Listings and ratings on Google Play have changed. Make sure you update your app. Here’s how…

How important is that search box in Google Play?

Well, here’s a clue. According to Sensor Tower, 88 percent of Android game downloads come from organic search and browse.

Yes, that figure was from 2018, and yes it only applies to games. Still, we can safely assume that the overall percentage for all apps must skew pretty high.

Which explains why ASO (app store optimization) is such as big deal. Knowing how to name, describe and market your app so that the algorithms can find it can make the difference between a hit and a flop. It’s critical to get this stuff right.

But there’s a flipside. Google doesn’t want you to game the system to the point that it deceives consumers. So it keeps tweaking the rules. And if you are not up to date with these changes, you might find your app disappears from the search results overnight.

Well, guess what? Google is in the middle of a major overhaul right now.

If you are not aware of this, you should be. So read on because this blog will tell you what’s changing and how you should respond…

 

Changes to the way app ratings are calculated

Ratings really matter. A small change can make all the difference to your install rates. It pays to stay on top of Google’s method for calculating ratings. And they’re currently changing in a number of ways.

  • Ratings are becoming more region-specific.


Google is aware that ratings from one area can unfairly impact another. For example, when a bug only impacts a single country and global ratings fall as a result. So from November 2021, it started to display only ratings specific to a user’s registered country. 

  • Ratings are becoming more device specific.


Apps may function better on some device types than on others (phones, tablets, chromebooks, wearables). Early in 2022, users will start seeing ratings specific to the device type they are using, meaning that they will not be impacted by negative ratings from other device types.

  • New ratings data is now available on the Google Play Developer Console. 

Developers can now see ratings by device type and with more flexible date and period selections (from the last 28 days through to your app’s complete lifetime). Coupled with rating data based on Android version, app version, language and country/region already displayed on the console, you can get a much more accurate picture of your app’s performance over time, work out your weak and strong points, and know exactly where to focus your efforts.

It’s generally believed that the star rating displayed to users is heavily weighted towards ratings received in the last 28 days. With users now only seeing ratings from their specific country and device type, this makes it a lot quicker and easier to influence the star rating through app improvements. Recently we have seen app ratings on Calldorado’s own apps jump from 3.9 to 4.8 and from 3.2 to 4.3 in just a few weeks, following some app updates.

 

New rules on app naming and descriptions

Google introduced a new policy on the naming and description of apps on September 29th 2021.

The changes are all designed to stop developers using cheap attention-grabbing tricks that risk duping end users.

Obviously, you should already be on top of the new rules. Your app could be rejected if it does not meet these guidelines. But if you are not, here they are…

  • The app name must be 30 characters or less (down from 50 characters).
  • You cannot use emojis, emoticons or repeated special characters (e.g. !!!).
  • You can no longer use red ‘new notification’ symbols on the app icon listing.
  • No more use of the word ‘new’.
  • You cannot add the year to the app icon.
  • The use of all CAPS is no longer allowed (unless it is part of the brand identity).
  • You can no longer add text or images that indicate price, store performance, or ranking. For example: BEST, FREE, TOP, NO.1, EDITORS CHOICE etc.

(* points 2 to 6 relate to both the app name and the publisher name).

 Of course, these new rules are merely the latest in a long list of restrictions. Google also prohibits apps that…

  • Claim functionalities they cannot implement.
  • Are improperly categorized.
  • Use unattributed or anonymous user testimonials in store descriptions.
  • Use data comparison with other apps or brands.
  • Use keyword spamming (all store listings must be well written and logically structured).
  • Use repeated word blocks and lists (horizontal lists of features are okay, just not horizontal lists of individual words).
  • Incentivize users into giving high ratings with giveaways.

 

Changes to privacy and security information

Awareness of the way that some apps track and collect data on users exploded in 2021. Consumers got wise. And the OS providers responded.

In May, Google announced its new rules to protect users.

The main change was the introduction of a new safety section in Google Play. The aim is to give users a deeper insight into an app’s privacy and security practices, and explain the data it might collect (and why) — before they install it.

So all apps are now required to share information in the safety section. This includes:

  • What type of data is collected and shared (location, contacts, email etc.).
  • How the data is used (to aid app functionality, personalization etc.).
  • Whether data collection is optional or needed to use the app

 
The new safety section will launch for apps in Google Play in Q1 2022. However, you have until April 2022 to get this section approved. After that, your submission or app update may be rejected.

Obviously, most of you will be on top of the above changes. But for the small minority that are not, it’s important to act now. 

As with all such modifications, this is a case of ‘carrot and stick’. Use the new rules wisely and you will improve your ratings and increase user trust. Ignore them and you risk disappearing from organic search results and appearing casual about security.

 

Here at Calldorado, we’ve seen the positive impact on our own in-house apps. We urge you to make the necessary changes as soon as possible!

 

Tim Green

Tim Green

Journalist

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