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App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

This is a guest post by Julia Suliagina, a Content Manager at Asodesk, a platform for organic traffic monitoring, management and analysis, helping mobile developers to increase organic traffic. She writes newsletters and articles about ASO, app marketing, and working with reviews. Julia makes complex topics easy to understand and interesting.

When conducting App Store Optimization for different stores, it is important to take into account all their differences, as this is the only way you will achieve your ASO goals. In this article, we will analyze the difference between search results, rankings, metadata fields, and review processes on the App Store and Google Play. We will also give some tips that will help you conduct effective App Store Optimization on both stores.

What is the Difference Between Search Results on the App Store and Google Play?

To understand how to create the best metadata for app promotion, we should learn the specifics about search results on the App Store and Google Play. We will show several ways the search results might look. 

First Screen 

When a user enters Google Play, the first thing they see is apps that are suggested based on applications they searched for and installed before.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
First screen in Google Play

On the App Store, the first thing users see is the Today section, where In-App events are introduced.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

Search Line

In the Search section on the App Store, users first see popular search queries as well as apps that are running Apple Search Ads campaigns.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search line in the App Store

When you start entering the word, you will see appropriate search suggestions for your query.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search Suggestions in the App Store

In Google Play when a person starts typing a query, the structure of suggestions can be different.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search suggestions in Google Play

Sometimes while searching for branded apps, you will see the icon and title of this app in the search results. But it works only for some queries — for others, you will see just suggestions.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search suggestions for branded queries in Google Play

Search Results

In the App Store, you can see app icons, titles, and screenshots in the search results. Because screenshots take up a big part of the search results, we will see only two apps on the first screen of search results. Note that the first place can also be taken by Apple Search Ads.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search results on a general query in the App Store

When searching for a branded query, besides the branded app, users may also see its subscription.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Subscription in the Search results in the App Store

It also can be in-app events and suggestions in the search results for branded queries. In the screenshot below you see In-App Events for the Planner 5D app.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
In-App Events in the Search results

If you have already installed the app that you search for you may see only its icon and title in the search results.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search results for installed apps

The search results in the App Store also depend on the iOS version. For example, on iOS 14 you will see the screenshots of installed apps in your search results, while on iOS 15 you won’t see them.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

On iOS 14 you see horizontal banners in the search for collections, while on iOS 15 you see the app title, subtitle, and icons.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

In Google Play you can see more than 5 apps in the search results on non-branded queries.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search results on general query

The first and second search results can be also occupied by ads. The search results on branded queries are different: you first see the branded app and its screenshots and then apps that users may also like.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Search results for branded query on Google Play

The main difference between search results in the App Store and Google Play is the ability to see screenshots. Because of screenshots in the App Store, users see fewer apps on one screen than in Google Play. If your app has ten positions per search query in the App Store, the user should flip the screen 5 times to get to your app. While in Google Play they will see your app on the second screen. That is why in the App Store it is more important to get to the top for selected queries, otherwise, most users won’t reach your app.

How to Fill Metadata in the App Store and Google Play

To fill metadata in the App Store and Google Play, we need to know the difference between them.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

Let’s compare metadata fields and learn how to fill them correctly.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Differences between metadata

Textual Metadata

1. Title. Titles in the App Store and Google Play consist of 30 characters and are indexed by search algorithms. Keywords from the Title have the strongest influence on app positions. That is why we should put the most important search queries here which can form different search phrases with other metadata fields.

2. Subtitle. We have subtitles only in the App Store, not in Google Play. Subtitles can fit up to 30 characters and the impact of Subtitle on app position is the same as the impact of the keyword field in the App Store.

3. Keyword Field is available only in the App Store and it includes up to 100 characters. Users don’t see the keyword field on the app page, but it helps your app to rank higher. It has a moderate impact on app indexing. 

