Google Updates Play Store Developer Program Policy to Combat Incentivized Ratings and Reviews

Google Updates Play Store Developer Program Policy to Combat Incentivized Ratings and Reviews

The Google Play Store serves as the primary means of app discovery for a very large section of Android users. Plenty of end users rely on the Play Store to find new and interesting apps. Whether it be casually surfing through the Top categories for something interesting, or chancing upon a gem while searching for something else entirely — we’ve all relied on the Play Store to highlight good and interesting apps.

But it is no secret that several developers try to game the system in order to fluff their apps popularity. Fake ratings and reviews are commonplace on malafide apps that serve nothing but adware, and spam installs are used to artificially boost an apps popularity. To combat these, Google has taken a few measures, including today’s update to the Developer Program Policies on incentivized ratings, reviews and installs.

Developers must not attempt to manipulate the placement of any apps in the Store. This includes, but is not limited to, inflating product ratings, reviews, or install counts by illegitimate means, such as fraudulent or incentivized installs, reviews and ratings.

Incentivized actions are those actions where a user is offered money, goods or other equivalents in exchange for a rating, review or install.

A few examples of common violations are noted as follows:

  1. Asking users to rate your app while offering an incentive
  2. Repeatedly submitting ratings to influence the app’s placement on Google Play
  3. Submitting or encouraging users to submit reviews containing inappropriate content, which includes affiliates, coupons, game codes, links to websites and other apps etc

Such actions affect the integrity of the Play Store as they do not truly reflect the working potential of the app and actual user feedback, thereby manipulating other users into installing an otherwise low quality app. Installs which are done with the intent to manipulate the placement of an app in Google Play will be detected and filtered by Google.

However, Google realizes that not all incentivized actions are manipulating the placement of apps in the Play Store. Incentivized installs can also be a legitimate means of user acquisition for some developers, and Google recognizes this as a distinct use case and has hence adopted the following approach:

  • Apps will not be automatically removed simply because they utilize incentivized installs as one of their user acquisition channels, But, Google will monitor for behaviour that compromises the integrity of the store and take actions against such activities.
  • For apps that are deemed to manipulate their placements on the Play Store, Google will monitor and filter incentivized installs in their systems, and will go ahead and remove the app from Top Charts. If needed and warranted, identified apps may also be removed from the Store.

Google is advising against utilizing actions as a general rule. In an internal analysis, the Google Research team found that incentivized users generally have lower retention rates and make fewer in-app purchases when compared to users that come through organic acquisition channels.

Google hopes that these measures will help ensure that Top Charts and other discovery mechanisms on the Play Store reflect the true popularity of an app.

What are your thoughts on these measures? Will Google be successful in cleaning up the Play Store to truly reflect an app’s true potential? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Android Developers Blog

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