Google Play’s Metadata Policy Changes: What Happened?

In April 2021, Google introduced some important modifications regarding “steering to enhance your app high quality and discovery on Google Play” (Android Builders). In abstract, there are new tips and insurance policies efficient on the Play Retailer from September 29, 2021. Learn this weblog to reply the “what”, “how” and “why” these modifications have been made.

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The primary a part of the announcement associated to a coverage change that can have an effect on app metadata:

  • Up till September 29, 2021, app names on the Play Retailer could possibly be as much as 50 characters. Nonetheless, with the brand new coverage replace, Google requires app titles to be shortened to solely30 characters (the identical restrict as for app titles on the App Retailer).

Further modifications embrace:

  • The prohibition ofkey phrases that recommend retailer efficiency (“high”, “greatest”, “#1”) from the title, icon, and developer title.
  • The elimination ofgraphic parts that will mislead customers (e.g. don’t use textual content to incentivize installs or promote offers) within the app icon and title.

Moreover:

  • Builders should present a transparent and well-written app description that showcases the app’s options and performance.
  • No unattributed or nameless person testimonialswithin the app description.
  • No emojis, emoticons, or repeated particular characterswithin the app icon, title, or developer title.
  • Keep away from writing inALL CAPS until it’s a part of your model title.

With the updates efficient on Google Play since September 29, “app title[s], icon[s] and developer title[s] that don’t meet the upcoming insurance policies is not going to be allowed on Google Play.” A number of examples from Google present what parts ought to – and what mustn’t – be integrated within the app metadata. The key phrases, “high”, “#1”, “greatest”, “free”, “no advertisements” or “advert free” are all phrases which might be now not allowed within the app title, icon, or developer title.

As well as, additional key phrases that encourage customers to take motion, comparable to “replace now” within the icon or “obtain now” within the app title, are frowned upon. Emojis/emoticons, repeated punctuation, or all caps are further examples of don’ts that would result in your app being rejected.

Google additionally introduced new tips for function graphics, screenshots, and movies. All the shop itemizing preview property must showcase the app’s options and performance so customers can anticipate what the app or recreation expertise shall be like. Keep away from including any type of call-to-action, for instance, “Obtain now,” “Set up now,” “Play now,” or “Attempt now” and steer clear of time-sensitive taglines or captions that may grow to be outdated rapidly.

Impression of Google Play coverage modifications on ASO

Relating to App Retailer Optimization, what do these coverage modifications imply on your apps or video games? The 2 foremost areas that can have an effect on ASO on the Play Retailer would be the title size and selection of key phrases.

Beginning with the title, the next impacts on ASO will be anticipated:

  • Whereas these modifications do cut back the accessible house so that you can use key phrases, everyone seems to be required to observe the identical tips. Because of this builders shouldselect essentially the most related and worthwhile key phrases for his or her app(s).
  • Different future front-end or back-end modifications might come into play, such because the elevated use ofGoogle Tags, new methods of that includes apps/video games, and so on.
  • The title change notably impactslanguages that require extra space to convey messages, comparable to French, German or Arabic. However, it impacts Japanese, Chinese language, and Korean localization efforts barely much less.

The second space associated to ASO is the prohibition of using particular key phrases:

  • Phrases like “free”, “high”, “greatest”, and #1 are now not accepted – which means, ideally, all apps/video games could possibly be listed for these key phrases, and together with them is not going to give an additional benefit. This may seem to be an unlucky change in the event you at present have these phrases in your metadata, however it encourages usingextra related key phrases, reasonably than phrases meant to play the algorithm for higher rating.

What occurred after Google Play’s metadata coverage modifications?

These modifications have been carried out on Google Play from September 29, 2021. Earlier than this date, it was unclear as to how Google would penalize apps that didn’t adjust to the brand new guidelines.

Whereas some app builders selected to respect the deadline and keep away from risking any hurt to their app, others have chosen to depart their title unchanged till they see an actual menace. Though Google’s penalties for apps that didn’t respect this deadline stays unclear, if in case you have not up to date your metadata but, it’s best to do it as quickly as doable.

Among the many app builders that stored their 50-character title, some noticed their rankings drop for key phrases showing after the thirtieth character, whereas others noticed their rankings stay steady.

Has Google penalized apps that haven’t up to date their title?

We in contrast rankings for key phrases within the titles of a number of Android apps earlier than and after the coverage change to find out whether or not Google has penalized non-compliant apps. From what we noticed, some apps have misplaced visibility for key phrases included of their title; nonetheless, we’ve got not seen such habits in a adequate variety of apps to make any definitive statements.

Right here’s an instance from CSR Racing 2, a recreation that up to date its title 16 days after the metadata coverage replace (Google Play, UK).

It seems to be like some key phrases included within the title decreased in rankings from September 24—that’s, 4 days earlier than the official enforcement of the brand new coverage. It’s onerous to say whether or not Google had truly began pushing down apps that had not but shortened their title or if these key phrases misplaced visibility as a result of different causes (e.g., fierce competitors, improve in poor score scores, or drop in conversion charge and/or installs).