4. Promo text. Promo text in the App Store is shown under screenshots, so users can easily see it when they enter the app page. It can’t be indexed, which is why you can use this field only for marketing purposes. You can write up to 170 symbols in this field. Unlike the other metadata fields, you can change the app’s promo text without sending it to App Store Connect. 

5. Short description in Google Play is also shown under screenshots. It consists of 80 characters and keywords and this field is indexed by the search algorithms. Keywords from the app title and short description should form as many keyword phrases as possible. 

6. Descriptions in the App Store and Google Play are up to 4000 characters. In this field, app publishers should write detailed information about their apps. The App Store description is not indexed, which is why you can use it only for marketing purposes. 

The Google Play description is indexed, so you should put keywords there. But don’t put too many keywords in the search, otherwise, the algorithm will mark the description as spam. Artem Tkachuk advises adding less than 5 repetitions of keywords if your description is less than 3500 characters, and 3–4 repetitions if your description is 2000-2500 characters. You can check how many times you used keywords in app descriptions with Keyword Density Counter in Asodesk

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Keyword Density Counter from Asodesk

We also advise you use Google Natural language while writing the description. This tool helps search algorithms to relate your app to a certain app category.

7. Additional localization is the field in the App Store which allows you to make app titles, subtitles and keywords for other languages. There are primary and additional localizations for most countries. For example, in the USA, the main locale is English (US), while the additional one is Spanish (Mexican). Users from the USA who use the Spanish language for their iPhone or iPad will see the app page in Spanish. 

We advise you to fill this field as it helps to make your app page clear for more users and gives you more characters for indexing in the App Store. You can check all additional localizations in our free table.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
App Store Localization Table from Asodesk

8. What’s new is shown to users who have already installed the app. Here you can share updates, media references, and app awards. This field is available both in the App Store and in Google Play. 

You can also request reviews in this section to increase your app’s review count. But be sure that besides asking for the reviews you also leave information about new features and updates. Otherwise, you can be banned. We also advise you to put links to support team contact in this section, as this may help to decrease the number of negative reviews as users will report issues via email.

Visual Metadata that Affects Conversion Rate

1. Icon. In the App Store, you should create icons according to Human interface Guidelines. There are several general requirements for app icons: they should be simple with one main element and without small, complex details. It should have one focal point, the background shouldn’t be transparent, and it shouldn’t include unnecessary words which are not a part of the logo. Read other requirements for the App Store icon. 

In Google Play, the size of the icon should be 512 px x 512 px. Using elements to indicate ranking is prohibited. You also aren’t allowed to include information about sales, participation in Google Play programs in the icon, or use elements that might mislead users (such as notification icons). Read about all requirements for Google Play icons in design specifications. 

It is important to stand out from competitors with your icon so that users pay attention to your app. This is especially true for Google Play, where users in the search results see only the title and app icon. To analyze how your app icon looks compared to competitors, use Keyword Chart in Asodesk. This tool will show the positions of your competitors by the keywords from your semantic core. 

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Keyword Chart in Asodesk

2. Screenshots. In the App Store, you can download up to 10 screenshots, while in Google Play you can use up to 8. In both stores, you can use horizontal and vertical orientations. Screenshots have a big impact on your Conversion Rate. That is why you should test different hypotheses before choosing suitable screenshots. 

3. Video. In the App Store, you can download up to three app previews in mp4, mov, or m4v formats that will be displayed above the app page. The video will autoplay in mute in search results. The maximum length of app previews is 15-30 seconds. All previews should be manually approved. 

In Google Play, you can add only one promo video, which should be downloaded on YouTube. The length of the video should be from 30 seconds to 2 minutes long. You should use landscape-oriented videos.  

Experiments on the SplitMetrics platform have shown that videos can have a negative impact on conversion rates. You should think twice and conduct A/B testing before choosing screenshots or videos for your app. Read tips that can help you to make the right choice. 

Other Metadata Fields and Opportunities

1. In-app Purchases. In-app purchases in the App Store refer to extra content or subscriptions that users buy inside an app. With this feature you can inform users about your paid features, subscriptions, or trial periods, and take additional space in the App Store Search. 

