Google discloses how search for Google Play works for the first time; 12 percent of DAU search for apps daily

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By Scott Reyburn

google-play-logoAt Google I/O today in San Francisco, head of search and discovery for Google Play Ankit Jain detailed how developers can get their apps discovered through search and other mechanisms on the Google Play app store.

“We’ve never discussed our search for Google Play until today,” Jain said.

Jain first explained major install sources for apps including browsing discovery features and search queries. Some browsing discovery features were charts (Editors’ picks, top free apps, etc.), personalized recommendations (a feature announced at Google I/O 2012), and related/cross-sell (“users also viewed” and “users also installed”). Jain then detailed two kinds of search queries — categorical and navigational. Categorical queries are broad search terms such as “free games,” “train schedules,” and “multiplayer games,” while navigational queries are exact search terms like “Angry Birds,” Hotel Tonight,” and “Beautylish.”

“For the average app, search actually makes up the vast majority of installs,” he added.

To follow up his statement, Jain reveals some Google Play search data for the first time. He said 12 percent of daily active users (DAU) search for apps daily, 50 percent of DAU search for apps weekly and Google sees six million unique phrases searched monthly.

Jain explained the anatomy of good app metadata. An app’s title is the most important piece of metadata, he said, adding that a title should be short and clear as well as unique and creative. “It’s important to be creative as well as detailed,” he says. For example, “Beautylish: Makeup Beauty Tips.” Also, developers should think like a user by getting their main message about their app in the first sentence of an app’s description in the app store. “Right up front, make sure your user knows what your app is about,” Jain explained. Screenshots and videos also play a citical role when encouraging users to download an app, he said.

When it comes to reviews and ratings, Jain reveals that reviews are ordered based on relevance to the user, such as reviews from others users who have the same device or live in the same country. Jain says reviews and ratings are “a very strong signal for us on Google Play.”

Developers are always wondering how their app can be featured in the app store. Jain reveals that Google takes into account app statistics such as installs, uninstalls, long installs (an app that has been installed for months) and engagement. “Of course we care about how many installs you have, the more you have, the higher in the ranks you go,” he says.

Below is a chart that shows how Google Play selects the apps that appear in the top lists on Google Play:Google Play discovery top charts

Lastly, Jain provided five tips for helping with app discovery:

  1. Designed for tablets: Jain highly recommends that developers with a tablet app get the “designed for tablets” designation, which was announced as a new feature for the Google Play Store at Wednesday’s keynote.
  2. Ensure helpful anchor text: Jain says most articles from news outlets don’t use a helpful anchor text that links to an app. He recommends developers work with writers to write something “interesting” in these links.
  3. Avoid common mistakes: Don’t choose an app name that’s a variant of an existing popular app. Also, Jain says of the six million unique phrases searched monthly, 50 percent of the queries are misspelled.
  4. Make your Android application package (APK) smaller: Smaller APKs get installed more.
  5. Create the viral loop for your app: A. Get users to review your apps. B. Don’t get users to leave your app. This can be accomplished by adding an in-app Google+ +1 API, and in the future, Google will release an API for in-app user reviews. C. Integrate Google Play’s newly launched game services.

“At the end of the day, nothing substitutes a very good experience for your app,” Jain concludes.