Google is testing a new ad space on the Play Store ahead of its I/O developer conference

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Google has been seen testing a new Play Store ad space ahead of its May I/O developer conference. If rolled out publicly, the change could significantly expand the company’s search advertising business on the Play Store by providing developers with access to new prime real estate for their app marketing efforts.

The test comes two years ago after Apple took a similar step by adding a new ad slot that appeared in the Search tab of the store itself, 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 the Android news site, Android Police, who noted that Google had been testing app recommendations in this slot late last year. When asked about those app promotions at the time, Google made it clear that they weren’t ads, just personalized suggestions.

That has now changed as the same place has both app recommendations and suggestions that are actually labeled as ads. (A few examples can be found in this Twitter thread here.) However, the ads aren’t showing to everyone yet, indicating that this was probably 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.

Reached for comment, a vague Google spokesperson confirmed the experiment, noting that the company tests new features on the Play Store from time to time. However, they didn’t provide any further information about this particular ad test – a possible indication that Google doesn’t want to spoil a planned announcement. Or maybe an ETA for a public launch hasn’t been decided yet.

“We regularly test new features and ad formats to improve app discovery for Play users and help developers reach their target audience, but have nothing specific to announce at this time,” a Google spokesperson told AapkaDost.

Finding a new way to monetize Play Store advertising could help Google improve its bottom line at a time when it had to compromise on Play Store commissions. Due to new regulations and pressure from legislators, Google has rolled out third-party billing options to global markets, which offer developers lower costs if they don’t use Google’s own billing services. Spotify has been a previous adopter of the program and dating app Bumble also plans to join.

The availability of new search ad slots on the Play Store could have a significant impact on Play Store revenue if rolled out widely. When Apple introduced new ad spaces to the App Store in less prominent locations last year, experts predicted that the change could bring in another billion in revenue for the tech giant, for example. Google doesn’t disclose the size of its own Play Store Ads business, but it’s probably a significant figure too. Statista data had estimated that Google Play will generate about $48 billion through mobile apps by 2021. However, unsealed lawsuits in a Google antitrust case revealed that Google Play app store revenue was $11.2 billion in 2019.

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