App Store Reviews Matter More Than You Think

While we know some of the components that make up the App Store ranking algorithm (keywords, title, reviews, etc.), no one outside of Apple understands the significance of each. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the impact of ratings and reviews. While Google has always weighted those heavily on the Play Store, Apple seems to only have upped their relevance in the last year, and maybe even couple months.

I wanted to run an experiment on this to see if I could get a number of new reviews, positive ones, for my Brewery Passport app, how would that impact my keyword rankings. I decided to send a push notification out to 500 users asking them to leave us a positive review and rating in the App Store. In return, I offered to Certify their passports for free — a $0.99 value. The audience who received the push were not Certified already.

I wanted to keep the sample size small as to not abuse what push really is for. But I also figured I’m giving something of value to these users, so I wasn’t going to cause a number of uninstalls.

In the 24 hours that followed, I received 10 five-star ratings and one four-star rating in the App Store. That brought my total ratings/reviews to 48 (30 five, 5 four, 1 three, 2 two, 10 one). The results:

BreweryPassport App Store Keywords Day 2

This was the second day:

BreweryPassport App Store Keywords Day 2

As you can see, we moved up for a number of keywords we weren’t ranking well for in the first place. The keywords we were inside the Top 10 for, we didn’t move at all.

This leads me to believe that there’s a lot more volatility deeper in the search results and the more reviews you get, the better placement you’ll start to see in the rankings.

Once you get into the Top 10, there’s a lot more competition there. From downloads to reviews, you are surrounded by apps who have a lot of each.

If I do a keyword search for “brewery,” there are two apps in front of Brewery Passport. The first is a game, with 146 ratings and 4.5 stars — 19 ratings on the current version. The second is a beer app that hasn’t been updated since January 2011, yet has 28,376 reviews and 2.5 stars — 408 ratings on the current version. This indicates that Apple isn’t penalizing apps for a lack of updates in four years, nor complying with their latest SDK and design guidelines.

For those wondering about downloads, they didn’t improve. That is not surprising considering the movement was not in the Top 10.

I’ve written about ways to get more ratings and reviews in the past. Both are definitely important to your standing in the search rankings. Do what you can to get more, but do so in a way that doesn’t annoy your users.

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