Google knows a friction-free app testing and submission process can help developers keep decent apps flowing, so it just rolled out a series of improvements to the beta testing process for Google Play apps. 

Overall, the changes are designed to help developers manage pre-release beta tests easily, so they can “iterate faster” to develop or improve features. 

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Consider it part of Google’s recent developer outreach, which also gives app makers more finetuned ways to promote their apps once the testing is over. 

Test Away

In the past, beta tests were closed and ran through a Google+ community or Google Group. Now users don’t have to be part of the company’s social channels to become testers. 

The new open beta program option lets developers send links, so any user can join a beta test with a single click. That allows the group of users to go from small to large easily, though developers can set a maximize cap, if they want to control the test size. 

The old way of running closed beta tests will still be available, Google says. If they want, developers will even be able to start with the old process and move over to the more open version with the same list of testers. 

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There’s also another option for closed tests: You can run a closed beta test using a private list of email addresses, instead of a Google community or group. Set a master list, and your participants will get a one-click link sent to their inboxes. 

Google has provided some examples of how developers might want to test their apps. Vector Unit’s Matt Small, for example, suggests using a closed beta to iron out any glaring issues and then switching to an open beta.

The company posted a full walkthrough of the process in the Developer Console’s help pages. Beta testers can’t leave reviews and ratings in the Google Play Store, so your app’s reputation won’t take a hit due to any bugs (not until the official public release, anyway). 

Finished Your Beta? Here’s A New Way To Promote It

Changes to the beta program are not the only new Google offering this week. A new Search Ads format for Google Play is now available to everyone. The service, which began testing in February, allows developers and advertisers to promote apps based on what users search in the store. 

According to the company’s official statement, “Search Ads on Google Play can provide consumers new ways to discover apps that they otherwise might have missed and help developers drive more awareness of their apps.” Promoted apps appear with a small yellow Ad sticker in search results. 

The new feature works a lot like ads on Google itself: Apps can be promoted in relation to certain keywords, so a booking app can appear at the top of a search for “hotel reservations,” for instance.

In the coming weeks Google will roll out a new Universal App Campaigns platform that lets developers and marketers manage app promotion across Web search, YouTube, app store search and Google’s other properties. “Simply let us know what your ad will say, who you want to reach, your budget and target cost-per-install, and we’ll do the rest,” the company wrote.

The benefits for Google are obvious: Better testing and search infrastructure means happier developers. Even Apple seems to have gotten that memo, having surprised app builders with recently expanded TestFlight limits. But, by contrast, the iOS beta testing process is still much more controlled and restrictive—which is, in fact, everything you might expect from Apple. 

Image courtesy of Google