From the info, we will assume Google’s metadata coverage replace didn’t have any unfavorable influence on rankings for generic key phrases included in Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells’s title. Rankings began lowering extra severely round October 6, which is sensible as this adopted the removing of “match 3 video games” from the title. Subsequently, we cannot assume that apps that didn’t shorten their title to 30 characters misplaced visibility following Google’s metadata coverage change on September 29.

We will see within the upcoming month whether or not Google continues to tolerate apps with titles longer than 30 characters or whether or not Google begins making use of extra extreme measures.

Has Google penalized apps for forbidden key phrases in metadata?

Some members of the ASO Stack Slack neighborhood shared warnings obtained from Google for having key phrases like “first”, “scorching”, “greatest”, “bonus” or “new” of their app title and/or brief description, regardless of the context.

Although Google had initially solely communicated about these key phrases being banned from app titles, it seems to be like they’re additionally extending key phrase restrictions to the brief description. On Google Play Console Assist, right here’s what we learn concerning the brief description:

“Don’t use language that’s not associated to the perform or goal of your app, together with:

  • Language that displays or suggests Google Play efficiency, rating, accolades or awards, person testimonials, or value and promotional info, for instance, “Finest,” “#1,” “Prime,” “New,” “Low cost,” “Sale,” or “Million Downloads.”
  • Name-to-actions, for instance, “obtain now,” “set up now,” “play now,” or “strive now.”

We requested ourselves whether or not Google had truly taken a step additional by pushing down apps that integrated banned key phrases of their metadata. Let’s check out Hill Climb Racing 2 (Google Play, UK).

Although its app title was already solely 30 characters lengthy, its brief description included the key phrase “greatest” for a while after the coverage launch. They eliminated “greatest” on October 15 however added “high” as an alternative, which can also be mentioned to be a prohibited key phrase. Round 10 days later, the one change the app made to its brief description was to take away “high”. We might assume that Google in all probability warned the app for utilizing this time period.

Amongst key phrases included in its metadata, we’ve got noticed rating decreases for the key phrases “race”, “driving recreation”, and “racing” from September 8. It doesn’t appear to be Google’s metadata coverage replace had any influence: rankings have been fairly irregular for a while.

We had a take a look at different markets, particularly Japan the place many apps explicitly present obtain numbers to encourage customers to put in the app. For example, the Japanese app クラッシュフィーバー (Crash Fever) nonetheless exhibits banned key phrases in its brief description and icon however we’ve got not noticed any drop in its visibility.

Has Google penalized apps for forbidden graphics in icons?

In line with Google’s new coverage, apps must also now not present graphic parts that point out rankings or deceptive parts on their icon.

The Japanese app エバーマージキングダム:マージ3パズル (Evermerge Kingdom) is an effective instance of this because it shows the variety of downloads on its icon.

Nonetheless, the visibility historical past of key phrases included within the app’s metadata doesn’t present any clear correlation with the coverage change.

We investigated a bit additional and checked on  Discover part whether or not Evermerge Kingdom has misplaced visibility in Google featurings. The outcomes don’t present any important drop; the variety of featurings stay fairly irregular.

Why has Google modified its insurance policies?

These days, each the App Retailer and the Play Retailer have obtained a lot consideration and scrutiny for numerous practices, together with charge assortment or rip-off apps with excessive subscription prices. Google’s newest transfer doubtless displays its intention to clear up the Play Retailer and permit higher-quality apps and video games to shine. These new tips will make the Play Retailer extra much like the App Retailer, now with the identical title size and related positions on deceptive key phrases.

There are various darkish patterns being utilized by apps that wish to play the “grey space” in between the rule, with ways comparable to together with 5-stars in screenshots when the app score is decrease, false promoting, and focusing on of irrelevant key phrases. Consequently, Google could also be trying to limit the frequency of such practices.

One other principle pertains to the truth that Google is at present engaged on Android 12. With the leaks of Google’s new “Whitechapel” chip, it’s doable that these Play Retailer modifications might accompany a entire new look for the Play Retailer and Android basically.

Efficient from September 29, 2021, Google’s coverage modifications for Play Retailer metadata embrace:

  • Numerous prohibited key phrases, comparable to “free”, “greatest” and “#1” that suggest retailer efficiency, promotion within the icon, title, brief description and developer title.
  • Steerage for app icons and screenshots concerning deceptive photographs and formatting.
  • Shortened title house restrict to 30-characters from the present 50-character subject.

For now, we’ve got not seen clear measures enforced by Google to punish non-compliant app builders. Whereas some app builders with titles longer than 30 characters have seen decreases of their visibility, different “unhealthy scholar” apps haven’t essentially misplaced rankings. As for banned key phrases/graphics in titles, brief descriptions and icons—though apps have obtained warning messages on the Google Play Console—most rating historical past graphs don’t present any decreases that we might hyperlink to the coverage. Let’s see whether or not these warnings truly flip into concrete penalties within the coming months.

Despite the fact that we cannot attain any conclusion as as to if is penalizing non-compliant apps or not, we nonetheless suggest apps that haven’t up to date their metadata but to take action as quickly as doable.

In case your app title remains to be greater than 30 characters and/or your metadata contains banned key phrases, we might advise you to keep watch over your rankings with ASO instrument.