Over the years, Google has been regularly updating its policies to fight incentivized and fake activities like installs, reviews and ratings. In a recent update, Google has cracked down further on such developers who are engaging in such activities in order to manipulate the placement of their apps in the Play Store.
Read: Android Developers Blog
Reviews and Ratings for any app are standards that users frequently refer to, before deciding to download the app from the Store. Fraudulent ratings and reviews help in manipulating the placement of the app and affects Store Quality.
What is considered Fraudulent Activity?
Google gives these examples to explain what kind of activity is considered fraudulent and might result in removal from the Store:
- Asking users to rate app while offering an incentive
- Repeatedly submitting ratings to influence the app’s placement on Google Play.
- Submitting or encouraging users to submit reviews containing inappropriate content, including affiliates, coupons, game codes, email addresses, or links to websites or other apps
Through these measures, Google wants to ensure that ratings and reviews on Play Store reflects the real popularity and opinions of users instead of those motivated by incentives offered by marketers or developers.
Quite often, app developers resort to paying for downloads in order to enhance their rankings by showing a high volume of downloads as well as favourable reviews, thus grabbing a spot in the top charts of the store. To achieve this, we have seen developers use automated downloading bots, incentivized installs & registrations, fake ratings & reviews and many more attempts to achieve a higher ranking than what they rightfully deserve in the Play Store.
These policy updates are not only targeted at maintaining the integrity of the Play Store, but it also addresses a concern that such incentivized users generally have lower retention rates. In Google’s own words:
“As a general rule, we advise against utilizing incentivized actions. Incentivized users are a very different user base than users found through other acquisition channels. In an internal analysis, the Google Research team found that incentivized users generally have lower retention rates and make fewer in-app purchases than users found through paid or organic acquisition channels.”
However, Google does recognize that, in some cases, incentivized model is a legitimate user acquisition strategy for some developers and that not all developers are trying to manipulate the system. Google will monitor such apps closely and take action against behaviour that violates their policies.
What does this mean for App Developers?
It is important that app developers, who work with third-party marketing companies, ensure that they are indulging in legitimate practices in order to meet goals. It is the app developers’ responsibility to ensure that all ad networks or affiliates associated with their app comply with these policies and do not employ any prohibited promotion practices.