Google launches Premium Growth Tools: What this means for Play Store ASO

Partner Post - Gummicube The #1 App Store Optimization (ASO) company trusted by thousands of the world's leading companies

Posted: May 20, 2024

Over the past several years, significant changes to the App Store and Play Store Consoles have fundamentally changed ASO.

Historically, these changes have been great for ASO: they’ve given developers and marketers the ability to curate how they advertise their latest features, focus on re-engagement, and communicate with specific subsets of their traffic.

One of the latest changes by Google, while not as immediately visible to end-users, will alter the Play Store landscape even further.

Recent App Store evolution: Starting on iOS

Starting on the iOS App Store in late 2021 and rolling out into early 2022, In-App Events, Custom Product Pages, and Product Page Optimization were launched with the release of iOS 15. While these were significant changes all at once, they weren’t all entirely new innovations by Apple. Product Page Optimization was Apple’s long-awaited answer to Google’s 2015 launch of Store Listing Experiments.

In-App Events altered Search results as well as the landscape of every top-level navigation area of the iOS App Store – from the Today Tab to the Apps & Games tabs. Top Charts had long been superseded here in place of editorial content; adding In-App Events to the mix further pushed auto-populated charts into obscurity in favor of more intentional, curated content from developers and App Store editors.

Event placements also brought more custom-tailored relevance to content in the store. Events were served depending on other apps a user interacted with, and whether they were a new, current, or lapsed user. Concurrently, changes to App Store guidelines made serving external ads based on tracked user behavior more challenging, further necessitating In-App Events to reach relevant demographics.

Read more about In-App Events here.

How Google quickly followed suit

Having context around Apple’s 2021/2022 changes is important since Google similarly expanded its Developer Console capabilities in 2022. Custom Store Listings and the LiveOps Beta program launched at this time – Google’s respective analogs to Custom Product Pages and In-App Events.

While iOS In-App Events was available to all developers, the rollout and access to LiveOps for Play Store developers was very different. LiveOps was a beta program only available in select territories, requiring an application and approval process. Over time, access expanded and LiveOps evolved (if in name only) into what we now know as Promotional Content.

Like In-App Events, Google’s Promotional Content also changed the face of its store.  Along with new Search placements, Editorial placements on the main “For You” sections of the Play Store Apps and Games tabs were replaced with Promotional Content placements curated by developers – showcasing limited-time events, major updates, and enticing offers. In April 2024, Google made another significant update that will change the Google Play landscape: the introduction of Premium Growth Tools.

What are Google Play Premium Growth Tools?

Promotional Content is one of two Developer Console capabilities now bundled under what Google is calling “Premium Growth Tools”, a currently small but potentially growing list. Prior to April 2024, engagement and monetization KPIs did not factor into a developer’s ability to access Promotional Content. Now, Premium Growth Tools (including Promotional Content) are only available to Play Store Developers that meet specific criteria outlined by Google.

Currently, the two features under Premium Growth Tools are:

  • Promotional Content
  • Additional Custom Store Listings (100 instead of 50)

The Custom Store Listing expansion is helpful in reaching specific subsets of traffic external to the Play Store and on UAC placements in the store. Unlike this additive change, Promotional Content eligibility will block many developers from accessing the feature.

When LiveOps and Promotional Content were in beta, any developer who received approval on their application or saw the menu item in their console could run Promotional Content. Now, Google has outlined specific category qualifications and further eligibility criteria.

Categories excluded from Premium Growth Tools are: Finance, Dating, News, Video Players, Business, Medical, Parenting, Tools, and Casino

How to qualify for Google Play’s Premium Growth Tools: Be a developer in good standing on Google Play and meet one of the following thresholds:

  • Having at least 1.6 million 28DAU daily over the previous 3 months, and a minimum of 1.6 million active installs.
  • Having at least 2 million 28DAU daily over the previous month, and a minimum of 2 million active installs.
  • Having at least $40,000 USD/month in consumer spend over the previous 3 calendar months, or at least $50,000 USD in the previous calendar month.

