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5 Takeaways From the Google Play Console Organic Search Keyword Insights

Gabe Kwakyi | September 11, 2018

Interested to learn more about the google play console organic search keyword and explore insights? Read on and stay tuned to Incipia.


#1 Google Play Organic Keyword Insights Should be Used Directionally

While tempting to behold the holy grail and immediately take off on optimizations based on the data, it would be more prudent to begin by assessing the data as one more point in a holistic plan, and to understand the normalcy of organic keyword search insights before making big decisions.

First, much of the search data is hidden within "other," which is extremely opaque and can potentially hide mid-to-long tail phrases made up of single words, skewing the total contribution margin of individual words; this is especially risky when analyzing by ARPU/retention rate. While extending your date range is one way to peer deeper into "other," there will remain a good number of words hidden inside of this bucket.

Second, the data is not segmented by country making it difficult to tease out regional trends, especially when considering a shared language between countries. This may be an opportunity for ASO tools to provide some type of NLP mapping for country fit, but this will be an imperfect method and can be a cause for mucking up the accuracy of your regional analysis.

A safe place to start using the google play organic insights data is by recording  search term data over several weeks and doubling down in optimizing for search keywords which consistently have staying power in the list of visible terms week after week. The organic search insights is also an excellent way to validate your existing ASO strategy, by assessing whether your targeted keywords show up in this list (but once more beware of the "other" bucket).

#2 Your App's Keywords Groupings and Related App Placement Matter More in Google Play ASO

As a consequence of such a high number of installs being sourced from Google Play explore (see point #5), success in ASO is tied to your app being found for the right keyword categories and related apps, potentially even more-so than showing up on the right search keywords.

Unfortunately, while Google has provided great new visibility into search keyword organic insight, Google has provided no commensurate level of granularity for explore organic traffic, such as the keyword groupings or related apps that led to your app being seen/downloaded. Given the algorithmically-driven (i.e. constantly changing) nature of explore, it will be a difficult task for ASOs to keep tabs on suggested/related apps and keyword groupings; yet this data is now proven to be crucial for ASOs to properly optimize their Google Play ASO strategy. At the very least, the success of metadata optimization and conquesting/app targeted UA (to raise your app's likeliness of showing as a suggested/related app) can be tracked vis-a-vis the aggregate trends in store listing visitors and installers from explore.

google play explore

#3 Google Play Organic Keyword Insights Should Be Assessed Alongside Keyword Ranks

One of the challenges in reading the organic keyword search insights data is that the conversion rate can and will fluctuate depending on the rank of your app for the keyword, within the time period you are analyzing. Without also tracking keyword rank alongside your organic search keyword data, the insights you derive may be taken out of context and endanger your decisions.

For instance, seeing that a keyword search is very low in installer volume could lead an ASO to de-prioritize that keyword; yet if the keyword is ranked 100th and drove several hundred downloads, this could actually be a great keyword to continue optimizing for.




#4 For Large Apps, Install Contribution Margin Tilts Far More Towards Explore in Android than iOS

Saving the most interesting finding for last, from a random sampling of apps we saw that the play store (organic) explore source for large apps generally produced higher installer traffic than search. In some cases, explore generated 100-300% higher installs than did the did play store (organic) search source.

This differs starkly from the iOS App Store trends, where (save for the odd Today app feature) the App Store Browse source type provides far, far fewer app units than does App Store Search.

google play explore

As depicted in the two sets of graphs below (they both express the same outcome, just in different ways in case one makes more sense to you than the other), the number of downloads that a smaller app receives from browse/explore is about the same in both iOS and Android; yet for the larger apps, the percentage of downloads coming from Explore on Google Play is far larger than the same app's percentage of downloads coming from Browse in the App Store.



Note: The below data is from two games for the most recent 7 days, with search ads conversions excluded from iOS app store search. None of the apps below had regular features during this time period.

Android google play console organic insightsiOS itunes connect app analytics source type

Android google play console organic insights_2

iOS itunes connect app analytics source type_2

There are four takeaways:

  1. Both Apple and Google have an interest in controlling the discoverability of apps that have grown to capture significant user interest (i.e. mostly high downloads velocity with high conversion rate, but also some combination of ratings/retention/grossing).
  2. Neither Apple nor Google seems to care about smaller apps (unless it is to make money off of them via UAC or Search Ads Basic).
  3. Google has proven that it has more commanded over the discoverability of apps (particularly larger apps) than Apple does, despite Apple's best efforts with the updates in iOS 11 (i.e. editorials, the today tab, splitting games and apps, app categories, etc.). Google arrived at this point by also being more willing to exert itself in the pursuit of control. For instance, the Google Play Store includes a programmatic, near-endless scroll of featured keyword groupings and suggested apps in the app/game views, while Apple truncates its app/games featured section in favor of a more human-curated experience and "Apple-y" design style.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, realizing success in ASO continues down the path of "it takes money to make money," as bigger budgets unlock more explore/browse returns, which are becoming a larger share of new downloads vs search.

This last point could use an entire deep-dive into macro economical implications (Eric Seufert anyone?), but one of the reasons Google has seen success here is likely due to its experiments in redesigning the Play Store UX.

For both Apple and Google though, it's likely that the percentage of downloads sourced from browse/explore will increase as time goes on, as both companies continue optimizing their control over discoverability (and their own checkbooks).

#5 Google Play Organic Explore Converts Much Higher than iOS App Store Browse

Adding fuel to the fire of point #4 is the final, fifth finding, which is that the conversion rate from Google Play's explore source is not that much lower than search in Google Play; in fact in some cases we saw explore record a higher conversion rate than search. Retention rate and ARPU also appeared to be strong for explore in the cases we saw.

The takeaway from this finding is that Google's Play Store app discovery algorithm is proving to be just as, or nearing just as capable of identifying users who want certain apps as Google's original innovation: keyword search.

In this light, the combined benefit of UAC paid app discovery and Google's Play Store explore discovery may end up being a turning point for the company in its fight against another adversary: Facebook. While forcing of app advertisers to use UAC was in many ways a money-grab by a Google fearful of Facebook's runaway success in sucking up mobile marketing budgets, it was a first-mover action that gave Google more time (and data) to train its algorithm to become better at a time when Facebook's mobile marketing prowess took off on another "S-curve" with its deployment and huge industry wins of value-based lookalikes and event-optimized campaign targeting.

Google's machine learning algorithms have the unique benefit of learning from both organic and paid discovery which is something that Facebook does not have, and by forcing UAC on advertisers, Google doubled the speed at which its algorithms could learn and improved its chance of catching up to and perhaps surpassing Facebook. Furthermore, by training users in the Play Store to click on related/suggested apps (i.e. explore), Google is increasingly locking in revenue-driving behavior as it expands UAC placements into more places in the Play Store (i.e. explore).


That’s all for today! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts breaking down mobile marketing concepts.

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