Monthly Archives: April 2017

How To Optimize Your Android App At Google Play Store?

Last February, the total number of apps available for download in Google Play Store had breached the 2 million mark. Cut to March 2017 – and the overall app-count here is already up to 2.8 million, an increase of around 40% (YoY). On average, 8 out of 10 app downloads in the Play Store happen through organic search, highlighting the importance of following effective app store optimization (ASO) strategies. The percentage of ‘zombie apps’ (i.e., the ones which are not discoverable through organic search) in Play Store is rather alarmingly high – and in what follows, we will highlight some tips and pointers to ensure proper optimization of your new Android application at the store:

  1. Use keywords intelligently – Do some research to find out the terms and words that people are likely to use while searching for the type of mobile app you have developed. For instance, if yours is a children’s app, phrases like ‘mobile app for kids’ and ‘Android app for children’ should feature in your targeted keywords. There are several good keyword planner tools – like Wordstream, Appcodes, Google Keyword Planner and Wordpot – which can help you jot down the best set of keywords for any particular application.
  2. Keyword placement – Unlike the descriptions in Apple App Store, those in Google Play Store are indexed and are searchable by online search engines. Hence, it is of paramount importance to place your selected keywords in the app descriptions here. The main keyword(s) should be present in the description about 4-5 times. Make sure that the words go with the flow of the description, and do not appear forced. Do not get too eager and spam the description by overusing the keyword(s). Also, the main keyword should be present in the title/name of the app. That bolsters discoverability manifold.
  3. Length of the title – The length of the app title you choose should not go beyond 30 characters (for iOS apps, the benchmark is 50 characters). Flouting this regulation would result in a part of the app title not being visible to people – serving as a distraction, and lowering the chances of downloads. According to a recent Fiksu report, using keywords correctly in the title can boost an app’s ranking in Play Store by 90-100 positions (potential downloads increasing by close to 300%).
  4. App description – Most smartphone users will take time out to get an idea about what a new app does, before taking a call on whether to download it or not. The description section is the place where Android developers get the opportunity of convincing users about the merits of their software. In the Play Store, two separate descriptions have to be created for your app. The maximum length of the ‘short description’ is 80 characters, and it should be able to capture the attention of viewers rightaway (precise verbs and descriptions are essential). The ‘long description’ on the other hand, can have up to 4000 characters. Use bullet points and short, crisp paragraphs to outline the main features and benefits of your application. Use the keyword(s) optimally over here. Doing so can take up the ranking of your app by 8-10 positions.

Note: Placing a keyword more than 5 times has no additional advantages – and can, in fact, be detrimental (due to spam considerations).

5. Create and add a Promo Video – Probably the biggest ASO tool in the hands of Android app development experts is the ‘Promo Video’. A short YouTube video – highlighting the main USPs/features of an app – can be easily added as the first visual asset of the app’s page in the Play Store. Make it a point to focus on the most unique properties of your app in the ‘Promo Video’. Researches have shown that using a suitable video and featured graphics can pull up the conversion rate of an app (the ratio of actual downloads to the number of page visits) by nearly 26%.

6. The icon factor – When anyone searches for an app, the first thing (s)he sees in the results is the icon image. The icon you use should be nicely designed, and it should convey some idea of what the app is all about to prospective users. Ideally, there should not be any text present on the icon – simply because that would interrupt with the visibility of the image (i.e., no keyword(s) on icon). A good app icon – something that your audience can understand and relate to – can be a great visual boost. Clickthrough rates (CTR) and download count can go up significantly.

7. The importance of great screenshots – The screenshots you upload in the store (along with the Promo Video) serve as the first points-of-interaction (PoI) between your app and its probable users. You can upload a maximum of 8 screenshots in the Play Store (as opposed to 5 in Apple App Store). Highlight the most important screens here…the ones that showcase the key features of your app. Small lines of text/captions – explaining the screens – can also be present. The app screenshots you submit have to be 24-bit PNG or JPEG images, with a minimum dimension of 320 pixels. High-quality screenshots enhance the visual appeal of an app, and explain the software to users as well. Separate screenshots have to be submitted in case your app has a customized for tablets (i.e., to be featured under ‘Designed for tablets’).

