What is Google Play Explore – Case Study

Jess Ailion 18 July 2021
What is Google Play Explore – Case Study


If you’re familiar with ASO then you’re probably familiar with the mystery black box that is Google Play Explore. Unlike Search Traffic, Explore Traffic includes all visitors who reached an app listing through exploring the Google Play Store. There’s no direct search involved, meaning no direct user intent. You may be wondering why this feature is so important. Let us explain.

Search Traffic Users vs Explore Traffic Users

When a user searches in the app stores, there’s a number of different types of searches this could be. It could be a branded search, where we can assume that the user already knows about your app and is searching for it directly. Whether this user is part of your target demographic and has previously seen a paid ad or not, your app listing was what they were looking for. Or, another type of search traffic could be a keyword search. For example, a user could search for the general keyword phrase “GPS app”, and find an app that shows in the search results, such as Google Maps. 

However, Explore Traffic represents the users who are not necessarily looking for an app of your kind. It’s a very broad audience who might never have seen your app anywhere else. When you’re constantly trying to acquire new users, it’s a traffic source you simply can’t ignore. 

We can also assume that when a user isn’t searching for a specific app, but simply exploring the Play Store, they’re open to suggestions. They’re probably going to be less closed to the idea of your app. Which means you have a BIG opportunity to win them over. They may not know anything about your app, so upping your App Store Optimization (ASO) game is absolutely essential. Your screenshots, metadata and keyword choices all need to be optimized for conversions. An app competitor analysis can go a long way in improving all of these.

New Explore Traffic Insights

Unfortunately for user acquisition and ASO experts, Explore Traffic represents the unknown. Nobody knows what affects it or why it always changes – generally. But recently, we’ve had a rare glimpse into the Explore Traffic “black box” with our latest discovery. 

As a full-service mobile marketing agency, we at Moburst are always producing in-depth data-driven reports for our clients. Last month, we noticed a dramatic drop in Explore Traffic for one of our clients. We also noticed that the Category Ranking dropped significantly too. This didn’t seem in line with the app’s consistent success over previous months, and the Search Traffic was not affected at all, so we delved a little deeper to understand what had happened. 

What we realized is that as part of a current trend among the app stores to promote high-quality apps, Google Play Store was crashing much more than usual. On days where the Google Play Store was running as normal, our client’s app was being presented in the Featured section, which affects the Explore Traffic. However, on days where the Google Play Store crashed a lot, our client’s app was not making it to the Featured section. There was a correlation between them. From this, we concluded that if there were no Play Store crashes (period), the app’s success in the Featured section would likely continue. Which means the app’s Explore Traffic would remain successful too. 

This was our little glimpse into the “black box”, which at times can feel hard to come by. In ASO, there are graphs to display everything, and we can often keep close tabs on the various factors that influence the app store algorithms. Explore Traffic is more mysterious, which is what makes it even more exciting to learn more about it. This was a great way to see what affects Explore Traffic so clearly on a graph.

ASO is all about analysis and data. Whether the data comes from A/B testing, Google Play Console or ASO tools, in order to drive installs, every decision needs to be based on data. That’s why the more data we accumulate, the more hypotheses we’re able to create, and the more we’re able to improve our work. Also, more traffic leads to more data, so things like Explore Traffic are a major benefit in this respect. 

The Promotion of High Quality Apps

This doesn’t mean to say that the app stores’ continuous promotion of high quality apps is all bad. In fact, in other ways it’s a big positive. Where five years ago even a terrible app could still make a lot of money and generate a high number of installs, now the app stores are making it much harder to succeed. This is crucial in an oversaturated marketplace such as the app ecosystem, where there are over five million apps fighting for the top spots. 

Now, with both app stores prioritizing quality over other factors, it’s near impossible for a terrible app to succeed. And who doesn’t want to know that they can trust the quality of any app they download from an app store? That’s part of the job of both Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store, quality control.

Final Thoughts

Google Play Explore is a traffic source that as its name suggests, encourages exploration throughout the Play Store. Being one more way to grab users attention and potentially convert them, it pays to have a solid understanding of what impacts it and the role it plays in your ASO strategy. 

There’s generally more understanding surrounding Search than Explore, so we hope to have shed a bit more light on Explore to help you inform your strategies going forward. Apps viewed in Explore increase their exposure to audiences who wouldn’t necessarily have been targeted by paid user acquisition efforts, which has high potential. That’s not even mentioning the fact that they haven’t been paid for, so are financially worth investing time in!


What is Google Play Explore?

Google Play Explore is an organic traffic source comprised of visitors who reach an app listing via exploring the Google Play Store. Unlike search traffic, the users are not directly searching for a particular app or keyword. Google Play Explore is designed to encourage users to browse the Play Store. 

What is the difference between search traffic and explore traffic?

As touched upon above, explore traffic comes from organic users who are navigating the Play Store, whereas search traffic comes from organic users who are using the search bar to search for a particular app or keyword. Search traffic users find apps via the search results, whereas explore traffic users find apps through exploring other parts of the app store, e.g. top charts. 

How do I get better Google Play Explore traffic results?

To improve your Google Play Explore traffic results, ASO is key. By optimizing your app listing you’re ensuring that any visitors via explore traffic are more likely to convert. This is especially important for explore traffic users as they are not necessarily a target user, they’ve not been targeted by a paid campaign of yours, and they haven’t directly searched for your app, so they may need some extra persuasion. What’s more, the higher your app ranks (which is affected by ASO), the better visibility it will have across the Play Store and thus will bring in more explore traffic.


Jess Ailion
Jess is Moburst's Content Marketing Manager who came to us all the way from the UK. After studying English Literature, she found herself writing about all things mobile marketing. When she's not spending her time writing, you can find her cooking for her friends or exploring new places.
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