Google Play Description – How to write for ranking and conversion

The Google Play description, or more specifically, the full description is the primary field used by Google to determine keyword rankings for an app.

Only 30 characters are allocated for an app title, and only 80 for the short description – which limits the phrases and keywords an app can target.  Keywords used in these fields carry more weight (that’s why we say to put the app’s most important features there), but don’t offer a mobile app publisher much room for keyword coverage.

Google Play Full Description

With 4,000 characters allocated to the full description, Google uses the field to discover what keywords and phrases help explain this app for indexing, and ultimately ranking in search results.

Potential users searching the app store use the Google Play description to learn more about the app, primary features, functions, benefits and use cases.

Full Description recommendations

With 4,000 characters to work with, about 600 words, publishers have ample space to introduce or further expand on primary and secondary features and benefits.

Coverage of relevant keywords and phrases is the main goal in drafting an optimized app description for Google Play.

Feature-forward copy will naturally create relevant coverage of important keywords and phrases, which will help Google index the app.

Format for readability

Format the full description with users in mind.  Shorter sentences and paragraphs, bold text and lists are generally considered easier to read.

Bulleted lists are great for explaining features, and make it easier for readers to understand the specifics of each point.

The description is also a great place to provide contact and social media contacts.

Add email and web addresses, and links to important social media properties if those apply.

Hotels.com does a good job of both creating feature-forward copy, formatted for readability in their Google Play app listing, but has room for improvement:

Google Play description

First, instead of simply “PLAN, BOOK, MANAGE”, we would have liked to see Hotels.com create more relevant keyword/phrase coverage by being more specific.

Instead of “PLAN” – how about “Plan Your Next Trip” or even more specific “Plan your next trip – discover pefect hotels, vacation deals and save your favorites”.

The actual phrases would depend on what Hotels.com target audience is searching for, and what they feel is most useful and helpful for potential users.

Additionally – we would have liked to see them use all 4,000 characters and include relevant contact details.

Google Play description guidelines

Similar to how Google updates their web search algorithm, Google creates and updates guidelines for app listings, many focused on keeping publishers from attempting to hack Google Play rankings.

We wrote about a recent change here:

Your app description should avoid excessive detail and references to your other apps or products.

For example, you should not list all of the details of content included in the app or its various components, as shown in the example below.

Also, the description should not include any references to other apps that you’ve published. –support.google.com

For a complete list of guidelines – check out the guide here.

How to Name an App – the Apple App Name

Sometimes referred to as the app title, the app name is the single most important part of optimizing your mobile app.

The Apple app name serves as both a primary field for indexing by Apple, and a key tool for converting app store views to installs.

If viewers of the app don’t immediately understand what the app is and does from the app name, they will move on.

The app name as it appears in Apple app store mobile search result:

How to name an app example

The app name in Apple’s app store listing mobile view:

IMG_0189

How to name an app

For the app name field, lead with the app’s brand/product name followed by the most searched for and/or differentiating features.

“Name – Feature #1, Feature #2”

Hotels.com provides a good example of the use of this format.

How to name an app example

The app name should clearly describe what your app does, using the search terms your target audience uses to search for apps.

  • Brand Name:  Hotels.com
  • Feature #1:  Hotel booking
  • Feature #2:  Last minute hotel deals

Worth noting, the use of the modifier “last minute” provides Hotels.com an opportunity to target both the 4 word phrase “Last minute hotel deals” and also the shorter and broader “hotel deals”.

This approach best positions an app for indexation for relevant phrases, and is more likely to be installed by the targeted audience as the highlighted features address specific, targeted searches.

Apple app name length

Apple’s app name field has a 255 character limit, but rarely approves app names over 100 characters.

Part of this can be explained by how Apple indexes the app name, giving more weight to keywords and phrases found in the app name than in the 100 character keywords field.

This is why the format of “Name – Feature #1, Feature #2” works so well for so many of our clients.  The 2 most important features are given the most significance when indexed by Apple.

Given a 255 character limit, app publishers have attempted to hack the app store rankings by creating app names that are stuffed with keywords that are only remotely relevant to their app.

This is not a good short or long-term strategy.