Note: For apps that have versions for Android Wear and Android TV, additional screenshots (one and two respectively (minimum)) have to be uploaded.

8. Meta description of Play Store apps – On Google, the ‘title’ and the ‘meta description’ tags are vital for app store optimization (just like in SEO). The initial 167 characters of your app description are automatically included as the ‘meta description’ by the search engine. That, in turn highlights the importance of placing keywords optimally in this section of the description. The keywords you select should ideally have high search volumes and relatively low competition levels. Optimized meta descriptions are instrumental in enhancing the organic discoverability of apps.

9. Reviews and testimonials – Peer opinions matter a lot, when it comes to deciding whether to download a new application or not. Nearly 89% Android phone users check out the existing ratings and reviews on an app’s page, before taking the next action (either download or move away). Make sure that your app is good enough to garner 4-star or 5-star ratings from users. The importance of proper app testing should be reiterated in this context. It is easier to get a buggy app approved on Play Store (than on App Store) – but such bugs would inevitably hamper with user-experiences, and lead to low ratings and negative feedback, putting paid to your ambitions of getting it featured at the store. Keep monitoring the ‘growth of downloads’ metric for the last 30 days. That, along with the total download volume, and the number and level of ratings, are important components of the Play Store algorithm.

Note: Don’t just rely on users actually coming back to the store to review your app. Actively ask for feedback, and ensure that reviews/ratings can be submitted from within the app. Reminders can also be generated as pop-ups from time to time.

10. Create a strong backlink profile – The similarities between ASO and SEO continue with the relevance of backlinks for organic search. Try to get your Android app reviewed/mentioned in high-traffic app-related websites (and get links from that page, to your app’s page in Play Store). Any good mobile app company will have its own web blog as well – and a new app has to be written about in detail over there as well. Avoid trying to get links from low-quality, spammy sites. They will do more harm than good in the long-run.

11. Translations for global exposure – English is far from being the only language you should concentrate on, while optimizing your Android application. In terms of downloads and revenue, Japanese, Russian, German and French are all important languages – and if you wish to target global users, your app should have separate descriptions in different languages. Instead of depending on Google Translations (which is often erratic), avail the services of a professional linguistic expert for the purpose. It is only natural that if a person cannot understand the app’s description, (s)he won’t bother downloading it…a simple extension of the ‘cannot read, will not buy’ rule of thumb.

12. Optimize the featured graphic – The importance of ‘promo videos’ of apps to get viewers engaged has already been highlighted. Whether people actually click on the ‘Play’ button of the video depends a lot on the quality of featured graphic image you create. This feature is no longer optional – and more importantly, the featured graphics are often displayed in organic search results as well. The graphic you upload should be of 1024×500 px, and it should include the name of the app (along with a few descriptive words). Leading Android app makers put prime importance on the role of the featured graphic in making a favourable first impression on target users.

In addition to the ‘on-site’ Play Store optimization strategies discussed above, ASO for Android apps should include ‘offsite’ activities as well. These include publishing press releases and guest posts about a new app, going for app review exchanges on Facebook and G+, and regular tweets on various interesting points about the software. Robust pre-launch marketing is also necessary, to create a buzz about your app. The Android app marketplace is extremely competitive – and unless your ASO strategies are strong enough, your product might get drowned in the crowd.

