Apple App Store vs. Google Play Store: 3 Major ASO Differences

By Laurie Galazzo | March 6th, 2015

Since the apparition of mobile applications, two app stores clearly shape the mobile app ecosystem. Of course, other stores are trying to grab a small bite of this delicious and promising market. However, the giant Apple iOS App Store and its sparring partner, the Google Play Store, are already far ahead and will certainly remain the leaders in the coming years.

Today, we count over 1.4 million apps in both of these two stores. And it won’t stop there. The number of apps will continue to grow, as the public demand will keep on increasing. Needless to point out that being an app developer is quite challenging facing the fierce competition. Getting an app found on the store is extremely tricky, especially if there is only a small budget behind it.

So what can be done to get more downloads? The answer is: a lot of things. From app advertising to social media promotion through public relations, app marketing includes multiple effective ways that can all be combined together into a powerful marketing mix.

One of these ways consists to optimize the various aspects of the app so that it gets the best chances to drive organic traffic and downloads. In 2009, a year after the launch of the Apple App Store, the term “App Store Optimization” was introduced. By 2012 it was standardized and today this technique is getting increasingly popular.


App Store Optimization: An Effective Way To Drive Organic Downloads

ASO is the process aiming at improving the visibility and the discoverability of an app in the app store. The point is to increase the app’s rankings and therefore its natural downloads. ASO is actually often compared to SEO due the similarity of its core principle.

Working on App Store Optimization has nowadays become inevitable for any app developers or marketers wishing to succeed in the App Store.

To get ASO done effectively, it is important to try to understand how the algorithm of each app store works. Indeed, it is this algorithm that will classify and rank apps, but also make them match for specific keywords. Each app store has its own specific algorithm and therefore includes various factors and/or weights them differently. Therefore, each app store differs in terms of App store Optimization.

No one actually knows the real equations behind these algorithms but Apple and Google have made multiple announcements that helped us to understand how their app stores algorithms work.

The rest of ASO best practices are the fruit of serious researches and tests made by experts and professionals. Although most of the elements have been found, there are still some small mysteries about the way the algorithms rank apps.

Two Stores: Multiple Similarities and Various Differences

As we said, the mobile app store market is dominated by two major actors: Apple and Google. As an app developer or marketer it is essential to take their specificities into account before starting working on ASO. Tweaking an app for the Google Play Store or for the Apple App Store is not the same thing.

Google Play Store works more like a real search engine driven by semantics (a bit like Google itself). Therefore its algorithm often provides more precise results than the Apple iOS App Store, which is driven by phrases essentially.

Various factors are taken into account by these two algorithms. Lots of them are the same but present some light to important differences. Here are 3 major distinctions.

1) Keywords and Description

There is a huge difference between these two stores in terms of keywords and app description.

For iOS apps, app developers can provide a list of keywords, called the Keywords Field (100 characters max) that they would like their app to match.

However, there is no such field in the Google Play Store. Here, the algorithm takes keywords from the description into account and will rank the app accordingly in the search results. It is therefore extremely important to include relevant and strong keywords in Google Play description to increase the chances of ranking high. Keyword stuffing is highly sanctioned so it is recommended to repeat targeted keywords no more than 5 times in the description.

In the Apple iOS App Store, the app description does not influence the app store algorithm to rank apps since it will take the keywords from the field into account instead. iOS app description should however be tuned and optimized in terms of SEO. The reason is that Google web search engine indexes and ranks iTunes pages, so it recommended to use relevant keywords based on Google searches and web traffic in iOS app description.

2) Social Factors and Google +1s

Another major difference between the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store is the possibility for users to +1 an app’s page on Google Play. This reminds of the famous Facebook “like” as it enables app users to give a positive opinion in just a hit or click.

These +1s have a huge influence in Google Play algorithm and therefore influence an app’s rankings. The more the better of course. It is also possible to add them directly within the app. That way, it encourages actual users to +1 the app very easily.


Social factors like this one weight a lot in the algorithm because they emphasis the fact that the app is worth downloading. Users trust other users and will take their opinion into high consideration before downloading any app./>

This is why reviews and ratings play a major role in both Apple and Google algorithms. Indeed, everything is becoming more and more social. Apple bought Chomp to improve its algorithm and search results, giving more weight to popular apps. To make a review on the Apple App Store, you have to be connected to your iTunes account.

On his side Google Play reviews are all integrated with Google+ so users need to log in to their Google+ account to leave a review. The point is to make it difficult to cheat with fake reviews and to give more weight to trustworthy users. The algorithm will favor genuine and active profiles, a bit like Google’s PageRank algorithm would give more weight to links coming from trusted websites than from unreliable ones.

3) Categorization and Discoverability

Another major difference to point out is that apps on the Apple App Store can be categorized in two different categories. Plus, it’s a game, the app developer can publish it into 3 distinct categories.

However, for Google Play apps, there’s only 1 category possible for both apps and games. This clearly narrows down the possibility of being found by browsing categories on Google Play.

However, Google Play adds at the end of each app’s page, 3 similar apps or what users “also installed” both with a “more” button, which Apple does not.

These two stores have their own way of featuring or promoting apps as well. They’re both using various techniques to pull apps forward.



The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store are both working differently. Although some parts of the ASO process are similar, both of these stores need to have a respective strategy in order to drive organic downloads.

Google Play algorithm seems to be more complex as it integrates more external factors that are not always easy to control. The notion of link building is highly important here as Google Play Store is closely linked to Google Search engine and Google+.

Apple is more auto-centered although iTunes apps’ pages need to be carefully crafted in terms of SEO.

Both give grant a lot of importance to the number of apps downloads and uninstalls. See below for a summary table. Hover over the image to share it.

ios app store google play store

Laurie Galazzo
Laurie Galazzo is content strategist at AppTweak. Passionate by new technologies and apps, she loves finding new ideas to spread valuable content on App Store Optimization and App Marketing. She’s in charge of the company’s blog, crafting articles helping users to increase their app downloads and rankings. She’s also at the head of the ASO University , teaching App Store Optimization basics through video tutorials, all available for free on AppTweak blog. Twitter Facebook Google+ LinkedIn