The problems with long app names stuffed with keywords are two-fold:

  • long app names look bad and spammy, hurting conversion rates
  • Apple rejects apps with spammy titles delaying release and potentially future ranking opportunities

How to change the name of an app

App store optimization is an on-going process of testing, measuring , adjusting and repeating as app store search evolves and search trends change.

Changing which features are highlighted in the app name and adjusting the app name as needed is a routine part of ASO.

While an Apple app’s description can be changed  at any time, the app name can only be updated when submitting a new version of an app. This requires a new build to be submitted to Apple, and includes a manual review of both the code and the app listing metadata – app name included.

Additional Apple app name rules

Apple’s public developer site provides additional details and more information on Apple app name guidelines.

App Screenshots for Apple

Simply, app store screenshots are a tool for conversion and an important part of Apple app store ASO.

Found on an app’s store listing page, app screenshots should reinforce the features mentioned in the app name and description, and address the expectations of potential users arriving from relevant search results.

Highlight app functionality based on trending phrases data, with the most sought after or differentiating features first.

IMG_0191
App Store Listing Page
IMG_0192
App Store Search Results

Screenshot requirements

Apple requires each app to include at least one screenshot for its app listing, and up to 5 per target device type.

app screenshots ios

The size of the image matches the target device screen size per the below and in more detail here (must be logged in to Developer Console):

5.5in (iPhone 6 Plus):
1242 × 2208px portrait

4.7in (iPhone 6):
750 × 1334px portrait

4in (iPhone 5 and 5s):
640 × 1096px portrait (without status bar) minimum
640 × 1136px portrait (full screen) maximum
1136 × 600px landscape (without status bar) minimum
1136 × 640px landscape (full screen) minimum

3.5in (iPhone 4 and 4s):
640 × 920px portrait (without status bar) minimum
640 × 960px portrait (full screen) maximum
960 × 600px landscape (without status bar) minimum
960 × 640px landscape (full screen) maximum

Because Apple provides space for screenshots for each device, app publishers should create 5 screenshots for every device the app supports.

For example, Apps that support iPad should have iPad screenshots..

App store screenshot design

App store screenshots for iOS apps don’t have to be just images of the app, but can be designed to include text for explaining a feature or creating a call to action.

The template below provides an example of how an app screenshot for the app listing can be a “screenshot within a screenshot”.

800x518_App-Store-Screenshot-Generator-Preview-2

There are some limitations to what Apple will allow in the screenshots field.

Screenshots that show actual screens from within the app without additional graphics added, used in realistic scenarios should be fine.

creative app screenshots

Apple’s app marketing guidelines provides a complete set of rules.

We recommend polling the target audience or running a focus group to test an  app’s screenshots and ensure they are optimized for conversion.

App Icon Design for iOS

When a user is scrolling through a list of mobile apps, one of the first elements of an app listing users see is the app’s icon.

To optimize an app for Apple, an app icon that converts is key.

App icon design comes down to aligning what the app does with what prospective users would expect to see in an app icon. Said another way, the icon should help communicate or reinforce what the app does, per the expectation of a viewer.

In the app store sections or tabs “Featured Apps”, on any of the free, paid and grossing lists and when exploring categories – users see only the app icon and a shortened app title.

App Store Icons

If an app icon doesn’t draw a user’s interest immediately (under 3 seconds) – they will move on.

Apple app store search results show more information including the app icon, the app name, the description, 2 screenshots and ratings – but the icon is still featured prominently.

IMG_0195

App guidelines

There are all sorts of studies on colors, text on icons, gloss or no gloss and more.  We have found the very best way to know which app icon converts best with a target audience is to ask them.

Ideally, app publishers could load 4-8 different app icons and measure which icon converted the most users. Apple does not currently support this type of testing (multivariate or A/B testing).

Because the app icon plays such a significant role in conversion, optimizing the app icon design for conversion can we have a big impact on conversion rates and downloads.

We run focus groups here at Gummicube to assess which app icon designs convert best.  We don’t want to leave this up to chance or play any guessing games with an app element that is so important and impactful.

Polling an email list is another option, but we have found no better way to select the very best creative elements like the app icon and screenshots than investing in focus groups.

App icon design tips

  • Leverage your brand if its  identifiable
  • Communicate basic features if possible
  • Consider the user experience by comparing how your app icon looks next to others in search results