 

Google I/O 2017: A Roundup Of All The Expectations From The Event

The 10th annual Google I/O conference is set to kick-off on the 17th of May, at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View (CA). Last year’s event had witnessed the presence of more than 7000 attendees – and the number of delegates at the 2017 edition is likely to grow further. Interestingly, and encouragingly for the global tech community, the percentage of women attendees at Google I/O has been rising each year – and reached 23% in 2016. As it happens every year, there are already quite a bit of speculations about the announcements that Google will make at this year’s developer conference. We will here look at all the major expectations from Google I/O 2017:

  1. Expansion in Google Assistant functionalities – Google Assistant debuted at I/O 2016 – and it received the thumbs-up from general users and mobile app developers alike – thanks to its powerful features and excellent contextual awareness. CEO Sundar Pichai had also talked in detail about AI (artificial intelligence) and machine-learning. At this year’s I/O, it can be reasonably expected that Google Assistant will get an update – with its functionality being expanded to smart cars, smart TVs, and other high-end gadgets. The underlying voice assistance technology might undergo some improvements as well.
  2. More on Android Wear 2.0 – Announced in May 2016, Android Wear 2.0 sure took a long time in getting released. It was finally launched in February 2017 (Android base 7.1.1) – and with the global market for wearable technology heating up, more is expected to be heard at this year’s Google I/O, on Android Wear. Multiple new features can be showcased, including quick replies for smartwatches, more wrist gestures, and a separate, properly functional Play Store for Android Wear applications. Other things, like handwriting recognition and a brand new UI, may be showcased too. For starters though, Google needs to explain the rollout plan for Android Wear 2.0 in detail.

Note: There are no chances of Android Wear 3.0 making an appearance at I/O 2017.

3. Android O – Google has traditionally used the I/O platform to reveal interesting new features about upcoming Android versions (last year, Doze battery saver and split-screen mode for Android Nougat were highlighted). This year, more light will be shed on the capabilities of Android O (i.e., Android 8.0) – including how the new platform will manage notifications and enhance battery/device performances. The first alpha developer preview of Android O was released in March – and we will probably get to know which dessert ‘O’ stands for sometime in June.

4. Firebase – Google’s Firebase has been hailed as an excellent cloud platform for managing a wide range of app services – right from app development and tracking, to overall controlling/monitoring. According to reports in various Android forums on the web, Google I/O 2017 will witness important upgrades to Firebase, for improving app availability figures over the cloud, bolstering the business models of cloud developers, and making things more systematic and streamlined. Attendees might also be acquainted with the best practices for using Google Cloud.

5. Augmented reality with Project Tango – Given the attention augmented reality (AR) received at CES 2017 (in January), it can pretty much be assumed that it will be dealt upon at the I/O event as well. Google has been working on the ambitious Project Tango platform for close to three years now (the platform was launched in June 2014) – and it would not be surprising if new AR-based mobile apps and devices are presented at the upcoming conference. The Tango technology creates a completely customized 3D world via depth sensing and motion tracking – over the physical environments of users. It will be fascinating to find out how Google plans to take this forward.

6. More software and hardware for Daydream – There will be a special section at Google I/O 2017, where the advantages of using Unity 3D game engine for virtual reality (VR) applications will be deliberated upon. There are also chances of Google taking this opportunity to announce new, cutting-edge hardware tools and software solutions for its Daydream platform – allowing a smooth progress beyond Google Cardboard. Claude Zellweger, the design lead of HTC, joined the Daydream platform (as the Head of ID) this January – and there have been reports of Zellweger and his team having started work on an advanced Google VR headset. Expect to know more about that in the conference.

Note: Asus Zenfone AR is one of the several ‘Daydream-ready mobile phones’ already launched by different original equipment manufacturers. More Android Nougat devices will be made compatible with the Daydream platform.

7. Google Allo to be updated – Last year’s Google I/O conference saw the launch of Google Allo – an all-new built-in messaging app for Android users. Since then though, things have remained mostly static on the Allo front – with Google not bringing any significant updates, and usage figures remaining on the lower side. In all probability, a more powerful and well-rounded version of Google Allo will be showcased at the 2017 event – with built-in integration with the complete version of Google Assistant (Allo currently can be used with Assistant to a limited extent). The smart replies of Allo might get an upgrade too, along with the app’s capability of grasping information from pictures. The focus will be on motivating users to give Allo a try – and Google will be ringing the changes for that.