Some developers will qualify for reduced thresholds. If you are a Media Experience or Play Partner or demonstrate consistent engagement in qualifying territories and categories, the thresholds are cut in half.

Thresholds are reduced in the following cases: Being in the Google Play Partner program, being in the Media Experience program, and having a title that has consistently maintained a top 10 ranking by 28DAU on every day of the previous calendar month, in at least one of the following countries and categories:

  • Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Türkiye, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam
  • Categories: Entertainment, Music and Audio, Health and Fitness, Sports, Beauty, Lifestyle, Books and Reference, Food and Drink, Shopping, Travel, Education, Social

Developers that qualify for reduced thresholds have to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Having at least 800,000 28DAU daily over the previous 3 months, and a minimum of 800,000 active installs.
  • Having at least 1 million 28DAU daily over the previous month, and a minimum of 1 million active installs
  • Having least $20,000 USD/month in consumer spend over the previous 3 calendar months, or at least $25,000 USD in the previous calendar month

Considerations and qualifications for new apps and games

Developers in the Google Play Partner Program for Games or Media Experience Program will have access to Premium Growth Tools within 1 month of their new titles going into pre-registration. Access will continue for the duration of pre-registration, and continue for two additional full quarters. At that time, eligibility will expire, unless the reduced thresholds are met.

Google Play ASO implications of Premium Growth Tools

Up until now, the changes to the store were very front-facing and apparent to end-users. This change, however, will not be as apparent to them. They will still see placements, same as they did in 2023, but the ones who will definitely see the impact are developers and marketers.

For developers that qualify, running Promotional Content is an ASO must. Google has stated that in a November ‘23 to January ‘24 analysis, “apps that submit promotional content and request featuring can see over twice as many explore acquisitions during a featuring window.”

Promotional Content has been, and continues to be, a huge opportunity for growth, validated by Google and observed by thousands of developers via their Explore metrics. The latest qualification criteria mean there is now a more limited arena, where larger apps and games compete for installs and re-engagement.

Any developer who currently meets the criteria must implement strategies to maintain it. Otherwise, losing access will limit available levers for growth, declining downloads, in turn further widening the gap between current metrics and qualification criteria.

For smaller apps and games that do not meet the new criteria, this change presents a challenge; previously available tools in the Developer Console, which may have been driving downloads, are no longer accessible.

These developers will need to understand how their metrics compare to qualification criteria, and then implement ASO and paid marketing strategies to reach these goals. From there, further growth potential can be achieved (and qualification maintained) by utilizing the newly “re-unlocked” Growth Tools.

Any developer in the Media Experience or Play Partner Program will need to carefully set the stage for the launch of any new titles. Pre-optimizing ASO and paid marketing initiatives in advance, maintaining them during pre-registration, and continuing them for the two quarters following launch, is critical.

Rather than launching an app and slowly waiting to implement marketing, being prepared with ASO and external marketing initiatives ahead of time will be vital in reaching and maintaining growth and qualification.

Google Play Premium Growth Tools: Prepare your ASO

For the past several years, the changes to the App Store and Play Store have been “giveths”, including Google’s May 2024 announcements of the Engage SDK and expansion of Custom Store Listing capabilities at Google I/O. For developers below thresholds, the introduction of qualification criteria for Promotional Content is the first “taketh away.”

It’s unclear what other tools Google will bundle under the Premium Growth Tools offering in the future, including those recently announced in beta or fully released during Google I/O 2024. It’s also unclear if Apple will follow suit by updating its features in App Store Connect. For now, the update to who can and cannot run Promotional Content will have a huge impact on developers, marketers, and the landscape of the Play Store.

For developers who no longer qualify, Promotional Content is not entirely gone; so long as qualification criteria are achieved, access can be reinstated. Other available ASO strategies, supplemented by paid marketing in tandem with ASO, can help developers reach this threshold, and if executed properly, use it as a launching pad for further growth.

Need help with your Google Play ASO? Get in touch with the ASO experts at Gummicube!

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