New Google Play Guidelines Will Force Publisher Apps to Rethink App Store Optimization (ASO) | What’s New in Publishing

More than 385,000 Android apps available on Google Play are at risk of having their titles condensed, according to an analysis by Zurich-based app intelligence firm 42matters.

This is the result of new guidelines, first announced by Google in April last year, which include a policy change for app metadata intended to encourage the use of unique and recognizable app titles in limiting their length to 30 characters. If an app violates this limit, Google will automatically shorten its title.

Google’s goal is reasonable. They want to improve the discovery process on their app store. However, the new guidelines will force many mobile app and game publishers to rethink how they brand and market their apps on Google Play.

Why is this important?

App titles are very important for app developers. They are the single most important factor for app discovery, making them central to mobile app marketing techniques such as app store optimization (ASO).

A well-designed title – with carefully selected keywords – can significantly improve an app’s organic search traffic on app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. This, in turn, helps developers reach their target audiences, encourage more conversions (i.e. download), nurture their user bases, and most importantly, generate revenue.

By limiting app titles to just 30 characters, 20 less than the original limit of 50, Google is asking app publishers to cut the fat. They want less ‘keyword stuffing’ and less unnecessary buzzwords, like ‘free’ or ‘better’. But app publishers use these keyword techniques for a reason. They work!

So the user experience improvements that Google is looking for will require thousands of app makers to go back to the drawing board. Marketing teams will have to rethink their selection of keywords as well as the way they deploy them in the Play Store listings of their apps.

Who will be impacted?

According to our research, the new Google Play guidelines will impact approximately 11% of the 3.5 million apps currently available on Google Play. This includes an almost equal share of non-gaming apps (11.19%) and mobile games (10.39%).

Of course, more well-known apps won’t have much of a problem. Realistically, the only keywords TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram need are their names. But that will be a serious problem for other apps that rely on maximizing any character Google can spare. In other words, the new guidelines will have the unfortunate side effect of mitigating a significant competitive advantage for lesser-known apps and games.

How will publishers adapt to these changes?

To get an idea of ​​how app makers will adapt, just look at Google’s biggest rival. This is because Apple has had a 30-character app title limit for some time. They are also far more stingy in a number of other important areas. For example, while Apple limits subtitles to 30 characters, Google provides a fancy 80 characters for their equivalent field, “short description.”

These distinctions mean that marketers tend to take different approaches to each store. Google Play best practices state that publishers should repeat their most important keywords across all domains and that they should be used between three and five times. With Apple, publishers have to be smarter. They should avoid repeating keywords and use as many as possible in each field.

With Google descending to Apple’s level, however, it’s probably safe to expect publishers to now modernize aspects of their iOS ASO strategies for Google Play.

Increased investment in ASO solutions

Additionally, since app publishers will have fewer characters to work with, they will need to make the most of what they have. Going forward, there will be more emphasis on identifying relevant, high-value keywords. As such, it’s reasonable to expect more app publishers to invest in tools and solutions to identify these keywords.

Either way, while more than 385,000 apps are expected to be impacted, chances are these apps are already optimized with carefully chosen keywords. That is to say, their publishers are likely aware of upcoming changes from Google and will adapt accordingly once they are applied in earnest.

Alex Braelow
Senior Mobile Intelligence Analyst, 42matters

42matters is a leading provider of mobile app data and analytics. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, they help leading companies around the world make better business and development decisions by providing actionable app market insights.

42matters’ solutions provide insight into over 17 million published and unpublished apps in each of the major mobile and connected TV (CTV) app stores. This includes Google Play, Apple App Store, Amazon Appstore, Tencent MyApp, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV tvOS App Store, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Samsung Smart TV Apps, LG Content Store and Vizio SmartCast Apps.