According to a recent trends analyzed by Fiksu, Apple appears to have changed the App Store ranking algorithm to incorporate ratings as a key factor. Apps with four to five starts have seen a boost in position. The trend started in July and has continued through August thus far. Middle of the road ratings don’t seem to be affected. Those apps will low ratings are getting pummeled.
This would change the game drastically for developers, who would now have to rely on customers to provide a fair and honest assessment of their app. Having read my fair share of customer reviews both on third-party apps and our very own forums app, customers can at times be off-base. That’s me being kind. In our case, we offer a free app that provides unfettered access to our forums, provided you’re a member (which is also free). Even without signing up, you have full access. We’ve been banged before with a 1 star review for not having search capabilities, a feature that’s been there since day one. Free apps are disposable, so users might not spend time learning the ins and outs. In all fairness, one would assume this gets balanced out.
Earlier this month, I touched on the troubling trend of iOS 7 beta users leaving bad reviews on the App Store. With these new rankings going into affect, this of greater concern for developers who have no where to turn when they see an unjust rating.
TechCrunch unearthed evidence that suggests ratings for new releases would have a greater influence over older rankings. This could fix the beta issue and encourage app updates, which could be a good thing. If an app has a known problem, seeing an influx of bad reviews could force an update. How long before we see angry mobs form in the review section of apps?
Probably the most encouraging part of their report has to do with engagement. SearchMan, an App Store SEO, notes that new user engagement that would include time spent, day two opens and so forth could be a factor.
This is no easy task. Where profit is involved, you will always have those looking for shortcuts to good rankings. Changing the App Store algorithm won’t change that mindset, it’ll just change how they attack the system.