10 Key Differences in ASO Between App Store & Google Play

Taya Franchvilleby 
App Growth Consultant at AppTweak

16 min read

Dive into this series for straightforward, actionable ASO tips & strategies to boost your app’s visibility and downloads in the app stores.

  1. What is App Store Optimization: Your Guide to ASO in 2024
  2. 10 Key Differences in ASO Between App Store & Google Play
  3. App Name Guidelines and Best Practices
  4. How to Optimize Your App Store Product Page?
  5. How to Optimize Your App Screenshots to Boost App Downloads
  6. 6 Best Practices to Optimize Your App’s Long Description

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 in ASO between 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.

  • 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 impact on keyword rankings and conversion rate optimization.

1. Subtitle (iOS) vs short description (Android)

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.

Expert Tip

Repeating a keyword in your app’s short description might improve your chances to rank on Google Play, as keyword density is an important ranking factor. On 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:

  • On iOS, the subtitle (30 characters) appears underneath the app title in the search results, and underneath the screenshots on the app page.
  • Google Play’s 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.
Duolingo’s Google Play short description vs App Store subtitle
Duolingo’s Google Play short description vs App Store subtitle.

Hence, the subtitle and short description serve different purposes in terms of conversion rate optimization (CRO):

  • For iOS, 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.
  • The short description on Google Play 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.

2. Keyword field (iOS only): Hidden ranking factor

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.

Read these easy tips to make sure you benefit from your iOS keyword field

3. Long description for Android vs iOS

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 on the App Store as compared to Google Play.

  • On 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 on Google Play. Therefore, you should write a long description for Android according to SEO best practices. For example, it is important to maintain a good keyword density (23%) for your most important keywords. This helps explaining Google what your app is about and when to rank your app.

Check out these best practices for an optimized long description that will help your app rank high on Google Play

4. Optimize your screenshots for the App Store vs Google Play

When comparing the App Store and Google Play, their distinct guidelines regarding screenshots need to be taken into account. While the App Store allows up to 10 screenshots, Google Play permits a maximum of 8.

Let’s delve into some key considerations for optimizing your app screenshots for the App Store vs Google Play:

  • Generally, the first 3 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 on 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.
  • 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.
On Google Play, general search keywords don't show screenshots. Yet, branded searches do display elements like app icon, title, reviews, screenshots or video, and a short description
On Google Play, general search keywords don’t show screenshots. Yet, branded searches do display elements like app icon, title, reviews, screenshots or video, and a short description.

Thus, screenshots play an important role in terms of conversion rate optimization on the App Store more than on Google Play. Even though your app screenshots should explain the main features to users for both the stores, 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.

Find new inspiration for your app store designs with AppTweak’s ASO Creatives Explorer

5. App previews vs promo videos

App preview videos play a major role in conversion optimization on 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.

iOS app preview

Apple maintains strict guidelines for the preview videos. They should be:

  • Short and to-the-point
  • 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

Android promo video

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 and 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).
  • Try to show off your in-app experience or highlight how users can benefit from downloading your app.
  • Monetization must be turned off.

Discover the size and format guidelines for visuals on both the App Store and Google Play

6. Ad placements in the App Store vs Google Play

Navigating ad placements in both the App Store and Google Play can be a complex task. While both platforms have similarities, they also possess unique characteristics that can significantly influence your ad strategy. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown:

App Store

Apple Search Ads

These are highly customizable, allowing developers to target specific keywords. They offer three primary placement options

  • Today tab: Located on the App Store’s front page, these ads capture user attention at the beginning of their journey. They showcase your app’s name, icon, and subtitle, alongside custom assets. Each ad links to a custom page in App Store Connect.
  • Search tab: These ads sit atop the suggested apps list, enabling you to connect with users before they initiate a search.
  • Search results: Displayed after a user search, these ads occupy a prime position at the top of the results. Developers can opt for their own keywords or those suggested by Apple, driving the placement of the ad.
Apple Search Ads placement examples
Apple Search Ads placement examples. Source: Apple.

You Might Also Like

These ads reach users browsing different apps and appear at the top of “You Might Also Like” lists. Developers can target apps/games within their own category or others.

Google Play

Google App Campaigns

These rely heavily on automation, set up based on developer’s choices during setup. They offer two main placement options:

  • Suggested for You: Ads placed on the Google Play homepage.
  • Search Results: Similar to Apple’s Search Results ads, these ads appear after a user search. However, Google automatically selects keywords, and developers can only add negative keywords.

