Google has been seen testing a new Play Store ad space ahead of its I/O developer conference in May. If publicly implemented, the change could significantly expand the company’s Play Store search ads business by offering developers access to new prime real estate for their app marketing efforts.
The test comes two years ago after Apple made a similar move by adding a new ad slot that appeared in the Store’s Search tab, rather than just at the top of search results, as before.
Like Apple, Google is also testing an ad space that appears when Android users navigate to the Play Store’s search menu, where they can type keywords to find apps. The test was first spotted by Android news site Android Police, which noted that Google had been testing app “recommendations” in this space late last year. When asked about those app promotions at the time, Google clarified that they weren’t ads, just personalized suggestions.
Now, that has changed as the same place includes app recommendations and suggestions that are actually labeled as ads. (Some examples can be found in this twitter thread here.) However, the ads are still not showing for everyone, indicating that this is likely a test, as Google has since confirmed.
Users have reported seeing the test in multiple markets around the world, so it’s not a US-only update.
When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson vaguely confirmed the experiment, noting that the company tests new features on the Play Store from time to time. They didn’t offer any further information about this specific ad test, however, a possible indication that Google doesn’t want to mess up a planned ad. Or maybe, there is still no determination on an ETA for a public release.
“We regularly test new features and ad formats to improve app discovery for Play users and help developers reach their audience, but we don’t have anything specific to announce at this time,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch. .
Finding a new way to earn revenue from Play Store ads could help Google boost its results at a time when it had to make concessions on Play Store fees. Due to new regulations and pressure from lawmakers, Google has been rolling out third-party billing options in global markets, offering developers reduced rates if they don’t use Google’s own billing services. Spotify has been an early adopter of the program, and the dating app Bumble plans to get in on it, too.
The availability of new Play Store search ad slots could significantly affect Play Store revenue, if widely implemented. When Apple introduced new ad spaces to the App Store last year in less prominent locations, experts predicted that the change could generate another billion in revenue for the tech giant, for example. Google doesn’t break out the size of its own Play Store Ads business, but it’s also likely a sizeable number. Statista data had estimated that Google Play generated roughly $48 billion in 2021 through mobile apps. However, unsealed court filings in a Google antitrust case revealed that Google Play app store revenue reached $11.2 billion in 2019.