Optimizing the basic component of your app presence in the app store is something all app publishers must do. But the ASO process isn’t just about researching keywords and A/B testing graphic components. To truly shine above the competition, you must have a deeper understanding of how the app stores work “under the hood”.
Discovery Algorithms & Indexing
One of the most important and often overlooked differences between optimizing for Apple’s app store and that of Google is the way each app store indexes apps for search, and how they are displayed in search results.
Since the core of Google’s business is, historically, its search services – Google Play has a smart robust indexing and search result ranking algorithm. All the textual components are scanned, and ASO for Google Play’s app store is in many ways similar to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Google’s search engine. This includes not only the title and descriptions (short and long), but also the developer name, the “What’s New” text attached to updates, user reviews and even the anchor text for incoming web links.
Apple’s algorithm is a sensitive one because of the limited number of keywords for each app – those in the keyword field, developer name and the app name. However, in 2016 Apple made efforts to improve its indexing algorithm in order to offer users more relevant search results.
App performance in downloads, installs, user retention, review volumes and review sentiment are fairly similar in both app stores. However, Google Play also takes into account app sales and profitability in SERPs (Search Engine Result Placements).
The effect each variable has on app placement in search results is a well-hidden secret. Apple and Google often make changes to these algorithms to try and improve the end-user app discovery experience in the app store. This makes it particularly hard for app publishers to rely on a single user acquisition tactics to compliment your ASO efforts. For example, untargeted low-CPI installs might raise your install rate, but over time the high discard rate and low retention percentages can hurt your app’s ranking in search results. By how much? It’s impossible to tell.
External Ranking Factors
When it comes to ASO, Apple’s iTunes app store is a very “closed garden” – its own ecosystem that is currently untouched by external influences. Google, on the other hand, takes into account backlinks, social shares and web link clicks leading to the app page. These factors influence both keyword indexing and search result ranks.
Staying on Top
It’s difficult to pinpoint the specific differences in ranking algorithms between Google and Apple simply because these constantly change. Some changes are foreseen, like those that accompany mobile operating system updates. Others are executed quietly, and app publishers discover the effect these changes have on their app ranks and popularity only after the fact.
“The only thing that is constant is change” is the best way to describe both app ecosystems, especially when it comes to ASO. And as the app stores evolve, so will the differences between them.