
Take: This is a really valuable tip that many developers avoid to follow. The immediate thought is you must track everything in order to make educated decisions. But, a lot of those unnecessary events won’t help you monetize better or build a better product. Instead, they just cloud the landscape, making it difficult to sift through the valuable data.
“Tips for games that appeal to Asian users in countries like Japan and Korea” – Page 75
Tip: “In Japan, carrier billing caps refresh on the first day of the month so it’s a good day to target for updates and promotions.”
Take: I see a number of “carrier billing” references throughout the document. Carrier billing is when a user has their purchased charged to their mobile service company as opposed to a credit card. There are a number of restrictions there though, including billing data, caps, etc. If your app has a large International audience, consider exploring tactics further.
“Market your app and support users locally for a positive reception” – Page 79
Tip: “Localize your Google Play Store listing by adding its text to the content you send for translation through the App Translation Service in the Developer Console.”
Take: If your app is applicable to the International user, localizing your title and description for key markets is a must. But instead of going to a freelance website or hiring a translation company, Google can help. They offer a respective service directly in the Console that can make you Google Play content work in other countries.
“Understand your users in the countries you’re trying to target” – Page 73
Tip: “If possible, ensure your app works when there is no connection, which is particularly important in countries with limited data coverage and speed.”
Take: This tip is applicable because such a large portion of the Android population is international. But, I also recognize that the need for a connection is essential for many apps, especially if you want to monetize (i.e. how is someone going to purchase without an Internet connection?)
What are your favorite tips from the “Finding Success on Google Play” document?