Equivalent to Apple’s product page ads, these are automatically set by Google and developers cannot target specific apps or categories.

Google Play ad display examples
Google Play ad display examples. Source: Google Play

Google’s reach extends beyond the Play Store to platforms such as Google Search, YouTube, Display Network, AdMob, Discover, and various publishers, providing a broad scope for ad placements.

By understanding these nuances, developers and marketers can craft more effective ad strategies, enhancing visibility, user acquisition, and overall app success.

7. Featuring placements in the App Store vs Google Play

Getting featured on the app stores is a highly impactful way to boost brand recognition, visibility, and downloads. Apart from increasing visibility, being featured on the stores can portray trustworthiness to store users. Acquiring an “Editor’s Choice” badge can substantially drive conversions and aid in app growth. Moreover, featurings play a vital role in engaging customers, leading to increased downloads and re-downloads.

Apps or games featured in the Today tab on the App Store or the Games/Apps tabs in both the stores can often be downloaded directly from the featuring without redirecting users to the app page. This streamlines the user journey, making it quicker and easier to access your product. Consequently, being featured can significantly boost both your impression rate and installations from the Browse or Explore channels.

Featuring placements strategies

  • App Store: The editorial team prioritizes new, high-quality apps or games offering unique experiences or value propositions. These are showcased through written stories on the Today tab.
  • Google Play: Features diverse app clusters based on categories, activity recommendations, editor’s choices, and new or updated apps on separate Games and Apps tabs.
Examples of featurings on Google Play
Examples of featurings on Google Play. Source: Google

Content curation

  • App Store: Features are divided into the Today tab and the Games/Apps tabs, each with distinct content curation strategies and update frequencies.
Examples of featurings on the App Store
Examples of featurings on the App Store. Source: Apple
  • Google Play: Lacks a Today tab but features Games and Apps on separate tabs. Games get a dynamic display with visuals, screenshots, videos, and Google tags. Apps primarily showcase icons, titles, and average ratings.

Expert Tip

Data in the ASO Trends & Benchmarks Report indicates that 92% of featured apps on the App Store and 80% on Google Play have star ratings of 4 or higher. This highlights the importance of a strong review management strategy for boosting your app’s visibility in both the stores.
Around 92% of apps featured on the App Store have a star rating of 4 or above, while about 63% boast a rating of at least 4.6
Around 92% of featured apps on the App Store and 80% on Google Play have star ratings of 4 or higher. Source: AppTweak

Factors influencing featurings

  • App Store: Prioritizes UI design, user experience, innovation, localization, accessibility, and a compelling App Store product page. For games, factors like gameplay engagement, graphics, audio, and replayability are considered.
  • Google Play: Emphasizes meeting store policies, device support, localization, and maintaining a minimum rating of 3.0 stars. Android Vitals are also crucial.

Tips on how to increase your chances of being featured on the App Store and Google Play

8. Custom product pages vs. custom store listings

CPPs

Custom product pages are personalized versions of an app store product page that app marketers can create to showcase different functionalities, content, or offers compared to their default page. This lets marketers target various segments of their audience.

Developers can generate up to 35 customized variants of their default product page per language on the App Store.

  • Apple’s custom product pages enable customization of app preview videos, screenshots, and promotional text on the App Store.
  • They’re localized and accessible via unique URLs.
  • These pages are also compatible with Apple Search Ads, replacing Creative Sets, allowing for different ad variants linked to custom product pages.
Examples of custom product pages on the App Store
Examples of custom product pages on the App Store. Source: Apple

Use AppTweak’s powerful tool CPP Explorer to gain exclusive insights into competitors’ CPP strategies 

Babbel expertly tailors its custom product pages to engage diverse users, utilizing targeted keywords like "learn Spanish" or "daily French word" for a personalized, language-learning experience
Babbel expertly tailors its custom product pages to engage diverse users, utilizing targeted keywords like “learn Spanish” or “daily French word” for a personalized, language-learning experience. Source: AppTweak CPP Explorer

Expert Tip

The impact of CPPs on conversion rates is huge! Data clearly shows that games experienced an 8% boost in conversion rates with CPPs. Meanwhile, apps saw a 2.7% increase in both impressions-to-installs (ITI) and tap-through-rate (TTR). Read the ASO Trends & Benchmarks Report to get similar insights for your app and game and benchmark against industry standards.
Games see an 8% increase in conversion rates and apps a higher growth in ITI with CPPs
With CPPs, games saw an 8% rise in conversion rates and apps a higher growth in ITI. Source: AppTweak

CSLs

Custom store listings (CSLs) are alternative versions of default store listings on the Play Store, allowing changes to text fields and creatives across various languages.

