Following Google’s decision to liberalize its policy on gambling apps, we developed an article for the Berlin Affiliate Conference (BAC) issue of iGaming Business that looked at the marketing implications of the move.

If you’re at BAC, you can pick up a copy of the print magazine at the conference. We’ve also republished the piece here, with part one appearing yesterday and the second and final part below. 

Google Play & ASO

Even those operators who already have an iOS app hosted in Apple’s App Store should develop a separate ASO strategy for Google Play. While search is the main way users discover new apps in both app stores, Google Play’s layout and content requirements differ significantly, so it’s vital for operators to segment their ASO strategies accordingly.

Understanding the Google Play search algorithm is essential. “Google Play is constantly collecting data on installs, uninstalls, install retention and engagement,” says Brandman. “Apps that are successful at all of these metrics are more likely to be highly ranked in search.” Google also recently clarified that high-quality, stable apps with strong user reviews and feedback would also be privileged in search results.

Before operators focus on addressing players’ feedback, though, app installs and install velocity (quantity of installs over time) will be their primary focus. To maximise these metrics, understanding the two types of Google Play visitor is vital: ‘decisive’ users search for a particular brand, while ‘explorer’ users look for a genre of app or just carry out general browsing. The latter cohort will be the main target for smaller operators with limited brand recognition.

To reach explorers, keyword optimisation is vital. The keywords identified by operators’ SEO strategies will feed into their ASO research, though this list of phrases will have to be tailored and expanded to reflect their Android app’s unique selling point. As with SEO, longtail keywords are advised over generic flathead phrases.

Unlike Apple’s concealed keywords field in the App Store, Google Play keywords need to be integrated into the app title, and both short and long app descriptions. Google recently expanded titles to 50 characters from 30, though this still requires operators to be very selective with non-brand keywords (Apple has a 255-character limit). Nonetheless, apps with keywords in their title raise their search ranking by 10.3%, according to Apptentive’s research.

Google Play app pages include both a short description of 80 characters and a full description of 4,000. The search algorithm prioritises keywords in the short description, so this is where operators will concentrate their primary and secondary keywords. However, as with SEO, keyword stuffing will result in apps being penalized in Google Play search rankings. Keyword optimisation remains a work in progress, and app store marketers will carry out review mining of player reviews to identify keywords they may have missed.

App marketers will also focus on asset optimisation, the second pillar of ASO. As well as developing concise and compelling app descriptions that seamlessly integrate keywords, marketers will focus on graphical elements. Visually, Google Play provides marketers with an even broader canvas than Apple: the space for eight screenshots compared to five in the App Store and allowing video previews of up to two minutes when Apple permits a maximum of 30 seconds with a limited promotional focus.

Other channels’ support

iGaming brands are late arrivals to Google Play, which was launched in 2008 and now hosts over three million apps. In this competitive space, app discovery will be a challenge if operators rely on ASO alone. Ideally, they will leverage app store advertising in the short term to increase their installs and app ranking. Given the positive feedback loop between installs and ranking, operators can reduce their ad spend once their app achieves enough installs to organically generate more installs through search.

While Google lagged behind Apple in allowing iGaming apps into its app store, the opposite is true for app store advertising. Apple only introduced Search Ads in the UK App Store in April after its launch in the US in Q4 2016. Google, however, rolled-out Google Play Search Ads back in February 2015.

Later the same year, the search giant further streamlined app advertising by launching Universal App campaigns, allowing marketers to automatically serve app-related ads to users across AdWords, the Google Display network, and YouTube as well as within Google Play. A one-month campaign in 2016 by Greek gaming company OPAP quadrupled app installs and reduced cost per installs (CPI) by 80%.

As well as paid advertising, iGaming operators can also support installs through the affiliate channel. Google Play currently requires gambling apps to be licensed by a regulator, which prevents most iGaming affiliate apps from being approved. While Google will likely soon follow Apple’s lead in allowing gambling affiliate apps, affiliates can in the meantime use their websites and banner ads to promote operators’ Google Play pages. After all, third-party websites such as affiliates are responsible for around a fifth (17%) of new app discoveries, according to Nielsen.

In tandem with Android-focused affiliate campaigns targeting new players, operators can accompany the launch of their app in Google Play with cross-selling the app to their existing players via targeted mailers to their customer database and organic social media posts on multiple channels. These campaigns would be less about cannibalizing their mobile site usership and more about driving up their Google Play installs and therefore their ranking.

By using organic social media posts and even promoted Tweets and Facebook ads as well as player mailers, affiliates and Universal App campaigns, operators can complement their ASO strategies and better market their apps in Google Play. This app store represents a new frontier for iGaming app marketing and – in an increasingly mobile world – acquisition in general. The future belongs to operators whose Google Play marketing gets moving now.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading our insights on the ever-changing world of app store marketing for iGB’s BAC 2017 issue. What are your own thoughts on app marketing now that Google Play is an option for iGaming marketers? Tell us in the comments section below.