App Store Optimization 2023: News & App Store Updates

Oriane Inezaby 
Content Marketing Specialist

12 min read

In the ever-changing app store landscape – algorithm changes, tool updates, and new store guidelines – keeping up with the most important changes can be difficult.

To help you stay up to date with the main developments occurring in the ASO community, we’ve created this blog. Each month, we will provide a recap of the most important ASO and app store updates we have taken note of in a succinct and digestible way.


Preparing for 2024?

As we start a new year, our Head of ASO has shared his thoughts and insights on the challenges ahead!

These insights should serve as a practical radar for what may be worth keeping an eye on in the coming months, and more specifically what questions to consider as you decide whether or not to make changes to how you work in ASO and app marketing.

From AI usage in ASO to Google Privacy Sandbox, and third-party app stores, explore 2024 ASO trends in this video!

December 2023

Worldwide algorithm on iOS

On December 5th, Apple rolled out an algorithm update resulting in big keyword movements across many countries. As the heat map shows, even the country feeling the impact the least, the light gray colors in France still correspond to an anomaly score of 7.

As a reminder, an anomaly score of 3 is AppTweak’s threshold to declare there was an algorithm change.

Worldwide algorithm change

Monitor store algorithm changes.

In-app events in Google search results

In-app events are now visible in Google search results on web pages, creating a new section in the search results.

IAEs in Google search results (web search)

Apple payment updates

Payments via the app store (in-app purchases, subscriptions, etc.) can now be made outside the App Store via a link. Apple will “only” take a 27% margin on purchases made via this link vs. 30% when purchased directly from the app store. This change only applies to US developers.

New navigation bar on the App Store

Previously only available in the US,  the new navigation bar on top of the App Store is now also available to Europeans, making browsing the store easier and providing more exposure to top apps.

New navigation bar – App Store

The categories appearing at the top seem to vary from user to user, but clicking on a category will usually show you the top free and paid apps, or/and the apps selected by Apple’s editors (apps we love).

App FAQs on Google Play

Google Play Store is introducing AI FAQs on app listing pages, offering quick answers to users’ basic questions.

App FAQs – Google Play

When you click on the button, the card expands to show three questions:

  • What do people like most about this app?
  • What is this app about?
  • Why is this app popular?

The prominent “App FAQs” card will contribute to user experience, reducing the need for extensive app description reading and summarizing the app’s features. This AI-generated FAQ feature could potentially allow ASO teams to modify their long descriptions, focusing on in-depth information that complements the FAQ, or user testimonials. This feature is not yet available to all apps.

November 2023

New app versions on Apple

For the 2nd year in a row, Apple announced it will still be possible to submit new app versions during the holidays, but warns of possible longer review times needed between Nov. 22-26 (Thanksgiving) and December 22-27 (Christmas).

Promotional Content impact on Explore traffic

From now on, Google Play’s promotional content will impact your Explore conversion rate, even if it’s not separately showcased in the “Explore” tab. This emphasizes the need for running continuous promotional events to boost your Explore traffic conversion rate. Source.

Events and categories visible in the Play Store search bar

Google Play Store’s search bar has been updated to offer users a better search experience by combining events and categories. This new change is now available to users in the US and will soon be rolled out to all markets. Read more.

Events and categories are now visible in Google Play's search bar
Events and categories appearing in Google Play’s search bar

October 2023

Google’s featuring process

The Play Store now includes a “New Launch” featuring dedicated apps in the first months of their release (max. 120 days since release day).  The “Updated” featuring are for apps exceeding 120 days since their first release. Applications for this featuring can only be submitted through Promotional Content.

New Promotional Content tags

Google Play now displays the type of promotional content an app may be running! In Explore placements, apps with promotional content now display tags highlighting the type of content (sale, major update, event, etc) and end dates, where applicable.

Promotional Content tags arrive to Google Play
New Promotional Content tags

September 2023

Introducing the “Play Report”

In the US, Google launched the “Play Report,” a new video series where content creators, experts, and Google employees showcase their favorite apps and games. Learn more.

Google launched the Play Report on US the Play Store
Play Report launch

Google’s search UI update

When expanded, app cards could now show promotional content, “what users are saying,” promo videos, and a “from the publisher” description, providing store visitors with much more information after a keyword search.

Search Ads ad group setting

The  Apple Search Ads ad group setting ‘CPA Goal’ has been changed to “CPA Cap”. This new ‘CPA Cap’ is a throttling mechanism that can limit the entire ad group by reducing the max CPT bid for all of the keywords in that ad group if they exceed the CPA cap, but as a result, limits the amount of impressions you can receive. Learn more.

Pre-orders by region

People can now pre-order your app in a set of regions of your choosing, even while it’s available for download in other regions at the same time.  Learn more.

August 2023

Google’s new search UI

App users can now expand results & see more information (events, short description, and more) without needing to click through to the store listing. This new UI doesn’t extend to ads.

New search UI on the Play Store
New search UI on the Play Store

Custom Store Listings live

Custom store listings for Google Ads Campaigns are live for all Play Store users.

July 2023

New look for Today Tab Ads

Announced on June 20th, Apple has released the Today Tab ads’ new UI.   that Today Tab Ads (on ASA) will now showcase large creatives, simply displaying the app icon, title, and subtitle. While Today tab ads used to take up around 50% of screen space and allow app marketers to show creatives from Custom Product Pages, new ads now show a small banner with your icon, title, and subtitle – with no other assets appearing.

New UI for Today Tab ads
UI update for Today Tab ads – Source

Update to Custom Store Listings

Google is gradually rolling out Custom Store Listings for inactive users, YouTube ads, and AdMobile inventories, as announced during last month’s I/O.

