Google today announced that it is making several changes to the Google Play Store that will impact the discoverability of Android apps, how developers can market their apps to consumers, and various trust and security issues. More importantly, Google is now telling developers that the Play Store will start prioritizing apps that offer both technical and built-in quality by promoting them to more places in the Play Store where they can be discovered by consumers.
The changes suggest Google’s intention to take a more editorial look at how apps are presented and distributed on the Play Store. It’s an area that’s generally been a priority for Apple in previous years – particularly after its own App Store overhaul in 2017, which saw it separate games and apps into their own tabs and apps. introducing editorial content, including articles and tips, to the store’s main page.
The Play Store doesn’t go that far, however. Instead, Google says it will now start steering consumers away from lower-quality apps by changing how it determines which apps will be made more visible on the platform.
Specifically, it implements new quality thresholds that will exclude apps that exceed certain crash rates and “application unresponsive” (ANR) rates, both on an aggregate basis and by phone model. Google says apps that don’t meet these thresholds will be excluded from certain areas of the Play Store, including recommendations, while others may even include a warning on their store listing to set appropriate user expectations.
Beyond technical quality, Play Store publishers will also look at a range of factors, such as whether the app or game has a neat design or not, whether the content keeps users engaged, whether the process of integration is clear, if the advertisements are well integrated. , whether the application is accessible and whether the navigation, controls and menus are easy to use, among other things. They will also check if the app meets Android’s quality guidelines and best practices, detailed on the Android Developers website.
Additionally, the company will offer developers new promotional content formats and a new type of custom store listing designed to help put apps in front of more users.
In the first case, developers will be able to take advantage of LiveOps – the special merchandising units to promote apps on the Play Store. Today, these are used to promote discounts and offers, major app updates, in-app events, pre-registration announcements, and more. Apple has a similar feature, launched last year. Marketing unit types give app stores a more real-time feel as they can market reasons to download and launch apps nowinstead of just serving as a general promotion.
Google notes that developers using LiveOps saw a 3.6% increase in revenue and a 5.1% increase in 28-day daily active users compared to similar titles that don’t take advantage of the offer. Now it will rebrand LiveOps as “Promotional Content” to reflect longer-term plans to expand the feature to support new types of content – including those that will see promotional units appear more deeply integrated into the Play Store on user home pages, in search and discovery areas, in title listings, and directly in apps via deep links.
Developers will also soon be able to create a new type of list that will allow them to specifically target disillusioned users (people who tried the app or game and then gave up). This “Custom Store Listings for Churned Users” format, which will roll out closer to the end of the year, will be able to display a specific message designed to reacquire previous users.
Two other changes focus on app security and protecting developers — and consumers who download their apps — from coordinated attacks.
Google will update the Play Integrity API, which helps protect against risky and fraudulent traffic, with more features. Developers will be able to customize API responses, set up tests in the Play Console, and use new reports to analyze their API responses. They will also be able to debug API responses from the Play Store app developer settings on any device.
Additionally, Google is announcing a new program designed to combat coordinated attacks on app ratings and reviews. The company hasn’t provided much information about how this program works, but it would give developers a way to retaliate if their app was unfairly targeted with fake reviews, either by users or presumably by their competitors. This is a concern that recently made headlines, in fact, when a leading new social app, Gas, suddenly became the target of a hoax claiming it was being used for human trafficking. human beings, leading users to delete their accounts.
The changes follow previous updates to the Play Store designed to help consumers better discover non-smartphone apps running on their smartwatches, TV or tablets. Earlier this year, Google also warned developers that it would hide and block downloads of outdated apps. Google has alerted developers that they must now, as of November 1, 2022, target API level 30 (Android 11) or higher if they want their app to be discoverable on the Play Store by new users running apps. newer versions of the Android operating system.