Tagapp store seo

App Store Optimization (ASO) (4/5): Ratings & Installs or: The Google Play Store Search Algorithm

Another part on App Store Optimization. Finally. By the way, if you are from Germany: There is an article on App Store Optimization in the current Android 360. Go and get it (if you want)!

If you are new to this series, I recommend starting from the first article on App Store Optimization. If you don’t want to read that much, this article can still give you valuable information on its own.

Parts of this series on App Store Optimization are:
1. Keywords
2. Description

3. Icons
4. Graphics
5. Videos

6. Ratings
7. Installs
8. Users

While the last articles covered Icons, Videos and Graphics, we will go more into the search algorithm of the Play Store (I still need to get used to this name), an area that probably fits most developers better. Because this article will cover big parts of how the the Play Store search algorithm (most likely) works, there will be a summarizing Play Store algorithm-part at the end.

6. Ratings

When it comes to two equal apps, the app with a better rating will receive a better ranking. When your app does not have any ratings yet, it will internally get a composite score representing the quality of the apps you published before. This means: Ratings are important. But how to get lots of positive ratings? Well, there are several methods, one of them is to buy them via certain dubious websites (I ‘ve never tried that), another way is to simply ask your users for ratings. This step is actually pretty simple but it can and most likely will improve your ratings a lot, provided that you are making it right:

  1. Ask your users using an AlertDialog. While a beautiful little button in your main menu may be nice, users have the tendency to ignore things that want something from them (like they do with banner ads) and keep them from doing what they actually want to do (explore your app). This is why a one- or n-time alert dialog will catch much more attention than a button that is just always there. Personally I prefer the one-time to the n-time version.
  2. Don’t ask them the first time they use your app. That’s pretty obvious. How should a user know how to rate your app when he didn’t even use it? Instead, wait until he used it five or six times or played through the third level or so. When a user uses an app a couple of times, this is a good indicator that he actually will give you a better ranking.
  3. Give them a chance to opt out. You shouldn’t force your users to rate your product but give them a chance to say ‘later’ or ‘don’t ask me again’. When a user decides not to rate a product but gets annoyed by repeated dialogs, there will come a time when he ranks it with very little stars.

 7. Installs

Installs are important. They are important for you, because many users equals many dollars. But they also are important for the Android Market Search Algorithm. To be more precise: The ratio of active installs to total installs, respectively the refund rate. This will have special weight when your app is published the first time and there are not enough comments to give your app a ranking and no other apps to give your app a composite score.

Since gaining installs and keeping active installs is very important, it’s important to have a well designed and tested app. Boosting user numbers by force can be a very expensive task, that’s why it’s even more important not to lose existing users. To increase the number of downloads of an app, the well known classic methods like writing blogs, creating viral content, paying for ad space or ASO can be applied.

The the Google Play Store Search Algorithm

The search algorithm of Google’s website is known to be a black box of which nobody except Google knows how it works exactly. Guess what: With the Play Store search algorithm, it’s exactly the same. Still, by try and error and a lot of observation, patterns can be recognized. Here’s what the Play Store search algorithm roughly looks like:

temporary relevance * t + keyword frequency  in the title * u + keyword frequency in the description * v + ratings * w + composite score * x + active installs in per cent * y + black magic * z

Temporary relevance here means the acceptance of the users over a small time period, or in other words the download rates in the last days and weeks. As you can see there is a little ‘black magic’ involved, this is a synonym for uncertain influences like the +1-button, the percentage of solved known bugs with every new update, the relevance of keywords used in the recent changes-description and all the other small and uncertain things.

After various observations, the following rough order can be assumed:

w >= t >= y > u > v > x

z, representing the weight of various factors, is ignored.

Now, when optimizing your app for the Play Store, you can try to improve your app’s environment based on this order, meaning for example: “Let’s put our main effort into a solid UX, a non-annoying dialog with a high conversion rate asking users to rate us high and a good description.”



You maybe noticed that the Play Store search algorithm changed a lot in the last 18 months. ASO is very dynamic. New changes need to be observed and classified as soon as possible, so it always stays exciting.


I’m open to your suggestion, criticism and questions. Please leave them in the comments.

App Store Optimization (ASO) (2/5): Icons

If you haven’t read the first article on App Store Optimization, I recommend it to you. Still, this article can give you valuable information on its own.

Parts of this series on App Store Optimization are:
1. Keywords
2. Description

3. Icons
4. Screenshots
5. Videos
6. Ratings
7. Installs
8. Users

While the last article covered parts that where important for the Android Market search engine as well as humans, this article treats a topic that is only necessary when your app is already visible to the potential user: the app’s icons.