  • Up to 50 custom store listings are available, catering to different user segments and targeting specific offers and value propositions.
  • These can be used to target users in specific countries for tailored content, pre-registered users, current users, and inactive users.
  • Using Google Ads Campaigns, developers can link ads to specific custom store listings as well.

Let’s quickly look through the practical uses of custom product pages and store listings for app developers and marketers:

  • Optimizing app pages: Tailor pages with campaign messaging for specific audiences
  • Highlighting features: Showcase different functionalities based on user interests
  • Content preferences: Appeal to specific user preferences (e.g. sports fans)
  • Promotions: Highlight exclusive deals or discounts for targeted groups
  • Channel-specific pages: Match creatives and messages to the traffic source

9. In-app events vs promotional content

iOS in-app events

Introduced with iOS 15, in-app events offer a platform within apps and games to showcase special occasions like competitions, challenges, live events, movie premieres, and more.

  • These events serve to reach new users, engage existing ones, or reconnect with those who’ve lapsed.
  • Apple offers various event badges like challenges, competitions, live events, major updates, new seasons, premieres, and special events, each with distinct purposes.
  • Once set up, in-app events appear on the app’s product page and also in the App Store editorial sections like Today, Apps, and Games tabs, suggested events, and search results.
  • An app can have up to 5 simultaneous events spanning 31 days, each with distinct configurations based on country, language, and metadata. Most importantly, in-app events’ metadata is indexed by the App Store. This allows an app or game to increase their ranking on additional keywords.
In-app events for Cookie Jam: Match 3 Games, viewed using AppTweak’s ASO Report in-app events tab
In-app events for Cookie Jam: Match 3 Games, viewed using AppTweak’s ASO Report in-app events tab.

Google Play promo content

Google offers 5 types of promotional content (events, major updates, offers, crossovers, or pre-registration announcements) to engage users.

  • Unlike in-app events, there’s no limit to the promotional content an app can run concurrently on Google Play.
  • Google Play’s Explore displays featured promotional content that helps identifying promoted competitors and their offerings.

Take a look at what your competitors are doing regarding promotional content and in-app events on AppTweak

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.

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.

Discover our step-by-step approach to creating an effective ASO strategy


TL;DR

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 in ASO between the App Store and Google Play:

  • Your app subtitle varies widely in length on the App Store vs Google Play and also serves a different purpose for each.
  • Apple relies on a keyword field to decide the keywords you want to rank for your app.
  • The long description is an important ranking factor on Google Play, but keywords used in the long description don’t rank on the App Store.
  • Screenshots only show up in the search results on the App Store and play a major role in convincing users to download your app. On Google Play, screenshots will show for branded keyword searches only.
  • App preview videos autoplay in the App Store search results; while Google Play promo videos appear on top of the app page.
  • Apple’s Search Ads are highly customizable, allowing focus on specific keywords. Google’s App Campaigns, on the other hand, lean heavily on automation. They are generated by Google based on the choices made by the developer during the setup process.
  • The App Store offers featurings on its prime featuring location – the Today tab. Google Play does not offer a similar featuring option.
  • Apple’s CPPs and Google Play’s CSLs enable specific audience targeting and enhanced user engagement through tailored content. The App Store provides 25 custom pages, while Google Play offers 50.
  • The App Store indexes in-app event metadata that helps boost an app/game’s rankings on additional keywords. This indexing doesn’t occur on the Play Store. Despite this, both platforms allow apps and games to highlight events, new features, content releases, limited-time offers, and more.
  • Google Play takes backlinks into account in its algorithm, while Apple does not.

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Taya Franchville
by , App Growth Consultant at AppTweak
Taya is an App Growth Consultant at AppTweak, passionate about helping apps boost their visibility and downloads. She lives in Kentucky and spends most of her free time playing with her dog, exploring coffee shops, and tending to her houseplants!