Lost in the play store ranking

My first reason to write a post in this new and shiny blog is a bit of a sad one: as you can see from my games page, I am currently working on an untitled Android game. Whilst creating the game, I got an uneasy feeling. Creating the game itself from scratch was no problem, as I had programming experience from my job background, and I even found ways to create the graphics all by myself. But I had no experience in publishing anything on the google play store (or other app stores….or ANYTHING to be honest 🙂 ). Also I have never included advertisements in mobile applications. I was concerned that there might be technical hurdles, policies and other mechanisms that I was not aware of, which might result in my first game being more of a failure than necessary when published.

So as my game revolves around battling planets, I had some planet assets and space backgrounds anyways and had the idea to assemble an Android live wallpaper out of it. The wallpaper should serve as a first test project so I could learn about the AdMob ad system as well as the google play store publishing process. Furthermore I could use the wallpaper to point users to the game once it had been out. Also I hoped that I would be able to see how users react to a new app appearing on the store, how updating an app with a new version works, how fast one could get reviews, etc. etc.

It took me a bit longer than expected to put the wallpaper together, mostly because I had no experience in native Android development and encountered some quirks with handling large image files and the ad integration in the wallpaper settings, but soon the .apk was ready for publishing.

After spending some extra time making screenshots, recording a promotional video and writing the play store description, I proudly clicked on the “Submit to production”-button in the google play store, and the wallpaper was made available in the play store. Confidently I leant back in my sofa that serves as my working chair, waiting for the masses of users soon to arrive, which would congratulate me in the warmest words for my brilliant product.

To make it short, and most likely you have already guessed it: there were no users. “None” in the meaning of “actually zero”, not in the meaning of “a little” or “less than I expected”. The wallpaper was released four days ago, and still, until today, the play store statistics don’t show a single download that was not induced by myself or my awesome, glorious, wonderful and supporting girlfriend who also happens to proof-read this text.

What went wrong? I expected the numbers to be low: A wallpaper is not very innovative, a space-themed wallpaper even less, and I had no big network of already existing users that I could promote the app to, therefore I hoped one, two random people would give it a try. But I got no luck so far.

When searching the app on the play store myself, I quickly realized what the issue was: The app is nearly impossible to find even if you enter the exact title in the search field. Only by enclosing the whole name in quotation marks it will be returned as first and only search result. By doing “normal” searches like “Planet wallpaper” etc. it does not show up at all. That makes it is very unlikely somebody will ever find the app in the play store and download it, even if he is an adept collector of space themed wallpapers.

Some google searches showed that I’m not the only one with this problem, some examples from stack overflow:



From what I have learned so far, google calculates its own index for the play store as it does for the normal web search. Likewise, there are several success factors that will give you a good ranking:

  • App Title
  • App Description
  • Installs
  • User Rankings

Apparently my wallpaper app does not show up in the search results because it is ranking too low. This is understandable for me, but it is also a little a “chicken-and-egg” problem: To get good visibility, I need downloads and ratings. To get downloads and ratings, I need good visibility.

As you can imagine, I am a little bit stumped on how to proceed from here. What I have done so far is submitting the app to another app store to see how (or if) it performs there. I also created this very website (which I planned to do anyway) in the hope of attracting my one or two random users for my wallpaper from here. Furthermore I can start to build my “home in the net” by using twitter, google+ and facebook to maybe get a little more attention when I publish my app. In the meantime I will look out for further (white-hat) measures and ideas to boost the ranking of the wallpaper app. If there is something new, I’ll write another post. Wish me luck.