Do you prefer video formats? Watch our fast-paced breakdown of July’s app store changes! 

June 2023

Apple’s WWDC

A month after Google’s I/O conference, Apple shared its upcoming releases during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC):

  • Improvement to product page optimization: the App Store’s A/B testing tool will no longer interrupt
  • Regional pre-orders: this year, Apple will allow developers to make their app available for pre-order in new markets where it is not yet distributed. Apps and games will be able to soft launch their games in certain territories ahead of the official global launch and start a pre-order campaign for their key markets.
Regional pre-orders available on the App Store
Regional pre-orders now available
  • Vision Pro A/R headset: Apple introduced a new platform where you can distribute your apps.

Dive deeper with our blog recapping the announcements or watch our dedicated video!

New event types on Google

Google Play released the new Event Type and Event Subtypes for Promotional Content on June 7th.

Negative words on Google Ads

Google announced that advertisers with Google Ads (also known as UAC) will now be able to add negative keywords to their ad campaigns.

New price experiment tool

Google released its new Price Experiment tool on the store console on June 30th.

May 2023

Google I/O Announcements for ASO

Google announced the most important updates to be expected soon on the Play Store and Android during Google I/O!

The most important updates for ASO pertain to:

  • Custom store listings: Marketers will soon be able to target inactive users in their CSLs, as well as leverage CSLs for Google Ads.
  • AI: Google teased the release of an AI-powered translation tool (available for 10 languages at launch) to localize store listings and a second tool named AI helper that will help generate long descriptions with one sentence prompt.
  • Promotional content: Promotional content will be soon featured in the Games/Apps tab and search results. Google also announced promotional content reports.
  • Monetization: Google will release featured products, a new promotional content type to advertise in-app products on Google Play, and price experiments, a tool allowing developers to A/B test price changes for their in-app items.

Get a detailed summary of the main updates announced at I/O with our videos!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmd8qO3Fb2Y3h8z0pfxql6vr3vVVHFSv6

April 2023

Upcoming policies announced by Google Play

Google has announced a new policy against deceptive behaviors and tactics taking effect on May 31, 2023. Three different items are targeted by the policy: ads (deceptive or sexually explicit), metadata, and reviews and ratings.

  • Regarding metadata specifically, Google is being very broad in going after “misleading, improperly formatted, non-descriptive, irrelevant, excessive, or inappropriate metadata.” This includes the use of emojis, emoticons, repeated special characters, or ALL CAPS unless it is part of a brand name. Google also specified, “developers must provide a clear and well-written description of their app. We also don’t allow unattributed or anonymous user testimonials in the app’s description.”
  • On the subject of ratings & reviews, Google has restated the risk of being banned for apps that engage in “fraudulent or incentivized, reviews and ratings” and/or similar practices.

Apple’s IAP pricing change

Starting May 9th, all paid apps and IAPs uploaded to the store console before March 8 (except subscriptions) will see their prices updated across App Store storefronts using current US prices as the basis. Developers can opt out of the update by either selecting another country as their price basis or by manually adjusting prices.

Meta & Google finally embracing SKAdNetwork

All marketers leveraging paid UA should know that Meta and Google have recently released documentation on SKAdNetwork, and therefore embracing the alternative to ATT-consent for their ad campaigns.

March 2023

Google Play console update

In February, many Google Play marketers were surprised by inconsistencies in their Google Play console data. In fact (as reported by members of the ASO Stack Slack), Google just announced the reattribution of installs coming from “categorical searches” (e.g. racing games) as Explore traffic – rather than “search” – in the console.

While no official announcement has been made, Google has updated the description of Google Play search to specify: “Users who visited your store listing by performing a search […] for your app’s name or closely associated brand.” However, the definition of Google Play Explore has not yet changed.

App Store Connect features peer group benchmarks

Peer group benchmarks are now available in App Store Connect. Under App Analytics, Apple now shows benchmark data (for your acquisition, usage, monetization, etc.) based on the performance of similar apps on the App Store.

Peer group benchmarks data on App Store Connect
Peer group benchmarks data on App Store Connect. Source: Apple.

February 2023

Google Play policy changes

In November 2022, Google announced a policy change to help support high-quality apps & games. Starting with the “Top Free” charts, apps worldwide will need at least 3.0 stars to reach the top charts – starting from February 2023.

Manage campaigns efficiently with ASA Campaign Management API

iOS marketers are now able to measure & report on impression share through the Apple Search Ads Campaign Management API 4.7. Leverage this to find new opportunities to optimize your bids & budgets for your search results campaigns.

Detailed view of what custom reports for Apple Search Ads look like. (Image Source: Apple).
Create custom reports for Apple Search Ads. Source: Apple.

Get the most out of your Apple Search Ads campaigns with these best practices

Google Play A/B testing short descriptions in search results

As reported by members of the ASO Stack Slack community, Google has been A/B testing short descriptions in Play Store search results (replacing the app’s category & tags). This is your chance to update any outdated Android short descriptions!

View of Android search results showing app short descriptions
View of Android search results showing apps’ short descriptions.

January 2023

Updates to Android vitals

Are you keeping a close eye on your Android vitals? In November 2022, Google announced it is raising the bar on technical quality. Android vitals are playing an increasingly significant role in improving your app’s visibility. 

Discover our Head of ASO Simon Thillay’s predictions for ASO in 2023


Conclusion

At AppTweak, we will continue to monitor ASO news and trends and report them here. Make sure to check out this monthly blog to stay up to date on the recent developments in the App Store Optimization landscape. Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure don’t miss out on the latest updates. See you next month!

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Oriane Ineza
by , Content Marketing Specialist
Oriane is a Content Marketing Specialist at AppTweak, creating content for app marketers. She enjoys exploring the world through books, movies, and food.