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ASO on Google Play: 6 Learnings from Case Studies

ASO on Google Play: 6 Learnings from Case Studies

At the recent App Promotion Summit London which took place virtually due to Covid 19, AppTweak’s Chief Product Officer Marie-Laure Cruyt presented on examples and case studies to demystify ASO on Google Play. To see the full talk use this link or continue to read below for 6 tips to build a successful ASO strategy on Google Play.


1. Keyword Density Has an Impact on Rankings

It is recommended that the long description consist of high priority keywords with the most important having the highest density of around 3%. Having a higher density than 3% should be avoided as it can be considered keyword stuffing.

Check out this free density checker tool

On January 26, 2020 Priceline made an update to their long description on their US app slightly decreasing the density of “rental cars” and “cars” while increasing the density of “car rentals” and “car.”

Priceline Long Description Keyword Density Before and After Update

To assess if this had an impact on the visibility of Priceline for these keywords we built a keyword list in AppTweak consisting of 30 keywords with “car rental” or “rental cars” and used the Keyword Monitoring tool for a visual of Priceline’s visibility.

Priceline Visibility Following Long Description Update

We can see there was a large jump in visibility for Priceline immediately following this update suggesting that Priceline improved in rankings for many keywords in this list or the keywords with the highest volumes. When looking at the specific keyword movements we can see that the only keywords to lose visibility were those that were reduced in the long description.

Top ranking progressions following the long description update

This demonstrates that keyword density does have an impact on an app’s keyword rankings. It is important to remember that it is impossible to have a high density for many keywords so it must be done strategically. Make sure to focus on the highest priority but understand it can take a few tries to get it right . If Google doesn’t pick your app to rank high on a keyword try making an update focusing on a slightly less competitive option, measure the results, and keep trying until you find high performing keywords.

2. Optimize Screenshots to Show Value

Keywords are not the only way to share the right messaging in the Play Store. Creatives must also align and reinforce the message of your app’s purpose.

When WedMeGood, an Indian wedding planning app, lost its number 1 app for “wedding planner” and “wedding planning” to an American app MyWed, they asked us how they could regain the number 1 position. As we just mentioned, a good place to start is looking at the keyword density for both apps.

WedMeGood and MyWed app Titles and Short Descriptions

Both apps are targeting the same keywords in their title and short description. WedMeGood also has a higher density for both “wedding planner” and “wedding planning” and although it does help rankings, unfortunately keyword density is not the only factor. There are many elements that can influence which apps rank better on the same keywords, including conversion and retention and a major element that impacts conversion is an app’s screenshots.

As we can see below, both apps use a similar design but there are still major differences in what each app is showcasing. MyWed is highlighting four key features in its screenshots, a wedding day countdown, task tracker, budget monitor, and guest list manager. These are 4 valuable features when searching for a wedding planner app. Messaging on the screenshots for WedMeGood on the other hand is more general.

WedMeGood Screenshots

MyWed Screenshots

Highlighting in this manner can make a difference in terms of conversion and this goes for any app. It is important to identify what features potential users are most interested in, have clear messaging, and even test the order they appear.

3. Emojis Make a Difference

When we were comparing the title and short description for the wedding planning apps, something may have stood out. The MyWed app is using a red heart emoji in its title.

WedMeGood and MyWed Titles

This may seem like a minor detail but emojis can have a substantial increase in conversion.Testing different titles and short descriptions with the use of emojis or different types of emojis is becoming more popular.

Here we see the game Tasty Town in the United States is using food related emojis in both its title and short description.

Tasty Town Title and Short Description

These emojis were not added randomly, Tasty Town has conducted tests over the last year to find which combinations and use of emojis has the highest conversion rate. Here we see the updates Tasty Town has made to its title since A/B tests cannot be used.

Tasty Town Title Updates Testing Emojis

However, A/B tests have been conducted for the short description for with or without emojis, the type of emoji, and even the order if using multiple.

Tasty Town Short Description A/B Tests

As we see with Tasty Town, the key to success is conducting tests to find the best option.

4. Don’t Take Video for Granted

It’s commonly believed that video catches the user’s attention and because of that conversion increases, even more so now that both Apple and Google autoplay the videos. However, this is not always the case, videos can be distracting to users or video may not clearly project the right messaging. It’s important as with all things ASO that you test if video is actually improving conversion for your app. After conducting a small search, we found a few apps that A/B tested video versus no video and decided on no video. We can assume that the video did not win the A/B test because conversion with it was lower or did not improve.

Here we see that Expedia ran a short A/B test in January testing video versus no video and ended up going with no video.

Expedia A/B Video Test
Same goes for the app Headway, which summarizes books for users in 15 minutes. They A/B tested video versus no video in February and also ended up with no video.

Headway A/B Video Test

While these examples and others demonstrate that video does not always increase conversion. In fact, we found that, among the apps that ran an A/B Test with vs. without a video in 2020 in the US, 5 out 10 kept the version with video, and 5 out 10 without. So make sure to check what works for your app, and always look at your competitors, you can learn a lot from them.

Learn more about AppTweak’s Metadata History feature

5. Retention is the Most Determinant Factor

Recently an AppTweak user that wishes to not be identified experienced a huge spike in overall keyword rankings and a significant increase in category rankings. This was obviously a good thing but they were curious where this increase was coming from. They are active in ASO but they had not made any updates in the reasonable time prior to this spike.

What was discovered is that they had experienced a high uninstall and reinstall rate on what we will call “day D.” Because of a bug, 300 users uninstalled and immediately reinstalled the app as they were very loyal users. The retention rate following day D reached up to 95%, causing rankings on high volume and competitive keywords to improve.

Ranking impact after loyal users re-download
During the 30 days following this event, rankings on high volume keywords and other big sports brands such as Fancode, ESPN and WWE improved.

The same thing also happened for the category ranking. Prior to day D, the app ranked around the 120th position in the Sports Category. During the 30 days with high retention its category ranking increased to a peak position at number 7 before gradually decreasing back down again.

Category rankings following loyal users re-downloading

Today they have resumed their normal Sports Category rankings but they mentioned they have never seen such an immediate and strong impact on rankings. We have learned that retention has a high impact on rankings in Google and overall retention is also taken into account for both keyword and category rank. When selecting your keywords make sure to keep those with a high retention as Google measures the retention at a keyword level.

6. Impact of Tags on Similar Apps

Recently an AppTweak client made an update to one of their tags and immediately there was an impact. The next day the list of similar apps suggested by Google in the app page had changed.

Change in similar apps Questland points towards after a tag change.

When we look at the similar apps that refer to Questland, we can see there was also an immediate impact.

Change in similar apps that point towards Questland following a tag change.

Unfortunately, outside of the tags you select there is little you can control. There is no way to know what apps will be pointing towards your app or to others until after the tag is added. It is still interesting and important to monitor the changes since they have a direct impact on the explore traffic for your app. When we look at the impact these changes had on views from similar apps, we can see the Questland had been experiencing a spike in views and following the change in tags that spike ended.

Impact in view from similar apps pointing towards Questland following a tag change.

Tags have a direct influence on similar apps on both the apps that point towards your app and the apps you point towards. Whether you make changes or not, it is important to monitor this extra source of visibility as your competitors may update their tags

Find out which apps are referring to your app in the Similar Apps suggestions


As we can see there are many factors that play a role in the keyword rankings, hopefully many that you are already tracking and measuring. Perhaps some or all of these 6 factors may not have been on your radar but you can now consider these aspects when looking for new areas to improve conversion for your app.

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