3. Icons

Icons are undoubtedly one of the most important factors when a user found your app on the Android Market. He typed in the right keywords and received a list of apps showing only two things: The app’s name and its icon. While some users might read the text first, others only see the icons, most of them both. 

The problem

When I was on the ADCS2 this month, I have been in a room with about 30 developers talking about advertising. I asked who of them was also skilled in designs. Guess how many of them raised their hands? Exactly: Zero.

So if you are not comfortable with arts, you should spend some money on someone who is and can work out a design and icon for your app. If you are not able to pay someone, you still have to do it on your own. This will probably need a lot of try-and-error and communication with other people (“Do you like it?”, “Do you like it now”, “And now?”, …).


Here are some tipps that might be helpfull to you (or your designer):

The very first tipp is: Never ever use the auto-generated icon for your app! This gives your app the appeal of a construction site which is definitely not what most of your users are looking for.

Never use this icon!

Never use this icon!

Second: If you are absolutely not familiar with android Icons, read the Android Icon Design Guidelines. You can see the difference between pre and post Android 2.0-icons there. What you can learn on this site is:

  • Your icons should be front facing, not in a 3D angle.
  • Your icons should have a save margin (6 pixels for each site for a hdpi icon)
  • You should start to work with an at least 512 x 512 pixels artboard, 864×864 is recommended. This gives you the ability to work more on the details. Later you will need icons in four sizes (512 x 512, 96 x 96, 72 x 72, 48 x 48, 36 x 36) for the Android Market website and the four different screen densities (xhdpi, hdpi, mdpi, ldpi). An icon that has been scaled up looks frayed, especially on the edges, whereas HD graphics on a HD device look just great and polished. You can also use vector graphics using programs like Inkscape.
  • Your icons should be simple. This is a really important point. Your icon needs to be visible in 36 x 36 pixels, so it should focus on the key message: Display what your app is all about in one simple image.

Third: You can use the Android Asset Studio. It can give you a help on designing your apps. It can not take the burdon of making a good design from your shoulders. What you should not do with this program is:

  • Use the glossy-option, it will make the half of your icon close to invisble
  • Use the text-option

That brings me to my next point: Don’t use text. First of all it is unlikely that a user can read it, especially on small devices. Second, there is enough space for text in the app’s description. The icon is your chance to bring a message to your users eye memory, don’t waste it on letters! Use simple images that are carrying positive emotions to the user. There are exceptions when your brand is already well known and connected to a certain string like ‘Y!’ for Yahoo!

Another point is consistency. Your app shouldn’t be a chess game and have a tank on its icon. The design of your icon needs to be in the same color scheme and style as your app is.

Next, you should be carefull with the emotions connected to colors. For example red is usually a color of warning for most people, while green is connected to life and growth. Some male people are not able to see the difference of red and green colors, that’s also a point you might want to consider. At ANDLABS, we have a fixed color scheme we use for our apps. In our games we try to adapt the colors to the topic. Our app color scheme consists out of all the colors of the ANDLABS logo:

The ANDLABS color scheme

The ANDLABS color scheme

You might want to consider creating such a scheme too, also for your apps screendesign itself. This gives them a consistent look and strengthens your corporate design (CD).

Finally, and that’s the most difficult thing to achieve: Make your icon be outstanding! Don’t accept that it is one of many, make it the only icon in the list that immediately arouses the user’s interest (in a positive way). That’s really difficult and can take a lot of time. But, if your app in itself is good, it will be worth it.

Negative example

Here is an example of an icon I just made. It’s been done in one minut using the asset studio.

The don't button

The don't icon

How are your feelings?

What do you think is the app doing? Maybe it is about learning the ABC? Maybe it’s a dictionary? Or a puzzle game based on letters?

How do you feel about the red color? Do you like it or feel positive about it?

How are your feelings about the quality of the app? Polished? Or done-in-a-day?


Now here’s another example. I know it’s still far from perfect, but I think you agree it has already improved.

This is how the AL Voice Recorder’s icon looked on its initial release:

AL Voice Recorder 1.x

AL Voice Recorder 1.x

I admit, this is a crime I commited. There are worse icons out there, but this one is definitely in the lower third.

After i visited a designer and we agreed on the ANDLABS color scheme, it now looks like this:

AL Voice Recorder 2.x

AL Voice Recorder 2.x

Here, the main feature of the app, the ability to make voice records, is even more in the foreground. The slightly thicker microphone looks more significant and due to the margin and the rounded corners, it is more highlighted. Furthermore, it fits the application’s design. But that’s part of the next post.


I hope you liked this one. I’m not a designer, hence your tipps and experiences are very welcome in the comments.

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