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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.