Google has recently announced more changes to the Google Play Developer Policy guidelines, set to take effect “later this year.”
Google will implement policy changes for character count and promotional language, as well as new recommended guidelines for Store listing preview assets. With these new guidelines, the aim is to further ensure developers accurately and honestly represent their apps and improve user experience.
The new “Safety Section”
Regarding the second point, Google has decided to follow the path of its rival Apple. In fact, with the official launch of iOS 14, Apple introduced a new feature, called “App Privacy Labels”, where all apps have to list their data collection practices.
So Google opted to introduce similar requirements for Android apps this year. The company plans to add a new “Safety Section” to the Google Play Store, where app developers will be asked to mention accurate information on the type of data collected and how this will be used.
Specifically, developers will be asked to think about:
- what sort of personal information the app collects
- if it collects information from the phone, like location, media files or contacts.
- how the app uses data: for enhancing the app’s functionality or for personalization purposes
- whether the app needs data to function
- if the app allows users to choose whether to share data
- whether the developer agrees to delete user data when a user uninstalls the app
In addition, developers who already adhere to specific security and privacy practices will additionally be able to highlight that in their app listing.
The fully new policy will be released this summer, giving time to implement the changes needed until the Q2 of 2022.
New guidelines for apps metadata
Google Play is slowly but surely rolling out a significant redesign of its Play Store; this type of changes raise questions such as how will developers benefit from it and, most importantly, what does the redesign mean for App Store Optimization (ASO). In fact, the pre-announced metadata policy changes will surely affect apps’ listing if they don’t meet the new criteria.
Every marketer knows how crucial apps’ metadata is for ASO and for its discoverability in the Stores. That’s why in this article we want to analyze each change that will soon be implemented, discovering how these will impact the ASO strategy for Android apps and what we can do to create an actionable strategy.
#1 change: the title
Google has announced many changes that will concern the title of our app on the Play Store and this policy change will surely be the most impactful across the board. In fact, Google considers the app title, together with the icon and the developer name, as the most important discovery parts of our Store Listing.
The existing limit for the title is 50 characters and many apps that full advantage of this, by adding relevant keywords to the brand name.
But with the new policy, developers will need to keep the character count of app titles restricted to 30 characters or fewer (similar to the App Store).
The main benefit of shorter titles is that truncation(when the title is displayed only partially) will not pose as much of an issue to readability on search page listings. Currently, the best practice is to keep the most informative and relevant information in the first half of the title, as depending on the device the second half could be cut off from view.
Along with the character limit, the new app metadata policies will ban a variety of tricks that app developers use to make their app listings excessively eye-catching.
Writing words in all-caps will no longer be allowed unless it’s the name of a brand, and neither will including emoji, repeated punctuation nor irrelevant special characters in app names. Keywords that imply app store performance, rank, price or promotion in the title, icon and/or developer name will be prohibited as well.
This means that now the hundreds of apps that were using terms like “best” and “Top” (for example “best games” or “top fitness app”) or other types of promotional language such as “Free” or “Sale” and calls-to-action like “Update” or “Download Now”, will need to erase these words from their app title.
Advice #1: While it is important for developers to start planning for revised titles now, it is best to postpone implementation until Google announces the enforcement deadline, since that the title metadata is the most heavily weighted field Google uses to index apps in search results. By shortening titles too early, developers may lose the better visibility offered by up to 20 potential keyword characters. Moreover, the limited area of the title should now focus on the brand name, together with the most relevant terms explaining the app.
#2 change: the icon
Google will also enforce a policy to limit the use of misleading promotional messages or images in-app icon images. Along with a ban on using the same promotional language that applies to the title and developer name, icons can no longer incorporate misleading or promotional images into icons.
This means that if we use imagery such as mimicking notifications, using graphic elements to indicate ranking, or falsely attributing the “Instant App” or other Play program features, our app will be banned from the Google Play Store.
Even if misleading iconography has never been a good strategy to maintain a long-term user, some text elements that will soon be in violation of Google’s policy were useful to increased conversion in the past. That is why if you need to make a change in your app icon, now would be a good time to gather concrete data via Google Play Experiments to see how the removal of these changes will impact conversion rates.
Advice #2: Run some A/B tests in order to find a better converting icon so that your app can align in the most effective way with the new Google Play Store policy.
#3 change: previous assets
Google also announced new guidelines for preview assets that includes: feature graphics, screenshots, videos and short descriptions.
In order to help developers staying within these new guidelines, Google defined four important questions to consider. In fact, previous assets will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Do the preview assets accurately represent the app or game?
- Do all preview assets provide adequate information that help users make an informed decision whether to install?
- Do the preview assets focus on providing useful information about the app’s or game’s unique aspects and are free of buzzwords like “best” and “free”?
- Are the store listing preview assets properly localized and easy to read?
Unlike the new policies regarding the title and the icon, not adhering to these guidelines won’t necessarily get an app rejected from the Play Store, but it will impact its eligibility to be featured or promoted across Google services.
Advice #3: The best move is to align our app according to these criteria as well, in order to avoid a harmful impact on ASO.
The new policies will be implemented later this year, but no official date has been provided.
It’s important to keep in mind that app metadata (title, icon and developer name) that does not meet the new policies will not be allowed on Google Play, just as assets that don’t meet the upcoming guidelines may be also ineligible for recommendation and promotion on Google Play.
That’s why you should keep yourself informed about the changing policies to the Play Store app listings coming soon.
That said, we would like to underline that updating preview assets and metadata to be more honest, genuine, and informative should not be a hard rule, but the base to build a trustworthy communication with your users. Your app’s metadata are meant to not only attract attention from quality users but also to give them an accurate representation of what their in-app experience will be once they decide to proceed with the installing.
For this reason we suggest you to seize this opportunity to make some changes in your app, not only to fulfill Google requirements but mainly to improve your ASO and therefore your business.
Need help with your App Store Optimization strategy, get in contact with us and one of our consultants will get back to you soon!