Last week, Google made a move to improve the value of its Play Store for users by changing its algorithm: apps will now be prioritized by engagement instead of the number of downloads they boast. Via CNET, “There are many instances when great games don’t get the visibility and attention they deserve,” Paul Bankhead, Google Play’s director of product management said in a statement. “We’ve begun tuning our algorithms to optimize for user engagements, not just downloads.” This will allow users to find the “hidden gems” that other Android users are actually spending time with – and reward app marketers who have focused on retention rather than just download volume.
This move will have a tremendous impact on app developers and marketers who have, in the past, fought for visibility in the competitive Play Store rankings by making downloads their goal. Casting a wide net and advertising indiscriminately will not yield the same value as it did previously – if it ever really yielded value at all. It will be an especially large blow for app marketers who rely on incentivized traffic for downloads. Many marketers will see their app download numbers plummet over the next few months as they reset their goals and build new out new marketing plans and strategies.
If this sounds like a bad thing, I would argue that it’s not. I see it as a very positive wake-up call. Marketers who have been focused exclusively on download volume are short-sighted, at best. Having big download numbers may look great to investors, advertisers and supervisors, but they’ll all realize soon enough that there’s no real substance behind those figures. Three months in, when the apps lie dormant on consumer handsets, stakeholders will realize that no one is engaging with their in-app ads, and that revenue volume has slowed to a trickle. They’ll move their funds elsewhere, and your supervisor will be asking a lot of uncomfortable questions.
The app marketers who will benefit from Google’s shift immediately will be those who have been focusing on retention as well as volume, the marketers who have been targeting qualified users all along. Rather than going wide, these marketers have approached their advertising with a clear persona in mind. They know who their target users are, what they like, what they buy, and the apps with which they already engage. These marketers aren’t looking for a quick bump in downloads, they’re after the users who will value and keep their app, and use it regularly.
These are the app developers and marketers who have had their priorities straight all along, balancing download volume with long-term retention. They want to provide value for users, as well as for advertisers. Now, after a decade of fighting for rankings in the Play Store, they’re finally getting their just deserts. Google’s new algorithm will give them the bump they need to increase their volume, so they can focus on delivering great experiences – and keeping advertisers happy.
If you’re looking to target qualified users for your apps – and you should be – talk to us today about how to reach them, engage them, and drive more downloads. By reaching the right users, the ones who will keep and continue to use your apps.