How to Rank Your App in Apple’s App Store vs. Google Play

By Ian Heinig / 2 January 2019

Learn about the newest update to Google Play, the App Store’s rating reset, and how best to pursue app store optimization on these two different app marketplaces. We show you how to boost your positioning, discoverability, and app conversions in both Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Optimizing your app store presence is a key aspect of app marketing. It impacts your rankings in the app stores' charts, how easily users can discover your app, and your app's downloads.

A variety of factors impact app store optimization (ASO). Yet the differences between optimizing for the Apple App Store and optimizing for Google Play are often overlooked.

To maximize your ASO, you should pay attention to both the technical backend features and the user experience (UX) factors that determine how visitors browse and acquire new apps. These may be different for Google Play and the Apple App Store, though.

Here are 5 things you should know regarding ASO for Google Play vs. Apple's App Store:

  1. Google Play now more closely resembles the Apple App Store

  2. Apple App Store doesn’t rank for app description text

  3. Google Play emphasizes user experience in rankings

  4. Google Play is slower with metadata indexing

  5. Apple App Store allows ratings reset with new version

1. Google Play’s New Layout Looks Like Apple's App Store

Google Play rolled out its redesigned app store in October 2018. The focus of the redesign was to make apps easier to discover. In the end, Google Play appeared more like Apple’s App Store, as seen below.

App Store vs. Google Play
(Source)

The update to Google Play’s app product page lets app publishers show screenshots to visitors without requiring users to scroll down the page.

The featured video now sits at the front of the screenshot section, but still doesn’t autoplay, as seen below.

Google Play video
(Source)

Though the app products pages are now more similar, the differences for app marketers will be substantial. 

Consider that Google Play has historically driven 67% more installs from “decisive” visitors” as compared to “browsing” visitors, according to StoreMaven.

In the past, the page layout of Google Play discouraged browsing behavior, as visitors were greeted by a static video that didn’t autoplay and volunteered very little information.

Google hopes the added visibility of videos and screenshots will increase browsing behavior and help app publishers increase conversions.

Takeaways: This means that app marketers can begin to focus on more technical elements of ASO instead of worrying about the layout of creative elements on Google Play.

2. Apple's App Store Doesn’t Rank For App Description Text

App description text impacts your app store ranking on Google Play, but not on the Apple App Store.

Apple relies on just the search engine optimization (SEO) strings in the app name, subtitle, and app ID field, plus all relevant keywords. Google Play looks at all those ASO ranking factors, but its crawlers also look at both the long and short app descriptions.

Google Play vs. Apple App Store ranking factors
(Source)

Both Apple and Google Play allow a 4,000 character app description, but only Google seems to care for a long-form explanation.

Only 2% of people read the full app description, so it's best to fill the description on Google Play with keywords that maximize your ASO, according to the app marketplace Business of Apps.

Google Play also allows the use of rich formatting, emotions, and special characters in the description. Apple does not.

Takeaway: Apple doesn’t consider the promotional text or release notes when ranking an app. Keywords are important to the ASO of both markets, but Apple places less weight on keywords in less visible areas.

3. Google Play Emphasizes User Experience

In 2017, Google began to pay closer attention to user engagement statistics.

Once installed, Google Play tracks an app’s performance in terms of stability, engagement frequency, and the number of crashes.

Apps with a superior user experience (UX) are will rank higher than those that perform poorly.

Google Play’s emphasis on UX encourages app developers to engage with and implement feedback from app reviews. According to a recent survey, most businesses (63%) read app reviews and actively implement the feedback.

Graph of how companies read reviews and implement feedback

A user-centric approach to ASO results in a more rewarding app experience that ultimately incentivizes app publishers to focus less on quick downloads and more on long-term engagement.

Takeaway: Companies that attend to the feedback of their app users will see greater returns for their efforts on the Google Play Store.

4. Metadata Indexing is Slower on Google Play

Metadata is the keywords, contact information, age range, and other information you enter on the iTunes Connect or Google Play App Details page.  

App marketers are often frustrated when they see their metadata changes in the Apple App Store, yet Google Play appears unresponsive.

Google Play integrates the changes to its metadata more slowly, which causes the delay.

It takes about one week for metadata changes to take effect on the Apple App Store. Changes to app metadata on Google Play can take up to three months to appear.

Takeaway: Be patient when making changes to Google Play, and aim to get the metadata correct the first time to avoid frustration.

5. Apple's App Store Allows For Ratings Reset with Update

App ratings are driven by user reviews. They're also a weighty ASO factors and essential to persuading visitors to download your app.

App ratings in the App Store are the average of all user ratings given since the app’s release. Meanwhile, Google Play only counts the user ratings given to the most current version of your app.

Companies that start with a strong app rating will benefit from Apple’s policy, whereas those with fewer ratings or a recently successful app release can rank higher on Google Play.

The App Store also gives you the option to reset your total app rating when you release a new version of the app. The reset is not mandatory, so app owners can choose to maintain their positive reviews and rankings.

This option to reset benefits app publishers with unfavorable reviews because it lets them refresh their average rating and move toward an improved ranking in the App Store.

Since a single negative or one-star review can only be offset by 10 positive reviews, releasing a new app version is appealing for many companies.

Moving your app store rating from two to three stars will boost your app store conversions by 280%, while shifting from two to four stars will increase conversions by 540%, according to the mobile app marketing company Kahuna.

Graph of how ratings affect conversions
(Source)

Google Play does not allow app owners to reset their ratings.

Takeaway: Pay attention to the differences in how Google Play and Apple's App Store count user ratings.

How Does App Store Optimization Differ For Google Play and The App Store?

The recent update to Google Play means that the two app stores are more similar than ever, yet key differences in ASO remain.

Google Play is more focused on user experience and engagement statistics, while Apple’s App Store disregards keywords in the app description.

The most impactful difference is that Apple permits a ratings reset after the release of a new app version. This gives app publishers a fresh chance to position themselves as a well-reviewed and valuable app if they pay attention to user reviews.

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