8. New collaborations for Google Home – Yet another technology that was first presented at the 2016 I/O, and did not manage its way to the markets until much later. The Google Home smart voice assistant hit the US markets in November 2016, and it will arrive in the UK this month (there is no news about the worldwide release of Google Home yet). Experts from the field of Internet of Things (IoT) fully expect Google to announce several new, high-profile partnerships and collaborations to expand the capabilities of Google Home. What’s more – the usability of Google Assistant in Home will also be enhanced. The $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest in 2014 proved that Google is serious about entering the IoT domain. Google Home will be an important cog in that wheel.

9. Project Fi for more devices – This is only an outside chance – but the announcement of Project Fi for more devices (in addition to the Google Pixel and Nexus phones) at the forthcoming Google I/O conference cannot be ruled out either. Project Fi has already become relatively popular as a reliable cross-carrier network – and users have liked the auto-switching of carriers for faster, better mobile data usage. It is indeed time for Google to roll out this tool to more Android handsets.

10. More on Google Duo – The personalized video-calling app that Google announced at I/O 2016 has failed to make much of a splash till now. Although the option seeing live video stream of callers before receiving a call (the video continues during the conversation as well) is interesting enough, Google Duo has not found many takers – and the company will surely looking to set that straight at the 2017 conference. According to many leading Android software and app developers, Duo might be integrated with Hangouts, to boost adoption rates and engagement. Also, with Hangouts becoming more business-oriented, the opportunities for Google Duo to become popular have increased. There should be some information shared on this at the conference.

Note: The video-streaming feature of Google Duo is called ‘Knock Knock’. The app, of course, is available on both Android and iOS.

11. The road ahead for Chrome OS – Google’s stand on Chrome OS is rather confusing. Although it has been confirmed that all Chromebooks launched in 2017 will support Android apps, there are no chances of Chrome OS and Android to get unified in the foreseeable future (as reiterated by Hiroshi Lockheimer, a Senior VP at Google). There is, however, a probability of the OS getting some new features and user tricks this year. At the I/O conference, some more devices running on Chrome OS might also be announced.

12. A tease about Google’s autonomous cars – The venue of the annual Google I/O event was shifted from San Francisco (2008-15) to Mountain View last year, probably with a view to test out the company’s fleet of self-driving cars. The project received a serious setback last September – when a modified Lexus SUV was involved in a mjaor accident (at Mountain View). However, the fault was not due to any shortcomings in the technology (it was more of a human error). In December 2016, the self-driving vehicle project was spun into a separate company named Waymo – independent of Alphabet Inc. In I/O 2017, there are some (albeit slight) chances of more information about Google driverless cars becoming available.

13. A stronger Android Auto ecosystem – Google also has scopes to to make Android Auto more powerful and feature-rich. By the end of 2022, it has been predicted that the total number of connected car units will inch close to the 40 million mark – and with Apple Car reportedly eyeing a 2019 release, Android Auto needs to improve fast. Not much has been heard about the ‘intelligent navigation system’ from Waze after it was first discussed in 2015 – and it can well be discussed at Google I/O 2017. More likely are the announcements of the arrival of more new vehicle models in the Android Auto ecosystem. Hyundai already offers support to Blue Link and Google Auto.

There are no practically no chances of any fresh information on Project Ara – Google’s modular smartphone – at the upcoming conference. While the project seemed promising enough in 2013, it kept losing steam, launch dates kept getting pushed back, and Google finally suspended the project in September 2016.

At the I/O 2017 conference, attending developers will get the opportunity to check out the latest Google APIs, communicate on a one-on-one basis with Google executives, and build their peer networks. Billed as an ‘outdoor developer festival’ – Google I/O has always been one of the most exciting events in the annual tech calendar, and this year is not going to be any exception.