You probably already know that adding keywords to the description of your Android app will help your app rank for those keywords on Google Play. In case you are new to Android ASO, this is because Google gets your app's keywords primarily from the app name and description.
But are there any other ways that you can optimize the description of your app besides adding your keywords and hoping for the best? This post will give you one reason why you should optimize the first 167 characters of your app's description. We will also provide examples that we think you will find very interesting.
For anyone trying to figure out exactly how Google decides where an app ranks for its keywords, there are a lot of dead ends. Just like Apple, Google will not release the entire ranking algorithm because that would make it too easy to manipulate the search rankings.
Our Difficulty Score will help you select low competition keywords. But figuring out where to place those keywords in your app's description is not as obvious.
If you look to Google for guidance, their information isn't very specific. They do have a page that gives you some tips on how to get discovered on Google Play search.
When you start reading through it, there is a promising link to "SEO Best Practices," but when you click on that link, it only leads to very general information about how to hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant. Other links and videos on this page talk about general SEO and ASO concepts, rather than the most effective way to add keywords to your description.
Back to square one.
But Google is giving you a hint. Since web search is in their DNA, basic SEO should hold some of the answers we are looking for. This is where the 167 characters come in.
The first 167 characters are important for your search rankings because they are used as the meta description for your app's page. For this reason alone, you should carefully consider how you begin your app description.
If you aren't familiar with SEO, the title tag and the meta description of a webpage are two of the primary inputs that Google uses to determine the keywords of a page.
To see the meta description of any Google Play page, right-click on the page and select "View Page Source."
Then search for:
This will give you the meta description. Sometimes you will see more than 167 characters in the meta description, but that will be because there are symbols that are represented differently than they appear in the description.
But does the text in the meta description really matter? Let's take a look at a couple of examples to see how much of a role this could play in ASO.
Remember that there are other factors that affect rankings such as: number of installs, app engagement, number of uninstalls and much more. So just like anything else in ASO, there is no one strategy that will work all the time and things may change. You still need to test your keywords to find out if this works for your apps.
First, let's research this keyword with our Keyword Research module for Google Play and find out how competitive it is. It has a Difficulty Score of 2, so it is not hard to rank for this keyword.
When you search for this keyword on Google Play, almost all of the first 24 apps have the keyword in their app name. We aren't too interested in these apps because we know that having the keyword in the title of the app already gives it a huge advantage.
However, apps #1 and #2 are worth mentioning. The app that ranks #1 for this keyword does not actually have the keyword in its name or the first 167 characters of the description. But it does have a name that is close: Bardbarian, which appears in both.
Google's algorithm probably thinks that Bardbarian is close enough or might be a variation of the word. One thought to consider when naming your app.
The app that ranks #2 for this keyword is called Barbarian Horde. Not so unusual.
What is unusual is that the app beats out other apps that have a lot more downloads and ratings, as you will see in a minute. It also has the shortest app description ever. But as you can see, it does have "barbarian" in the first 167 characters. Since this keyword is not so competitive, it may be easier to get away with a shorter description.
But where things really start to get interesting is at position #25. This is where Clash of Clans ranks for this keyword. As we mentioned above, CoC is a huge app with millions of downloads, yet it is only able to rank #25 for this keyword.
The reason that it does rank for this keyword is that it has the keyword in its description. It also happens to be in the first 167 characters.
At position #27, Catapult Lite is another app that does not have the keyword in its name, but it is the first keyword in the description. The number of installs of this app is good, but the average rating and number of ratings are not great. Yet it still ranks pretty well for this keyword.
But this is an easy keyword to rank for. What if we examine a more difficult keyword?
This keyword is significantly harder to rank for, as we can see from its 8.6 Difficulty Score.
Again, we are going to look for instances where apps rank for the keyword, but don't have the keyword in the name. Most of the top apps have some variation of "run" in their names.
The first app that does not is Couch to 5K. It could be argued that Google's search algorithm might identify "5K" as a word closely related to running. But for simplicity, let's take the name of the app at face value.
When we look at the app's description we find that "running" is the seventh word.
Since that app might have a running related keyword in its name, let's find another app that doesn't. Four positions later, we find the popular game Subway Surfers. Neither of these words could be considered to be very closely related to "running."
When we look at their app description, we find that they don't actually have any form of "run" in their description. However, the first word in the description is "dash," a closely related world. This is another example of how the Google search algorithm is good at identifying closely related keywords and ranking apps accordingly.
We could provide many more examples, but you get the idea. The best thing to do right now is to try it for yourself. Examine some of your target keywords and the top apps that rank for those keywords.
Just like everything else in App Store Optimization, this is not a silver bullet. You will still need to test it to see if it works for your app and category.
There are other known ranking factors that we have not taken into account. Things like: uninstalls, engagement and retention are not shown on each app's page, but are factored into the rankings.
We may consider doing a more in-depth post on this in the future. But if this interests you, be sure to test it on your next description update.
Do you find that it is easier to rank for a keyword when it is in the beginning of your app's description? Let us know in the comments below...