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
App Store In-App Purchases

2. LiveOps in Google Play helps you inform users about a limited-time offer or event that’s happening in your app or game. LiveOps cards consist of the title, picture, and description. With them, you can notify users about offers, events, big updates, collaborations with other companies, and announcements for users who were previously registered in your app. These cards motivate users to download the app and make a purchase. Users can see them on the app page, in the search results, and in the apps and games section. 

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
LiveOps in Google Play

3. In-App Events in the App Store have a similar purpose to LiveOps in Google Play. This feature appeared in the App Store in October 2021. With In-App Events you can tell your users about limited offers, events, and challenges. Events help you take up extra space in search results and encourage users to return to the app. You can launch up to 5 events at a time.

The user will see a card with a title, short description, image, or video. When clicked, you can view detailed information, share the event on social networks, and subscribe to newsletters. The new user will be able to download the application from the event card and page.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
In-App Events in the App Store

4. Custom Product Pages allows you to create up to 35 custom pages with unique URLs for your app. You can add different screenshots, video previews, and promo texts. You can run different ad campaigns for these Custom Product Pages. You are also allowed to create up to 35 variants for Apple Search Ads with these pages. The app metadata of these pages can be sent to review regardless of the main update.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips
Custom Product Pages in the App Store

The most important field in the App Store and Google Play is the app Title. Here you should put the most important keywords with optimal popularity and competitiveness. In the App Store, you can also put all necessary keywords in your title and subtitle, while Google Play doesn’t have these fields. In Google Play, it is important to find relevant keywords for your app description, as it is indexed by the search algorithm. To get extra space in search results and improve your app metrics, it is also important to use In-App Events, In-App purchases in the App Store, and LiveOps in Google Play. 

What Influences App Positions in the App Store and Google Play

We analyzed what factors influence app rankings and made a table based on our findings. Let’s look at how all these factors influence app positions.

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

1. Install Rate

The more installs apps get from the search from all sources, the higher positions on search queries they will have. That is why it is better to use other promotion methods, such as targeting or ads in stores, as this will help to achieve results from ASO much faster. 

2. Revenue (for Paid Apps)

Revenue levels are influenced by app ranking for paid apps. If the search algorithm looked only at install levels, all paid apps would be at the end of the search results. But this is not true — paid apps can be in the top positions for search queries because their income is taken into account. 

3. App Launched

It is not enough for algorithms to see that users download your app — they also should see that users start using it. The first launch of the app is counted in both Google Play and the App Store. This is clear when working with incentivized traffic. The users’ task there is to install an app and open it. Only in such cases will installs be counted.

4. Frequency of Launches

Open frequency is only important in Google Play. Users who don’t delete the app for 2–3 days and launch it have a better influence on positions than those who simply open it.

5. Rating and Number of Reviews

The number of reviews affects the positions in both Google Play and the App Store. Ratings have an especially strong influence on the ranking of new apps. Even several dozens of reviews will help the new app to move from the 300th position to the 150th-100th. 

6. Recent Update

A recent app update only affects rankings in the App Store. Immediately after the release, the app climbs the search results slightly. In this way, the App Store helps new versions of apps get more users.

7. Deleting the App

App deletion only affects rankings on Google Play. This is also tested on incentivized traffic. The sooner a paid user deletes your app, the less their install will influence your app’s search position. This is not a factor in the App Store, where it is enough to launch and open the app. 

Let’s see which factors influence the app position most. 

App Store Optimization on the App Store and Google Play: Differences & Tips

8. Metadata

If you change the app metadata for a release, your ranking structure will also change, and the results will be fast and noticeable. In the App Store, changes are visible the day after the update, in Google Play you need to wait 2–3 weeks, but the effect will be noticeable in both cases. This is a significant factor.

