Google Play Plans To Test Paid App Placement In Search Results

Google Play’s app results are about to get a little more mixed. Google is about to start the testing phase of a new feature that could allow app developers to pay to have their apps placed in search results.

The Play store has enjoyed steady growth since its 2012 launch, coming ever closer to its Apple competitor. If this type of ad campaigning works, the Play store will be the first to make use of mobile app ads in its results.

According to TechCrunch, developers and advertisers wouldn’t simply purchase an ad campaign; they would instead bid on keywords and phrases. For example, developers might bid on something like “traffic app” to show up in results for that query. Apps with paid placement that show up in search results will look almost like every other app with the exception of a small “Ad” label.

This type of advertising is becoming a necessity for companies like Google and Apple, as mobile device use continues to surge, but browser use dwindles. There was a 6 percent drop in people using their phone’s browser between 2013 and 2014, and that 6 percent has instead moved to mobile apps. In total, according to Flurry, apps absolutely dominated mobile web use, with 86 percent of online time spent during 2014.

Further, the Android Developer’s Blog says that the Play store reaches over 1 billion people.

During the testing phase, advertisers aren’t actually going to be paying for any ad placement, and only a small number of people are going to be able to see the ads. For now, the primary focus is getting feedback on how the ads are placed and how they are targeted. Michael Siliski, the Product Management Director of Google Play, explained in the blog post that this will be a great way for app developers to share their work.

“With more than 100 billion searches every month on Google.com, we’ve seen how search ads shown next to organic search results on Google.com can significantly improve content discovery for users and advertisers, both large and small. Search ads on Google Play will enable developers to drive more awareness of their apps and provide consumers new ways to discover apps that they otherwise might have missed.”

There are some concerns that aren’t quite so optimistic. Since developers and advertisers will have to bid on search phrases to show up in Google Play search results, there’s a chance that it could prevent smaller developers from getting any attention if they can’t afford to compete with larger companies. It is also possible, however, that Google will take some of this feedback into account as they work on their algorithms to prepare the feature for widespread use.