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Google changes search and discovery algorithms: now higher quality leads to higher ranking

Google has launched new search and discovery algorithms. Now the quality of the app is number one priority. 
31 August 2017
Mobile app testing
Quality assurance
The article by Pavel Novik
Head of testing department at a1qa

On August 3, Google has announced it has launched new search and discovery algorithms on Google Play. The new algorithms give preference to higher quality apps.

The announcement was made in the Game Developer Conference. The new algorithm has been launched in early August. What is the reason for this change?

Previous algorithms analyzed only the number of downloads and user reviews. Some unscrupulous developers applied to special services to cheat the number of downloads, thereby increasing the application rating. As a result, not all popular applications had high quality.

Some developers of popular apps do not pay attention to negative feedback from users, striving to add more and more new functions to the application before their competitors will. Of course, there is not enough time to fix all defects then. This fact results in launching new versions of the application with the same defects. It’s understandable that users leave negative feedback and uninstall the application.

When users install first-rate mobile applications on their smartphones, they are expecting to get quality apps without functionality and performance issues. And such factors as excessive battery usage and crashes can cause irritation and make users uninstall apps. Google notes that half of 1-star reviews mentioned app stability.

Thanks to the new algorithms, users will find the application without defects first. Developers who focus on app quality, in their turn, will be able to see a boost in their rating and a greater number of downloads.

What awaits unscrupulous developers?

All applications that are ranked high will be thoroughly tested. Once a bug is found, the application will be removed from the ranking for an indefinite period. The developers will receive a letter with concerns they have to address.

It is unclear how many negative feedbacks and deletions can lead to downgrading. Google does not disclose concrete numbers. But it is known for certain that the algorithms analyze various quality signals, such as application performance, battery usage, statistics of crashes, and deletions from various mobile devices. Feedback from users will be taken into account as well.

According to Google representatives, the result is already tangible: users download higher quality applications and the amount of uninstalled apps has reduced.

How to save the application from downranking?

New algorithms will make developers apply a more responsible approach to software quality issues. It can be frustrating to spend several months on product development and to be punished by Google and get forced to fix defects. You will have to spend extra time not only to addressing the concerns, but also to relaunching the application. Meanwhile, users can find a better analogue.

How can you find all defects in advance and ensure your application has a high position in search results? The answer is evident – test your mobile application before placing into in stores.

Professional testing of your application will minimize the risk of receiving negative comments from Google. You will be able to focus not on fixing bugs, but on improving the application and developing new features.

Right before releasing the application, you can perform basic checks and detect defects using the Google Play Console:

  1. The Android Vitals application will help you identify stability issues and know how the application works on user devices.
  2. The test report will show all defects detected in your application during the alpha or beta testing on the most popular devices.
  3. User feedback will inform you about the problems that your audience is facing and devices that experience most problems.

It is evident that these checks will not reveal all bottlenecks. The process of mobile applications testing is handicapped by various parameters and operating systems of mobile devices, screen resolutions, and usage of different Internet connection types.

How can you benefit from QA engineers assistance?

QA engineers can perform the following actions:

  • Thoroughly examine the application lifecycle: from installing to upgrading or uninstalling
  • Check the application operation under different conditions that a real user may encounter (horizontal and vertical screen orientation, different types of connection and switching between them, interrupts, external devices connection). For example, your application is aimed at downloading files from your smartphone or tablet to Dropbox. While the files are being downloaded, the Internet breaks and the application is down. Such operation is a defect. Similar stress-scenarios can be provided for every application
  • Check GUI and navigation, using different buttons and gestures
  • Test the application performance with different language settings and localization
  • Analyze application operation and performance
  • Check how the application process media and audio, send notifications
  • Perform specific tests on mobile devices (authorization using accounts on social networks, synchronization with other accounts)

This list includes only basic checks that are applicable for most mobile applications. In fact, this list can be much longer.

QA engineers, who tested tens or hundreds of applications, know how important it is to test the application when switching from a Wi-Fi network to a mobile 2G / 3G network and vice versa, as well as to test the application performance with pure Internet connection.

We can enumerate different types of checks almost endlessly. However, covering all aspects can make the testing process long and expensive, which is unacceptable. Therefore, a QA engineer needs to understand how a particular application works to analyze complex, non-trivial defects.

What about the AppStore?

The situation has also changed. Previously, optimization of the application for AppStore mainly included the selection of keywords and adjusting the design. Now, more and more developers receive messages from the store about bugs in their apps. If they don’t fix defects by the deadline, the applications are deleted from the store.

Summary

The search and discovery algorithms directly link the quality of your application to the number of downloads and the place in the ranking. Once you have invested in development, make sure your app has high quality – test it.

After thorough testing, you will be sure that issues will not spoil the impression of using the product. And besides a high position in the store, you will receive positive feedback from satisfied users.

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