For many businesses, getting an app approved for listing on Google’s Play Store is the difference between the company’s failure and survival. If your business model is built around acquiring paid mobile app subscribers, then the world’s 3 billion Android users are a huge part of your addressable market. And if you do any business at all in digital spaces, then the Play Store’s user base can boost a company’s exposure and engagement significantly, giving you an advantage over the competition.
While the benefits are obvious, obtaining Play Store approval can be tricky. Google publishes guidelines, but they can be vague, and they change often. Here are three principles to keep in mind when developing your app, so you can maximize your chances of acceptance on the Play Store.
Have a Central Function
Remember the Yo app? This product debuted on the Play Store in 2014 (on April 1 fittingly) and allowed users to ping someone else with a “Yo” notification – nothing more, nothing less. The app’s ridiculous premise pushed it to the top of the Play Store’s app download charts, but by today’s standards, Google might not have accepted the app.
Having a simplistic or ridiculous premise for an app is an instant red flag to Google these days. While Yo got away with it due to the Play Store’s relative infancy in 2014, modern companies cannot expect such treatment.
Ensure your app has a central function that gives users a ton of utility. While Google doesn’t define what utility means or what functions an app should have, you can follow a few rules of thumb.
First, ensure your app has great UX and intuitive navigation. It should also have more than one feature, presented in ways that offer users transparency into how they can access them.
Performance plays a role too. Feature-heavy apps tend to lag in performance, and Google advises app developers to test their creations thoroughly before publishing. This means prioritizing loading speeds, testing download functionality, launch capabilities, etc.
If you intend to publish an app just to drive affiliate traffic to a website, you’ll almost certainly receive a rejection. Google specifically checks for this tactic, since plenty of publishers have used it to earn affiliate income in the past.
The bottom line is simple. Make sure your app has a defined purpose and adds value to your users’ lives.
Have a Transparent Communication Policy
Spam is a major issue for anyone who has an email address. As the biggest email service provider in the world, Google takes spam seriously and disables any avenue that could be used to increase it.
What does this mean for app publishers? Simply put, you cannot publish an app solely to harvest user emails and bombard them with your offers down the road. If your app collects a significant amount of user information, Google will either reject it or ask for clarification.
More often than not, Google simply rejects apps that could prove troublesome for a user. One way to mitigate the risk of rejection, if you’ve decided to collect a lot of user information (or even if you haven’t), is to publish your communication policy.
List when and for what purposes you’ll get in touch with users and in what frequency. Giving users opt-out options and making them obvious is important here. These policies tell Google you’re taking UX and privacy standards seriously.
Another critical point to avoid is bombarding users with ads. Google tolerates plenty of app monetization models, but paid ads always walk a fine line. Make sure the ads your app displays don’t disrupt UX or block any functionality. For instance, if you force your user to tap on an ad to access app functions, Google will reject you instantly.
Often, these mistakes creep in inadvertently. To make sure your app doesn’t suffer from this, test it with open groups. Seek honest feedback from these groups and implement any changes they recommend. This will help you preempt any red flags Google might find, making your path to approval smoother.
Your app might improve your users’ lives immensely, and it may have all the utility in the world. However, if it does exactly the same thing as another popular app, Google will likely reject it.
App cloning is a method used by a few developers to make quick cash. The method is simple. They scan the Play Store for popular downloads and replicate top app functionality in a new one. While the cloned app might not receive as many downloads as the popular one, it could earn the publisher some money on autopilot.
Google considers these apps problematic since their developers are uninterested in providing a valuable user experience. They could shut down support for their apps, leaving users vulnerable. The Play Store thus rejects any app that looks similar to an existing one.
To receive approval, ensure your app is differentiated enough. You can include features similar to those found in popular apps, but make sure to also include other features or use a new angle. For instance, all dating apps do the same thing but approach the end result differently.
Review your user stories thoroughly before publishing your app, and keep reviewing similar app functionality. You may have to upgrade your app with new features at the last minute. But better to face a delayed project than rejection from the Play Store.
Play Store Approval Can Be Simple
While it might seem complex at first, securing Play Store approval is simple if you keep your users in mind first and foremost. Give them a great experience, offer utility, and treat their information with care. Those are the keys to launching your app successfully on the Play Store.