Once your app has launched and is out in the world, its app store listing becomes its “public face”—the place where new potential customers are most likely to see it. The vast majority of Android users still find new apps and games through the Google Play Store, so it’s important to manage this public face and think about what people will see when they’re scrolling through a category, or when your product comes up in their search results. It’s such an important part of the app funnel that we wanted to go over it in more detail. Do you have a compelling icon? A title that catches their attention—and is easy to remember? How are your ratings? You often only have a few seconds, and in that quick look, you need to be able to represent your offering in a meaningful and compelling way.
Many of these tips and tricks are relevant across not only Google Play, but iTunes, Amazon or the Opera Mobile Store. Read on for thoughts on how you can optimize your app listing, using all of the different elements to your advantage to get in front of your target audience.
Key Components of the Google Play Store
You’re likely familiar with all of these components, but it’s a good idea to remind yourself what you have to work with.
- Screenshots/Creative Assets
- Video demos
- Ratings and Reviews
Icon: One Image to Draw Them In
The icon will always be the first thing a potential customer will see, and in many cases, it may be the only thing a potential customer sees. It will be in a sea of other app icons, so it needs to stand out. It should be attractive, and in line with the overall branding—you don’t want there to be a disconnect once someone actually opens the app. It should also evoke some sense of curiosity or intrigue. Does it speak to the product but make people want to see more? Does it align with your title? Are the colors eye catching?
Title: Hello My Name Is….
Just under your product’s icon is its title. What will your app be called? There are a lot of considerations here, although in the end it will really depend on your specific product and audience. Here are some general guidelines to consider when it coming up with your title.
Keep it short. There's a 30 character limit, but shorter is even better—aim for under 25. Many app titles are two words.
Make it sound good. Create a phrase that rolls off the tongue. You want people to repeat it in their head and remember it easily—that way they can tell others about it and find it when they go searching. Alliteration is a good technique to consider.
Be straightforward. Plainly state what the app does. It’s always helpful to have the main keywords in the title.
Combine unique with common. To create a title for your game, try combining a unique word with a more common word, as in Slappy Bird. Slappy is a unique word, but Bird is a common one. The combination is intriguing, but somehow familiar—and much easier to remember than a title that’s totally unique or comes from a made-up word.
Stick with it. Unlike some of the other elements that we’ll review in this article, that can and should be tweaked and optimized as time goes on, based on real behavior, you should avoid changing your title once you’ve launched. It can be really confusing for consumers, it can make you look unsure yourself, and it can wreak havoc on your search results.
Description: What Is It?
Your app description should provide a clear overview of what you’ve created—and why people should try it. Because it’s a key decision point, you also want to make sure that it’s catchy and compelling. Make use of your tagline and your value prop, to stay on point and on brand. (For more on creating your value prop, see our previous article). The Google Play Store will define your keywords based on the content provided, so keep that in mind when you’re writing the description. Does it include all the relevant keywords? Think about the things your potential customers will search for, and make sure they’re included.
Note: This is also helpful to keep in mind if you want to go the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) route when it comes to marketing your app down the road.
Screenshots/Creative Assets: Let Me See It!
Screenshots are a MUST and should be high-quality and show interesting parts of the game or experience. You aren't limited to just taking a shot of the app in action—think of these as more general creative assets and design something that includes text along with the images. For a game, that could be the first few sentences of the storyline along with compelling scenes of the gameplay. For an app, call out key features and benefits. Keep all visual elements in line with your product’s overall branding, and for an extra professional look, place the screenshots themselves inside a photo of a phone or tablet.
The Cartwheel app by Target is a good example of a simple showcase of features and benefits—clean design, simple messaging about benefits, and true to brand. The popular game Clash of Clans makes use of cinematic scenes, along with screenshots that focus on key features, all of which are written out on medieval banners that belong to the visual language of the game.
Video Demos: The App in Action
Video demos have become an important part in how people decide whether or not to download an app, and it's a must for gaming, which relies so heavily on the experience of gameplay. Videos are uploaded to YouTube, and easily viewed through the Play Store. There are also a few different types of video demos to consider, including:
- Movie trailer – Full production, soaring scenes and voiceovers. See: Angry Birds 30 second spot.
- Character talking overs screenshots – Screenshots of the game, along with a voiceover which is explaining what's happening on the screen. The voiceover can be from a character in the game, or more generic.
- Simulation – Provides a first-person experience of using the app.
Ratings and Reviews: When the Public Has Spoken
Ratings and reviews are a hugely important factor in any app store. Many apps are chosen on the basis of ratings and reviews, so although these are ultimately at the mercy of your, you need to understand what kind of an effect you can have on them, and how reviews ultimately can help you improve the app.
Pay Attention to Them
This is especially true in the beginning. Early negative reviews often indicate a technology problem, like crashes, so you want to pay a lot of attention to those, especially in the beginning as you’re working out bugs. See what people are saying and if they’re having problems, work to solve them quickly. When you post the update, highlight any major fixes in the “What’s New” section of the description.
Ask for Them
Sometimes people just need a little nudge, and then they’d be happy to leave a review or rate your app. You can set it up so that at a certain interval, users will see a prompt within the app itself—look to 3rd party plug-ins to handle this pretty easily. It’s also a good idea to use a two-step process for requesting these reviews. First, choose an interval that makes sense—they’ve come back a few times or completed a few games. Then set up a trigger that will start by asking users a question—Are they enjoying the game? Do they find the app useful? If they say yes, ask them to review or rate the app. If they say no, ask them for more direct feedback, and try to work with them to solve any issues they might be having. This is a more advanced process, but it actively works to prevent bad reviews, and to improve the app itself.
Manage Bad Reviews
In the beginning, look for crashes and try to act as quickly as possible. But if you continue to have bad reviews? Be prepared to take an honest look at how well your product is delivering on its promise. The truth is that it’s very hard to survive with a lot of bad reviews—most people will move on very quickly and never give you a chance. Beyond initial launch, bad reviews likely indicate bigger structural or conceptual problems that will need to be solved before you can succeed. No matter where you are in the product cycle, it can always be helpful to return to market validation. Refer back to our previous article for more on how to gather feedback from customers and steer yourself in the right direction.
Who Else Is on the Shelf?
It’s important to review what the competition is doing, especially in such a crowded marketplace. Look at the top apps in your category—and the bottom ones, if you can find them. What’s working and what isn’t? Look at their presence in the Play Store. How well do their title and description reflect their value proposition? What kind of imagery are they using? You should also read reviews to find out what people did and didn’t like about those products—something that can even inform product development if you do it early enough. Understanding the landscape and how you fit into it is an important part of your ongoing strategy.
There’s No Finish Line to Cross
Your app listing on the Google Play Store will never be fully optimized, so it’s helpful to think of it as something you'll never actually finish. And that's a good thing! So many things change so quickly, and you need to be able to keep it fresh. Don’t forget to keep your eye on reviews, and check back to make sure that your public face is still doing a good job reflecting your product and its values in the current marketplace.
What makes you click on an app when you’re browsing the Play Store? Have you ever been surprised—pleasantly or unpleasantly—by an app based on the way it was described or shown in the store? Tell us in the comments!