How does app indexing work on App Store and Google Play?
ASO (App Store Optimization) can be of great help when you’re trying to improve app visibility and increase organic traffic. App stores will scan your app page and show it to users by keywords they’ve found. This is what’s called indexing. It’s important to know that App Store and Google Play algorithms index keywords differently. In this article, we’ll look at some factors that may affect indexing and discuss all the ins and outs of that process.
Indexing on App Store and Google Play: the difference in algorithms
On App Store, keywords and keyword combinations can be indexed only from metadata like app title, subtitle, keywords field, developer’s name, or internal purchases. The full description won’t be indexed at all. Moreover, several localizations can be indexed in a single country at once.
On Google Play, the algorithms will scan not only the native metadata, but also metadata of other localizations, categories, tags, reviews, and even the developer’s email address.
Indexed items in detail
Title. App Store accepts 30 characters in an app title. Google Play has 50. Find the most relevant keywords to gain a foothold in the top.
Subtitle and short description. You have 30 characters for a subtitle on App Store and 80 characters for a description on Google Play.
Keyword field. It’s only used on App Store. You have 100 characters to use. Don’t put spaces after commas. Try to include queries that can be combined with the title. On App Store, using a keyword once in any of the fields (title, subtitle, keywords) is enough for it to be indexed. Repetitions in text are a no go.
Full description. On Google Play, you can count on 4,000 characters. You may find the range of 2,000-2,500 characters useful as this is the optimum range. When optimizing a description on Google Play, you may want to check it for content classification using the Natural Language API. Once you’ve done with the analysis, you’ll see which categories Google has assigned the content to as well as its Confidence factor. When experimenting with a description, try to keep this value at least at 0.8 but the higher it is, the better. App Store has the same character number, but it won’t index the description. You can use keywords to promote your web search.
App Store starts indexing by keywords once your app has been submitted for review.
Developer’s name. Your ranking will improve if you add multiple keywords to the developer’s name. An important point: if you’ve used the same name for several years, and then you decide to change it, you might expect a drop in ranking and a decrease in impressions. Because of this, traffic can sink.
In-app purchases. On App Store, they appear in search results too. Each IAP can have a title of 30 characters and a description of 45. The best way to optimize it for search is to use relevant keywords in the IAP title. Moreover, it must accurately convey the purchase essence.
Developer’s email. The influence of this item on Google Play indexing is quite insignificant, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
App URL. Enter some keywords in an URL for better indexing on Google Play. Make sure you’ve checked the email before release since you won’t be able to change it later.
On App Store, the app search is now limited to 250.
Reviews. Google Play tends to rank apps with a good average rating higher. Plus, its algorithms scan reviews to identify possible keywords. Reviews are important for SEO on both stores.
Tags. Tags help Google Play understand what an app is about so that it can be classified and offered to users as relevant content. You can add up to 5 tags. They should describe the content and functionality of your app. Since March 2020, tags have started to appear in search results next to the developer’s name, installs, and ratings.
By what keywords do algorithms index apps?
The algorithms find out on their own which keywords to index. They take into account text on the app page, combining words and forming keyword variations. The number of those keywords can be up to tens of thousands.
Considering extra locales, the number could be even higher. Let’s do some simple math. Say, you use 26 words of 6 characters each. If you take each of them and make up all possible variations of two, three and four words, you’ll get thousands of keywords.
Google Play currently blocks games that use quarantine-themed keywords in their metadata. And App Store bans apps related to the coronavirus. They can only be published by health or government officials.
Life hacks from ASO specialists
We’ve carefully studied what the professional ASO community has been chatting about and we’ve highlighted some interesting life hacks. All of them are based on personal experience. The nuances of the algorithm operation can often be found this way – through experimenting and observing.
- If you have a new app and it hasn’t been indexed yet, install it using a direct link. Then indexing will start. The issue is that Google Play sometimes doesn’t notice an app immediately after release and needs some help. At the same time, which keywords will be used and which ranking you will have will be unknown.
- Google Play fights against spammed metadata (if you use a keyword more than three times). Your ranking won’t get higher if you repeat the keyword many times.
- On App Store, keyword symbols won’t be treated as spaces. That is the queries «photo editor» and «photo editor:» will have different search results. Diacritics will be indexed differently too like «factura fácil» and «factura facil». At the same time, using special characters in your metadata to be indexed is not at all a necessity. There is a high probability that the store will index your app by those keywords with special characters; words stay the most relevant thing. But the ranking is usually better by the keyword version that is there in your metadata.
- There’s a lot of information confirming that Google Play indexes text in screenshots too.
How quickly will the app be indexed?
App Store Indexing
Usually, the indexing results can be seen the very next day after the text update. If this is a new app release, then the app will have a boost in ranking for the first two weeks. That is, high ranks for indexed keyword queries. This is how App Store helps newbies.
A life hack is connected with this. You can name your app using the «popular keyword + unique relevant phrase» formula. Once published, Apple will add the app title into search suggestions. Should a user start typing a popular keyword, the app title will appear among the suggestions. If it’s relevant to the query, the user will click on it, increasing the popularity of that unique phrase. Since the app title is the same, the app will come first for that unique query.
This is how Apple’s boost works right after release: for the first word from the title, a new suggestion will appear with the app title. The suggestion will stay second after the first word for about three days (some drop out earlier). Then it will either be fixed and the app will receive traffic, or it will drop out.
Google Play Indexing
Google Play analyzes many more ranking factors thanks to its AI, so it’s hard to define the timing. On average, it takes a week to evaluate the results and make new decisions. If the app has nothing (at least some installs), then indexing may not occur.
Ad campaigns on Google Ads help to «shake» the app. Overclocking the indexing with A/B tests of text elements may be useful too. Changes in Google Play don’t come at a glance but constant improvement always leads to the desired outcome.
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