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ASO in the Apple App Store vs Google Play Store

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ASO in the Apple App Store vs Google Play Store

Most app developers and marketers launch their app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Whereas both stores serve the same purpose - a place where users can discover and download apps, they are actually very different ecosystems. In this blog we will explain into detail the main differences between ASO on the Apple App Store vs Google Play Store.

Not only do the Apple App Store and Google Play Store use their own unique algorithm to rank apps in the search results, they also display their apps in a different way. For example, in the App Store search results, each app shows with the app icon, app name, subtitle and screenshots or video. In the Play Store search results on the other hand, only the app icon and app title show.

This means that even though iOS and Android app pages have similar fields (including: app name, subtitle, long description, screenshots, video and ratings & reviews), the fields do have a very different impact on keyword rankings and conversion rate optimization:

1. App Name

From an ASO perspective, the app title is a strong ranking signal in both the Apple App Store & Google Play. That means that for both iOS or Android apps, you should always include your most important keywords in your app title.

The most straightforward difference between the app name in the Apple App Store or Google Play is the character limit (30 characters for iOS apps and 50 characters for Android apps).

But, the app title also serves a very different purpose in each store. Since in the Google Play search results, only the app icon and app title show, the title needs to explain to users what the app is actually about. This is less important in the Apple App store, because there are also the subtitle and screenshots or video in the search results and these help convey to the user what the app is about.

App Store Search Result Apple App Store vs Google Play Store

When searching for the keyword ‘travel’ in the Apple App Store, every app shows together with the app icon, title, subtitle and the first three screenshots. In the Google Play Store, only the app icon and title show.

2. Subtitle (iOS) vs Short Description (Android)

Similar to the app title, the keywords used in the subtitle or short description do have an important impact on your app’s rankings and visibility. Both algorithms use the keywords in the subtitle to index your app on a variety of search terms.

Quick tip: Repeating a keyword in the app title and short description might improve your chances to rank in the Google Play Store as keyword density is an important ranking factor. In the Apple App Store, repeating keywords is a waste of valuable space, as it will not help you rank higher.

But, the subtitle (for iOS apps) and short description (for Android apps) appear on very different places in the search results and on the app page:

  • For iOS apps, the subtitle (30 characters) appears underneath the app title in the search results, and underneath the screenshots on the app page.
  • For Android apps, the short description (80 characters) does not appear in the search results, but shows on the app listing above the fold (and above the screenshots).

That means that the subtitle or short description serve a different purpose in terms of conversion rate optimization:

  • For iOS apps, as the subtitle appears in the search results, it should help explain to users what your app is about. Write a subtitle that differentiates your app from your competitors and convinces users to click through to your app page to learn more.
  • For Android apps, because the short description occupies such a visible place on the app page, it should grab people’s attention and convince them to download the app. Since users have already clicked through to your app page, it is important to write a short description that contains a call to action and encourages users to download your app.

Need inspiration to write a killer short description? With AppTweak you can very easily spy on your competitors and see how they optimized their app name and short description.

Spy on competitors. See their app metadata and screenshots with AppTweak

Preview of the ASO report feature in AppTweak. You can use this feature to spy on your competitors and optimize your ASO metadata.

3. iOS Keyword Field

Similar as in the old SEO days, there is a 100 character keyword field for iOS apps. The keywords, invisible to users,  are a main ranking factor and help Apple decide when to show your app in the search results.

The Google Play algorithm is more complex and does not rely on a keyword field. Instead the Google Play algorithm looks at the keywords used in your app title and subtitle and the keyword density in your long description.

4. Long Description

The main purpose of the long description in both the Apple App Store and Google Play is to explain to users your app’s main features and benefits.

But in terms of ASO and keyword optimization, the long description has a very different purpose in the App Store vs Play Store.

In the Apple App Store, the long description is not a ranking factor. As a result, when writing a long description for your iOS app, you can be creative, speak to your brand and really focus on explaining to users why they should download your app.

In contrary, the keywords used in the long description do rank in the Google Play Store. Therefore, you should write a long description for your android app according to SEO best practices. For example, it is important to maintain a good keyword density (2-3%) for your most important keywords, as this helps explain to Google what your app is about and when to rank your app.

Check our free keyword density counter tool

5. Screenshots

In the Apple App Store you can add up to 10 screenshots, in the Google Play Store the number of screenshots is limited to 8, but that is not the only difference.

Generally the first 3 screenshots (or preview video + first 2 screenshots) show in the Apple App Store search results, but for most searches on the Google Play Store, the screenshots are hidden in the app listing, below the fold.

Note: Google continues to experiment with their UI and in some cases, for branded searches we have seen that screenshots (for that specific app only) did show in the search results.

That means that screenshots have a more important role in terms of conversion rate optimization in the Apple App Store vs the Google Play Store. Whereas in both stores the screenshots should explain to users the app’s main features, it is more important for the App Store that you design screenshots that make your app stand out from the competition and grab users’ attention.

When designing screenshots for your iOS app, a good practice is to design screenshots that are connected or tell a story. They make your app stand out and encourage users to swipe or click through.

Example of connected app screenshots that tell a story

Examples of connected screenshots from Airbnb, Shazam and Waze

6.  App Previews (iOS) vs Promo Videos (Android)

App preview videos play a major role in conversion optimization (CRO) in the Apple App Store. The first video you add to your app page appears in the search results (alongside the first 2 screenshots) and autoplays (on mute) as users scroll through.

Apple maintains very strict guidelines for the preview videos. They should be short and to the point and show a user’s journey when they use the app. You can add up to 3 preview videos. Only the first one will show in the search results, the other two videos will show on the app page, before the screenshots.

What Google calls ‘promo videos’ are youtube videos that can be added to your app listing. When you add a promo video, a play button will appear on top of the featured image banner at the top of your app listing, which people can click to watch the video. You can only add one video and it needs to be shot in landscape mode (youtube’s format). Google also allows more creative freedom when it comes to their videos. You can show off your in-app experience or highlight how users can benefit from downloading your apps.

Curious to see your competitors app preview or promo video? Use AppTweak to spy on any app’s visuals!

One last major difference between the Apple and Google algorithm is how they take into account backlinks to your app webpage. Similar as for SEO, the Google Play algorithm takes into account the number of backlinks to your app webpage to determine the authority of your app. More backlinks means more authority, and more authority will result in higher rankings.

You can use AppTweak to see the top 10 backlinks linking to your or your competitor’s app webpage.

Use AppTweak to see your app webpage backlinks

Example of the backlink feature in AppTweak.

The Apple algorithm, on the other hand, does not take backlinks to your webpage into account, hence generating backlinks to your Apple webpage does not have to be a part of your ASO strategy (for now). It however remains important in terms of branding and overall app marketing strategy.

To learn more about how to optimize every single element of your app page or listing for ASO, check out our detailed ASO checklists:

Apple App Store ASO Checklist

Google Play Store ASO Checklist

AppTweak ASO Tool can help you benchmark, compare and optimize your ASO metadata easily. The times were you had to manually look for your competitors’ metadata is now over. Use AppTweak and start saving some precious time!

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