A guide to the Google Play Console

Whether you’re in a business or technical role, in a team of 1 or 100, the Play Console can help you with more than publishing

Dom Elliott
Mar 9, 2018 · 29 min read

Find your way around

If you’ve been invited to help manage an app or you’ve already uploaded an app, when you access the Play Console you’ll see something like this:

The signed-in view of the Play Console when you have an app or game

Dashboard and statistics

The first two items are dashboard and statistics. These related reports give you an overview of how your app is performing.

An app’s dashboard
Statistics

Android vitals

Big Fish Games used Android vitals to reduce crashes by 21% in their hit time management game, Cooking Craze.

Android vitals is all about your app’s quality, as measured by its performance and stability. An internal Google study conducted last year looked at one-star reviews on the Play Store and found 50% mentioned app stability and bugs. By addressing these issues you’ll positively impact user satisfaction, resulting in more people leaving positive reviews and keeping your app installed. When there is enough aggregated data, Android vitals can provide information about five aspects of your app’s performance: battery life, rendering (also known as jank), stability, startup time, and permission denials.

Android vitals (each only appears if Play has enough data for your app)
  • Experienced at least one frame out of 1,000 with a render time of greater than 700 milliseconds.

Development tools

I’ll pass over this section; it’s a few tools for technical users of the console. The services and APIs section lists the keys and IDs for various services and APIs, such as Firebase Cloud Messaging and Google Play games services. While FCM statistics shows you data associated with messages sent through Firebase Cloud Messaging. For more info visit the help center.


Release management

Zalando focused on quality and used release management tools to reduce crashes by 90% and increase user lifetime value by 15% on a quarterly basis.

In the release management section, you control how your new or updated app gets to people’s devices. This includes testing your app before release, setting the right device targeting, and managing and monitoring updates in the testing and production tracks in real-time.

Release dashboard

Google Play allows you to go through beta to your soft launch right through to global launch, constantly getting feedback from users. And this allows us to look at real data and to make the best possible game for our players.

App releases is where apps (your Android App Bundles or APKs) are uploaded and prepared for release. Apps can be released to different tracks: internal, closed, open, and production. Use the internal track to release your app to up to 100 testers in seconds for internal testing and quality assurance checks. Use the closed testing track to test pre-release versions of your app with a larger set of testers. If needed, you can also create multiple closed tracks to test different versions of your app. When you’re ready, you can move to the open testing track to expand your test to a wider audience. Ratings and reviews you receive during your open test won’t affect your app’s public store listing. Saving your release as a draft is a good way to ensure all your app’s details are accurate and avoid mistakes before you’re ready to roll it out.

[Instant Apps] makes it easy for a user to have a great app experience without the extra step of installing the app from the Play Store. We are already seeing great success with our instant app.

The Android Instant Apps section is like app releases, except it’s for instant apps. If you’re not familiar with instant apps, they allow users to instantly access a part of your app’s functionality from a link, rather than having to spend time downloading your full app from the Play Store. Check out the Android Instant Apps documentation for more details.

On first use, [the device catalog] saved me from making a bad, uninformed decision. I was planning to exclude a device, but then I discovered it had good installs, a 4.6 rating, and significant 30d revenue. Having such data in the catalog is awesome!

- Oliver Miao, Founder and CEO of Pixelberry Studios

The device catalog includes thousands of Android and Chrome OS devices certified by Google, offering the ability to search and view device specs. With the granular filtering controls available, you can exclude a narrow range of problem devices in order to offer the best experience on all devices your app supports. You can individually exclude devices and/or set rules by performance indicators such as RAM and System on Chip. The catalog also shows installs, ratings, and revenue contributed by each device type. A low average rating on a specific device, for example, could be the result of a device issue not caught in general testing. You could exclude a device like that and temporarily halt new installs until you’ve rolled out a fix.

Device catalog
App signing (a service provided by Google Play)

The final option in this section is pre-launch report. When you upload your app to the closed or open testing tracks, we’ll run automated tests on popular devices with a range of specifications in the Firebase Test Lab for Android and share the results. These tests look for certain errors and issues relating to crashes, performance, and security vulnerabilities. You can extend the standard tests to harder to reach parts of your app by creating demo loops for games written with OpenGL, recording scripts in Android Studio for the test crawler to follow, identifying deep links, and providing credentials to go behind logins. In addition to reporting crashes, performance, and security issues, screenshots of your app running on different devices and in different languages are available to view. Tests are also run for apps using Google Play licensing services.

Pre-launch report (automatically generated for alphas/betas)

Store presence

This section is where you manage your app’s presentation on Google Play, run experiments on your app’s listing content, set pricing and markets, get a content rating, manage in-app products, and get translations.

Store listing

After running store listing experiments with the app icon and screenshots, Japanese real estate app LIFULL HOME’S saw installation rates increase by 188%.

Store listing experiments enable you to test many aspects of your store listing, such as its descriptions, app icon, feature graphic, screenshots, and promo video. You can run global experiments on images and videos and localized experiments on text. When you run an experiment, you specify up to three variants of the item you want to test and a percentage of the store visitors who will see the test variants. The experiment runs until it has been exercised by a statistically significant number of store visitors and then tells you how the variants compared. If you have a clear winner, you can choose to apply that variant to your store listing and display it to all visitors.

Store listing experiments
Pricing & distribution
In-app products

Noom grew international revenue by 80% by localizing their app on Google Play.

