8 August, 2017

Is the Google Play Short Description More About Keywords or Conversions? An ASO Study

Best Practices

Keyword ranking placements - Google Play short description vs. long description

One of the critical questions in ASO surrounds how to best use keywords – where do they get their best utility? Android gives us lots of opportunities to share information about our apps, be that in the title, short description, or long description. So where should we actually input our best keywords for greatest effect and ranking? Everyone in the ASO community has long since known that the title is the most impactful element for keywords, but how does the short description stack up in comparison to the long description? We decided to run a short research to understand this better.  Here’s how we did it…

Our Process – tracking keywords from the Google Play short description and long description

We started by choosing fifteen strong apps from a variety of categories including general games, casino, health & fitness, and music. We chose to focus specifically on analyzing the short description and different locations in the long description.

We broke down the long description into two sections: the first sentence of the description, and a line or two somewhere in the middle of the description.

Then we chose 3 keywords per app from each of the three parts of the description, in other words, 9 keywords for each app. When choosing the words, we specifically looked for ones that were not included in the title and which we believed had similar levels of difficulty.  We wanted to avoid any words that would rank exceptionally high or low. Below is a sample from a few apps:

app keywords in descriptions

We then tracked the words in Sensor Tower for their rankings and analyzed the results.
Results – The middle of the description is actually a great place for keywords
We were interested in two major pieces of data:

  1. Do keywords in the aforementioned locations get indexed? Do they rank at any position?
  2. For the keywords that do get indexed, how well do they rank?

Our results were both surprising and not. Here they are:

To answer question 1 – of the keywords we chose for each app, the words in the middle of the description had the best chance to rank (91%) at any position. Words from the short description and words from the first line of the description had approximately the same chance for ranking, with 87%.

average & median ranking for short description vs. long

To answer question 2 – as seen in the chart above, we also looked at the average ranking of the keywords in the three sections. According to these results, keywords placed in the short description received the best average ranking (29.51), while keywords placed in the first line of the description received the worst (32.79).

However, after a closer look, we decided that using an average ranking is not appropriate here. It doesn’t really matter whether an app is ranked at #50 or at #200 for a particular keyword – it is virtually invisible in search. In our research, apps that received extremely high rankings (one of the apps we looked at ranked at #190) significantly skewed the average ranking.

We therefore decided to use the median as our main measurement, as it is not effected by extreme values. Looking at the median numbers, it appears that, for words that do rank, keywords located in the middle of the description rank the best (median is 7). Once again, keywords located in the short description and the first line of the description tie for second with a median ranking of 10.

median keyword rankings for short description vs. long

Conclusion: short description = conversions, long description = keyword rankings

It seems that there is a connection between keyword rankings and their location in the description. Taking both measurements 1 and 2 into account, it seems that the best place for a keyword to rank is in the middle of your app’s description. According to our small sample of apps, the short description and first line of the description are the least impactful placements for keywords.

That being said, we have run many dozens of short description tests, many of which yield positive results.

google play short description test

As we know that the short description impacts conversion rates, and has limited effect on keyword rankings, it is our conclusion and advice that developers should focus on proper, relevant and engaging content when writing short descriptions, rather than on keyword rankings. We expand this logic to the first sentence of the description as well, and conclude that the first sentence must also be written carefully without keyword jamming.

Second, the middle of the description is at least as relevant as the short description and beginning of long description (if not more) when it comes to keywords. This came as somewhat of a surprise to our team. Up until now, we were under the impression that keywords in the beginning of the description carry more weight than keywords in the middle of the description. So, although this is where many descriptions list special features or lists of descriptors, emphasis should still be placed on making sure keywords are being utilized.

Lastly, a description should be well-written with keywords distributed evenly throughout.

This research is by no means perfect

We shouldn’t jump to conclusions by taking these results at face value, tempting as it may be. We only tested 15 apps, and hand-picked the keywords for tracking. There are numerous strong criticisms this research can justly be accused of, but even so, this exercise appears to confirm our long-standing belief that focusing on keywords in the short description does not have very strong impact on an app’s ranking. We will keep testing this assertion as we continue to decipher the constantly evolving Google Play Store.


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