There are over 1.5 million apps competing for users’ attention in each of the two major app stores. The process of organically acquiring just one of the millions of users searching through the app stores requires a certain level of “visibility”. First in terms of visibility, an app needs to be discovered, which is addressed in large part by optimizing the app listing for relevant keyword coverage. An app then needs to convert viewers to users. Creative elements including the app’s icon, video, and screenshots play a large role in converting users, and can also be easily updated and edited. Yet there is another element to your app’s visibility that you can’t control: ratings and reviews. Just how impactful are app ratings and reviews in terms of users’ decision making? Let’s explore.


Where Do Potential Users See Reviews and Ratings

Let’s first look at where potential users see app ratings and reviews in the app stores, to give us some important visual context as to how they appear to users. In Apple’s app store, ratings are displayed in the top charts, search results and app listings.




In Google Play, ratings are shown in results, the app listing, and also in the curated app collections.



How do Ratings Impact Users

To begin with, it is important to highlight the extensive survey on the influence of ratings and reviews that was conducted by Apptentive, a leading mobile in-app feedback and ratings. Of the participants in their study, only 15 percent would consider downloading a two-star app yet 96 percent would consider an app with four stars.

Three-star apps interestingly split the study, with 50 percent saying they would consider installing. If your app is rated three stars or fewer, no matter how cool the icon, screenshots, video etc.- you lose at least 50 percent of the potential downloads from the visibility you work so hard to get. Basically, better ratings means more downloads and better conversions from user searches. Thus it should be no surprise that specifically 99 of the top 100 grossing apps on Google Play have four-star ratings or greater.

It might be easy to surmise that building a great app will automatically lead to better ratings and better conversions from app store views. However, there is actually a lot more to acquiring high ratings and reviews. To understand the components, we need to look at who is leaving app ratings and reviews.


Who is Rating and Reviewing Apps

You know the old saying that an unhappy customer tells 10 friends? Well today, this saying is infinitely more scary and amplified due to the power of social media. What about happy users? Well, they often times just keep using your app, buying in-app purchases, and hopefully uploading achievements and activity via a social media sharing function. It is common that about half of users leave reviews after positive experiences, while two thirds leave reviews after negative experiences. Ratings in general, whether it’s within the app stores or on sites like Amazon or Yelp, tend to get a dichotomy of feedback from two ends of the spectrum- either from those consumers who really love the app or from those who hate or encounter problems with it.


How to Acquire Ratings and Reviews

Okay so now you know who is leaving app ratings and reviews – how do you acquire the ones you actually want?

The process of rating and reviewing apps simply through one’s own accord, can be a bit involved for users. A user has to leave the app, navigate to the app listing in the app store and then to the ratings tab. Thus when you choose to ask them via an in-app message, you want to a) be simplifying the process for them, and most importantly b) be asking at the right time. A little word of advice: do not prompt a user for a review after they have completed a mundane task/action within your app. They will mostly likely exit out of your in-app request and worse, become annoyed by the “interruption”. Instead, prompt them at a meaningful moment where you can capitalize on their engagement and positive interaction with your app. This “meaningful” moment could be logging weight loss in a fitness app, achieving a new high score in a gaming app, or ordering from a certain number of restaurants on a food delivery app.

You should also consider granting users with a certain “reward” such as loyalty points to sweeten their sentiment even more and increase the chances that they will proceed with writing a review and granting a high rating. Users already have a strong attachment to their mobile devices, use this attachment to your advantage as a means to connect with them emotionally and ultimately garner positive feedback.


What is the Impact on App Store Rankings

The app store algorithms are private and extremely dynamic. It can be quite difficult to determine the specific weight on rankings given the number and variation of the elements and metrics.

We know that the number and quality of both ratings and reviews have an influence on app store search rankings, but are they more impactful than downloads or the relevance to a search or in-app usage metrics? While we do not have an exact answer on their level of potency (unfortunately Apple and Google can’t share all of their secrets), we do know that one of the algorithms’ factors- ratings & reviews, can certainly help precipitate another factor- # of downloads. Moreover, good ratings have proven to lead to better conversions from direct app store search results. This in turn signals to Apple and Google that your app is a relevant result for the search term, thus ranking it higher in search results. Fundamentally, acquiring and managing mobile app ratings and reviews should be a key part of any app store optimization strategy.


By recognizing how users interact with ratings and reviews, who is rating your app and why, and the impact good ratings have on downloads and rankings, you can notably increase your app’s visibility and number of users.



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