ASO in the App Store vs Google Play
Most app developers and marketers launch their app in both the App Store and Google Play. Although both stores serve the same purpose – to help users discover and download apps – they are actually very different ecosystems. In this blog, we will closely examine the main differences between ASO on the App Store vs Google Play.
Not only do the App Store and the Google Play use their own unique algorithms to rank apps in the search results, they also display their apps in different ways. For example, in the App Store search results, each app appears with the app icon, app name, subtitle, and screenshots or videos. On the other hand, in the Google Play search results, only the app icon and app title are visible.
This means that even though iOS and Android app pages have similar fields (including app name, subtitle, long description, screenshots, videos, and ratings and reviews), these fields have different impacts 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 App Store and Google Play. This implies that for both iOS and Android apps, you should always include your most important keywords in your app title.
The App Store allows a maximum of 30 characters for the app title. Following the new policy update announced by Google in April 2021, app titles on Google Play are required to be shortened from 50 to only 30 characters (the same limit as for app titles on the App Store).
The app titles, however, serve different purposes in each store. In the Google Play search results, only the app icon and app title show for general search terms, so the title needs to explain to users what the app is actually about. This is less important in the App Store. Here, we even have the subtitle and the screenshots or videos in the search results to convey the app’s intent to the users.
When searching for the keyword “travel” in the App Store, all apps appear displaying the app icon, title, subtitle, and the first three screenshots. In Google Play, only the app icon and title are visible for generic keyword searches.
2. Subtitle (iOS) vs Short Description (Android)
Similar to the app title, the keywords used in the subtitle or short description have a significant 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.
Repeating a keyword in the app title and short description might improve your chances to rank in Google Play, as keyword density is an important ranking factor. In the App Store, however, repeating keywords is a waste of valuable space as it will not help you rank higher.
The subtitle (for iOS apps) and short description (for Android apps) appear on 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 generally appear in the search results but shows on the app listing underneath the screenshots, right above the long description.
Therefore, the subtitle or short description serve different purposes in terms of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO):
- For iOS apps, the subtitle appears in the search results, which should help explain users what your app is about. A great subtitle is one that differentiates your app from your competitors’ and convinces users to click through to your app page to learn more.
- For Android apps, the short description occupies a visible place on the app page. So, it should readily 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.
3. iOS Keyword Field
Just like in the old SEO days, there is a 100-character keyword field for iOS apps. The keyword(s), invisible to users, is a main ranking factor and helps 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, it looks at the keywords used in your app title and subtitle, and the keyword density in your long description.
4. Long Description
The chief purpose of the long description in both the 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 as compared to Google Play.
In the 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.
By contrast, the keywords used in the long description do rank in Google Play. 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. This helps explaining Google what your app is about and when to rank your app.
While keyword optimization is a vital part of ASO, there are many other factors which can impact your app’s ranking and visibility in the app stores.
In the App Store, you can add up to 10 screenshots; while in Google Play, the number of screenshots is limited to 8. But that is not the only difference.
Generally, the first three screenshots show in the App Store search results (although, since iOS 15, screenshots don’t show anymore in the App Store if you have downloaded the app). On the other hand, for most general searches in Google Play, the screenshots are hidden in the app listing. Only for certain branded searches, screenshots show along the app icon, title, and short description in Google Play. Still, the screenshots shown in the Google Play search results are smaller than in the App Store search results – something important to keep in mind when you consider adding copy to your screenshots.
For general keywords, screenshots are not displayed in the Google Play search results. But for some branded searches, the search results show the app icon, app title, ratings and reviews, screenshots or video, and the short description.
Thus, screenshots play an important role in terms of Conversion Rate Optimization in the App Store vs Google Play. Even though in both stores, the screenshots should explain the app’s main features to users , it is more important for the App Store that you design screenshots to make your app stand out from the competition and grab users’ attention.
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 in the App Store. The first video you add to your app page appears in the search results alongside the first two screenshots and autoplays on mute as users scroll through.
Apple maintains 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 in either portrait or landscape mode. 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. The promo video appears on your app listing before the screenshots. But recently, promo videos also autoplay in the search results for a branded search. The video might additionally be shown when Google features your app or game in other parts of the store.
You can only add one video, and it is advised to have it shot in landscape mode (YouTube’s format). Google also allows more creative freedom when it comes to videos. You can show off your in-app experience or highlight how users can benefit from downloading your apps. Monetization must be turned off.
One last major difference between the Apple and Google algorithm is how they take into account backlinks to your app webpage. Similar to 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.
Example of AppTweak’s backlink feature.
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). However, it still remains important in terms of branding and overall app marketing strategy.
Apple and Google use their own algorithms to rank apps in the search results, but the user interfaces are also very different. Here are the main differences between the App Store and Google Play:
- The app name is the only textual element that appears in the Google Play Search results; hence the app name plays a more important role in terms of Conversion Rate Optimization on Google Play.
- The subtitle varies widely in length in the App Store as compared to Google Play, and also serves a different purpose for each.
- Apple still relies on a keyword field to decide the keywords you want to rank for your app.
- The long description is an important ranking factor in Google Play, but keywords used in the long description don’t rank in the App Store.
- Screenshots only show up in the search results in the App Store and play a major role in convincing users to download your app. For Google Play, screenshots will show for branded keyword searches only.
- App preview videos autoplay in the App Store search results; in Google Play, the video appears on top of the app page.
- Google Play takes backlinks into account in their algorithm. Apple does not.
Use AppTweak to spy on your competitors and find new keyword opportunities to optimize your app page!