ASO Teardown: Does Google Maps Really Need App Store Optimization?
Welcome to ASO Teardowns, a series where we dissect the strategies apps use to gain visibility on the App Store and Google Play for you to learn from.
Google Maps is one of those apps that needs no introduction. You probably already have it on your phone, especially if you've had an iPhone for a while and remember the days it was bundled in. But times have changed, Apple has its own mapping app, and Google competes on the App Store just like everyone else.
In this ASO teardown, we'll analyze Google Maps' keyword and on-page optimization. There's a lot to learn here.
Overall, Google Maps gets a B
In this guide:
- Google Maps by the Numbers - What's Big Look Like?
- Google Maps is in a League of its Own
- Keyword Analysis
- Keyword List: What's Under the Hood?
- Screenshot Analysis
- Video Analysis
- Summary: Google Knows Keywords
- How's Your App Performing?
Google Maps by the Numbers - What's Big Look Like?
Here's how Google Maps is performing in the U.S. App Store, based on our app intelligence:
- 📈 1.8M estimated downloads in the last month.
- 1️⃣ in the Navigation category.
- ⭐️ 94% of new ratings were positive in the last month.
- 👋 Audience is young and leans male.
- 💰 Main competitors include Waze, MapQuest, and Gaia GPS.
Google Maps is in a League of its Own
You might think Google Maps is simply that, maps, but Google doesn't. Google does offer maps and directions, but also restaurant discovery, and much more. It's a jack of all trades, master of some type app. Or, that's how Google is positioning it.
For the sake of this teardown, we're going to focus on the maps/directions aspect of the app. And here's who's close:
There's one competitor that's not on this list, Apple Maps. While Google Maps sits at the top of its category, it's very different than the rest. Apple doesn't feature it, it technically competes with itself (Waze), and its audience is much younger than all other competitors.
I'm not going to say it, but Google Maps doesn't seem to be getting any real love from Apple in search ranks either...
We'll start the analysis with the keywords Google Maps has in the name + subtitle. Those send the strongest signals to the App Store's algorithm.
- Name: Google Maps - Transit & Food
- Subtitle: GPS, City Navigation & Traffic
Strictly based on these, the algorithm sees the following keywords:
- Google Maps
- GPS Navigation
- GPS Maps
- Google Traffic
- Google Transit
Whoever crafted this name and subtitle combo wanted to target a lot of keywords! What looks like a list of keywords is pretty much a list of keywords. They add up to more than 60 combinations, and we looked at them all, but only 12 are popular enough.
That's an impressive amount of keywords to put into a 60 character string (30 + 30).
Let's take a look at how they're performing:
Mostly top 5, which is what you'd expect with so many downloads.
We'd typically look at other keywords the app is ranked in, but the combination of Google's ubiquitous brand, huge portfolio of apps, and top ranks, the list we've identified is full of generic terms and other unintentional terms that algorithm invented and not useful keyword.
There are enough keywords targeted specifically (and even more below) that we're going to skip keyword discovery for this one.
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Keyword List: What's Under the Hood?
Now, let's reverse-engineer Google Maps' keyword list. The list isn't public, but we can attempt to uncover it by looking at all other keywords the app is ranked in. We believe it looks something like the following:
Google is targeting a wide selection of keywords here for a few different intents. We've got a few specifically around traveling, others about features, and a few for its foray into restaurants. There's also the mention of 🍕, which you might remember from the teardown of Uber Eats.
- Experiment vicariously through your keyword list!
- Keywords in the list should combine with those in the app's name and subtitle to make meaningful and popular terms.
- If it's popular, it has a place in your keyword list.
Interesting! Are these the screenshots for Google Maps or Yelp? Other than Google's typical colors, these screenshots are all about restaurants. So much so that the callouts in the first two are almost identical. This isn't inherently bad but doesn't fit what most think about Google Maps, and the name/subtitle doesn't agree.
That aside, the solid colors are a nice touch because they create contrast. I love that. Except for the yellow one, that I don't think anyone reads.
- White text on solid background is a great combo that's readable and highlights what's written.
- Thicker and rounder text is friendly and more welcoming.
- Experimenting with new intents, such as restaurants in this case, is great and encouraged. But, if you do that, make sure to do it across everything and not just standalone pieces. That's just confusing.
No video. If you've read any of our other teardowns, you know that this is pretty much the norm.
Does Google Maps need a video? Maybe. If you're on an iPhone and looking for a mapping app, there isn't much else to get. Google is intertwined in so much of our lives that it's probably not something you'd skip. Yet, that's for maps. Do you associate Google Maps with restaurant discovery? I don't, and a video can help change that quickly by highlighting how it's better than the alternative (Yelp).
- If you're trying a new concept, especially one that isn't well associated with your app already, use a video.
- Apps that have very unique features, like Google Maps' AR directions, can show those off quickly with a video.
Summary: Google Knows Keywords
Google is fighting the "native" option, which is no easy task. They're also attempting to foray into a different industry, of restaurant discovery, so they're all about keywords. That's why they're optimizing for so many at once. While not recommended for most apps, Google isn't "most" in any way.
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