The last option in this section is the translation service. The Play Console gives you access to reliable, vetted translators to translate your app into new languages. You’re much more likely to increase your store listing conversion rate and increase your installs in a particular country when your app is available in the local language. There are tools in the Play Console that can help identify suitable languages to translate into. For example, using the acquisition report you can identify the countries with many visits to your store listing but low installs. If your technical team is working on translating your app’s user interface via this service, you can get your text translated too. Do this by including store listing metadata, in-app product names, and universal app campaign text in the strings.xml file before it’s submitted for translation.


User acquisition

Peak Games average cost per acquisition has been about 30–40% lower on Android than on other mobile platforms.

Every developer wants to reach an audience, and this section of the Play Console is about understanding and optimizing your user acquisition and retention.

  • Buyers — shows the number of visitors to your app’s store page, then how many of them installed your app and went on to buy one or more in-app products or subscriptions.
  • Subscribers — shows the number of visitors to your app’s store page, then how many of them installed your app and went on to activate an in-app subscription.
  • Country — shows the total number of visitors for each country.
  • Country (Play Store organic) — filters the country totals to show you visitors coming to your store listing organically by searching and browsing on Google Play.
Acquisition reports
Conversion rate benchmarks

Financial reports

The analytics and testing capabilities offered by Play are unparalleled and equip developers like Hooked with key insights that help us grow, and are crucial in helping us understand and optimize our revenue.

—Prerna Gupta, Founder & CEO, HOOKED

If you sell your app, in-app products, or subscriptions, you’ll want to track and understand how your revenue is going. The financial reports section provides you with access to several dashboards and reports.

Financial reports

Subscription data that’s readily available for analysis is valuable. Being able to see how subscriptions perform over time is something many developers would find useful.

—Kyle Grymonprez, Head of Cross-Platform and Android development at Glu

Finally, if you offer subscriptions, the dashboard gives you a comprehensive view of how subscriptions are performing to help you make better decisions about how to grow subscriptions, decrease cancellations, and increase revenue. The dashboard includes an overview, a detailed subscriptions acquisition report, a lifetime retention report, and a cancellation reports. You can also see how successful features such as free trials, account holds, and grace periods are in acquiring and retaining users. With this information, identify opportunities to optimize your marketing and in-app messaging to drive new subscribers and reduce churn.

Subscriptions dashboard

User feedback

The ratings and review section is a powerful tool to learn from your community. We are answering them in their native language with the help of Google Translate. As a result, we’ve seen a great improvement in user ratings. In fact, all of them are 4.4 stars or even higher on average.

Ratings and user feedback via reviews are important. Play Store visitors consider your app’s ratings and reviews when they’re deciding whether to install it. Reviews also provide a way to engage with your audience and gather useful feedback about your app.

Ratings

We use reviews analysis to gather feedback from users on Google Play and use them to polish Erudite’s features. It also allows us to reply to users directly and individually, so we can improve the communication with our users and know their true requirements.

Users can provide ratings for your app without providing a review, but when they do include a review its content can provide insight into what is driving their rating. This is where the reviews analysis section comes into play. It provides three insights: updated ratings, benchmarks, and topic analysis.

Reviews analysis

It makes it easy for us to search through the reviews, contact users when we need to get more information from them and, just in general, it has saved me a tremendous amount of time, anywhere between 5 and 10 hours a week.

— Olivia Schafer, Community Support Specialist at Aviary

In the reviews section itself, you get to see individual reviews. The default view shows the most recent reviews from all sources and in all languages. Use the filter option to refine the list. Notice the all reply states option. Filter the reviews to look at those you haven’t replied to, as well as the reviews where you replied and users have subsequently updated their review or rating. Replying to reviews is easy, in a review simply click reply to this review.

Reviews

Using beta feedback, with Early Access, Spanish game developer Omnidrone was able to improve retention by 41%, engagement by 50%, and monetization by 20%.

There’s a section specifically for beta feedback. When you run an open beta test of your app, any feedback provided by testers ends up here — it doesn’t get included in your production app’s ratings and reviews and isn’t visible publicly. The features are like those for public feedback: you can filter reviews, reply to reviews, and see the history of conversations with users.


Global Play Console sections

So far, I’ve looked at the Play Console features that are available for each app. Before finishing, I want to give you a brief guide to the global Play Console features: games services, order management, download reports, alerts, and settings.

Senri implemented Play games services saved games in Leo’s Fortune as well as one Leaderboard per chapter. Google Play games services users were 22% more likely to come back after 1 day and 17% more likely after 2 days.

Google Play games services offers a range of tools that provide game features to help drive player engagement, such as:

  • Achievements — set goals in your game that players earn experience points (XP) for completing.
  • Saved Games — store game data and synchronize it across devices so players can easily resume play.
  • Multiplayer — bring players together with real-time and turn-by-turn multiplayer gaming.

Player analytics puts valuable information about your game’s performance in one place, with a set of free reports to help you manage your game’s business and understand in-game player behavior. It comes as standard when you integrate Google Play games services to your game.

Player analytics (enabled as part of Google Play games services)
Order management

Get the Play Console app

The screenshots throughout this post show the Play Console in a web browser, however there’s a Play Console app available for your Android device too. Get quick access to your app’s statistics, ratings, reviews, and release information. Get notifications for important updates, like when your latest release is actually live on the store, and perform quick actions like replying to reviews.


Stay up to date

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Google Play Apps & Games

Tips, trends, and industry thoughts for app and game developers building businesses on Google Play.

Dom Elliott

Written by

Product Manager, Google Play

Google Play Apps & Games

Tips, trends, and industry thoughts for app and game developers building businesses on Google Play.