Which Factors Influence App Rankings on Google Play?
The Google Play algorithm is quite complicated and constantly changing. While Google aims to improve the user experience on the Play Store, frequent updates make it difficult for app publishers to maintain high visibility.
There are ranking factors that Google does not disclose, such as the weight of each factor and its influence on keyword rankings. In this blog, we highlight the factors that influences an app’s rankings on the Play Store.
1. Optimize your metadata keywords
To better understand the mechanisms behind keyword rankings, it’s important for us to first explain a couple of concepts Google Play considers when deciding which apps to rank for different search queries. These are:
1) Keyword relevancy: Is your app relevant to the user’s search query?
To determine whether or not an app is relevant to a search query, the app stores look at a couple of factors:
- The first is your app’s primary category. The decision to assign your app to either Finance, Productivity, or Utilities category indicates the specific themes that might be relevant to your app.
- Even more indicative are the keywords you add to your app metadata. On Google Play, only the app name and icon appear for generic, non-brand-related keywords. This means that app names on Android are much more important to express what your app is about and convince users to download it over your competitors. So add your most important keywords to your app title to make sure you rank well on them.
2) Ranking strength: Going beyond keyword relevancy, Google Play also takes into account your app’s ranking strength. When deciding which apps to show first, second, third, and so on in the search results, Google Play algorithm will consider your app performance data. In general, app downloads are a strong ranking signal on Google Play. The Play Store will consider an app that is driving a lot of daily downloads to be relevant to many store visitors’ interests. The number, velocity, and recentness of these downloads will play a big part in where you rank in the search results and top charts.
3) Keyword density in long description: Unlike on iOS, the Android algorithm definitely considers the keywords in your long description when indexing and ranking your app in search results. Therefore, when writing your long description for Google Play, a good plan is to follow SEO best practices by maintaining a high density of your top-priority keywords:
- Keeping the text fluid and natural
- Maintaining a density of 1-2% for the keywords in your long description to avoid getting a ‘keyword stuffing’ penalty (density above 4%) from Google
- The first sentences of your description are the most visible, so make them catchy
2. App conversion & retention rate
Google Play definitely considers your app’s retention rate when positioning your app across the store. Your conversion rates and number of downloads matter, but how well your app retains users is also arguably one of the most important ranking signals on Google Play. Google wants to provide the best experience possible for Play Store users. And to do so, the store prioritizes apps that people seem to like in the long term.
If your app has a high, stable conversion rate for a specific keyword – for example, if a lot of people are downloading your app after searching for the keyword “flight booker” – you’re also very likely to rank high in the search results for that term.
To help increase your conversion rate for keywords, add your most relevant keywords (keywords that describe your app’s functionality clearly) to your app title. When people search for a certain keyword and see that keyword in your app title, they are more likely to download your app.
In terms of creative assets, we would also recommend optimizing these assets for specific search terms. Visual word recognition is a well-known technique to boost your search conversion rate.
Google Play incorporates video autoplay on its platform. Once you go onto an app’s store page, its promotional video will play automatically. A clever promo video can help boost your conversion rates, as it can increase engagement after the app has been installed. A user that has seen a video prior to installation has a better idea of the app’s offering and value.
3. Android vitals metrics
One of the key key metrics Google Play considers when ranking apps is Android vitals. These are various metrics logged by Google to measure the performance and stability of apps. Android vitals signal to Google the apps that provide a satisfying, high-quality experience that will positively contribute to the Google Play marketplace.
Here, we highlight the vitals that are particularly important from a ranking perspective:
- ANR’s (Application Not Responding)
- Crash rate
- Excessive wake
- Stuck partial wake lock
- Your app’s rating
With a view to raise the bar on technical quality, Google Play recently updated its core vital metrics with more user-focused metrics that are a better reflection of user experience. Google also introduced a new bad behavior threshold that is evaluated per phone model (e.g. Pixel 6). At launch, this threshold will be set to 8% for both user-perceived crash rate and user-perceived ANR rate. So, if your title exceeds the device bad behavior threshold on any core vital for a given phone model, Google Play may reduce the visibility of your title for users on that phone model. The new metrics are available in Play Console in Android vitals, and also in the Play Developer Reporting API.
On the topic of quality, Google Play requires apps and games to have a minimum of 3.0 star rating to be featured in the top charts. Google measures the impact of your app by creating benchmarks for every category and then benchmarking your app against others.
4. Your app reviews and ratings
Reviews and ratings are crucial if you want to improve your app’s ranking on Google Play. The better your rating, the more your app is likely to convert. In an ideal world, apps are launched with all bugs ironed out to increase the likelihood of receiving better reviews. As a result, we would recommend thoroughly testing your app before it is released.
The speed and frequency with which you reply to reviews also play an important role in turning a negative experience into something more positive for the user. It is particularly important to encourage users to give feedback on the Play Store, as positive feedback and higher ratings give your app social credibility. For example, users are more inclined to download an app with a rating of 4.5 with thousands of reviews compared to an app with a 5.0 rating with just a few reviews.
5. Quality backlinks to your app
When ranking your app, the Play Store algorithm also considers the number and quality of websites directing visitors to download it. Google’s algorithm looks at the power and credibility of these websites, considering the page views, bounce rate, the keywords used in the URL (which should be related to your app’s content), and so on. The more reliable the websites pointing to your app are, the better the backlink! Increasing the quality of your backlinks and monitoring those you already have is an activity that can help improve your rankings on Google Play.
As the world’s largest app store with more than 3.5 million apps, Google Play uses an algorithm to identify and rank high-quality apps for its users. We’ve recapped for you these crucial ranking factors on Google Play that can have an impact on your app’s performance:
- Keyword relevancy, keyword density, as well as the number of daily downloads
- High conversion and retention rates
- Healthy Android vitals
- Positive ratings and reviews
- Reliable backlinks to your app