9. App Rating

Ratings have a positive effect on conversions, which in turn increase your app’s visibility. If you ask users to leave reviews and ratings, this will offer strong leverage, and your app will climb higher in search queries.

By the way, in Google Play, reviews and replies to reviews are indexed by the Google Play algorithm. It has little influence on app positions but you can put keywords into your reviews to get higher positions in the search. In the App Store, reviews are not indexed by the algorithm, so there is no reason to put keywords in this field. 

10. Installs for a Search Query

If you increase the number of installs per search query, it will help you climb to the top. The more installs you receive, the higher you will be. This is also a strong lever because in a short period of time you can achieve significant results.

11. General Install Rate

If you just increase your install rate, buy paid traffic, or work with influencers, you are going to improve your position, but you won’t see significant growth. The strength of this factor is moderate. You will see some results, but it will either be noticeable after a large amount of time, or it will be not as significant as from installs by certain search queries. 

So the most important task for boosting your app in the App Store and Google Play is to work on app metadata, ratings and installs for the most important queries. 

What Are the Differences in Checking Apps in the App Store and Google Play 

Differences in the Process of Changing Metadata

In Google Play, all changes in the app metadata don’t need to be built, you can change metadata fields in Google Play Console. 

In the App Store, even if you want to change one single word in metadata, you need to upload a new version of the app. 

This is why changing metadata in Google Play is faster than in the App Store.

Differences in App Review Processes

In the App Store, your app is checked manually every time you send a new version to the App Store, while the process of checking the app in Google Play is automatic. 

Usually, moderators spend 10 minutes checking every app. It is impossible to check everything in just 10 minutes, which is why sometimes moderators approve an app even when it somehow breaks App Store Guidelines. But you can be sure that one day the moderator will notice that you broke the rules and will ask you to change your metadata. 

In such cases. you will just need to correct these rule breaches in your metadata and your app will be published. Google is much stricter. The sales of your app may be stopped or it will be deleted from the store because of rule violations. 

There is no manual verification in Google Play, all apps are checked automatically, which is why errors are often made. For example, an app was not allowed to be published because of the phrase “Blue Tractor”. The algorithm decided that this phrase violated the guidelines on Google Play.

The process of checking metadata in Google Play is much stricter, so you should never violate them, otherwise, your app will be deleted. Read App Store and Google Play rules and guidelines before publishing your app. 

How to Conduct ASO in the App Store

1. Find keywords for which you can realistically claim the top positions for. In the App Store, there are only 2 apps in search results on the first screen. If you have a low position, users seldom reach your app. For new apps, it is ok to use keywords with medium popularity but low competition because for these keywords you have a real chance of getting to the top. 

2. Put keywords in the App Title, Subtitle, and keywords fields as they are indexed by the Google Play algorithm. 

3. Use additional localizations. They will give you +160 characters each for app rankings and help you promote your app through the people who speak in other languages of the selected country. Find all additional localizations in the App Store Localization Table. 

4. Use In-App Events and In-App Purchases as they will help you to take more place in the search results and increase the installs, number of active users, and revenue of your app. 

5. Launch Apple Search Ads as it can help you to protect search results for competitors. You can take two first places in the search thanks to Apple Search Ads.

6. Try to update your app more often, as apps after updates have a special boost in the App Store. 

How to Conduct ASO in Google Play

1. Make your app icon stand out from the competitors. In Google Play, people see only your app title and icon in the search results and decide to go to your app page because of these fields. It is very important to catch the user’s attention with your app icon. 

2. Use keywords in the App Title, short description, and full description as these metadata fields are indexed by the Google Play algorithm. 

3. Use Google Cloud Natural Language while making your app description. These tools can help you to find the best description for the Google Play algorithm and to get to the Explore section. 

4. Use LiveOps in Google Play to increase the number of purchases and session frequency for your app. 

5. Put keywords in reviews, as they are ranked by the Google Play algorithm. 

In our free email course, you can master the basics of ASO in the App Store and Google Play in 10 days.