Watch App Store Reviews!

by Brook Lenox on July 31, 2009

eyeWhen developing an iPhone app there are few things that can help or hurt you as much as App store user comments. Great comments and high ratings can accelerate your sales. Poor comments and ratings can kill an app with great potential.

I want to encourage you to look at your app store user comments daily.

Why so often?

Textfree Unlimited is a 4 star app that has stayed in the top 100 apps for 138 days now priced @$5.99. Pretty incredible.

But something bad happened last week.  I noticed that for our 4 star app, suddenly had 14 1 star ratings with terrible comments that were all marked “most helpful” by tons of people. This all happened in a 24 hour period.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes you make a product error or launch an update that warrants bad reviews.  In that case, read them all, listen closely, make changes to your app, and your users will be grateful.  This is not what happened.

So what happened?

Last week at Pinger we had a competitor come in and trash our ratings.

Here is what they did.

Massive iTunes Account Creation

This unscrupulous competitor created 50-100 iTunes accounts. This is not hard to do, but it takes time. They did this so they could act like 100 different users.

Comment Creating

They then created the 14 comments each with a different user account and gave our app a 1 star rating.

Comment Rating

Here’s where the really powerful and potentially dangerous feature of the App store reviews comes into play.  Apple gives users the ability to mark a comment “helpful”.  Once this competitor with questionable morals, created the comments, they used the 50+ iTunes accounts and marked all the terrible comments they made “helpful”. This immediately raised them to the top of the heap.

Argggghhhh!

So What Can You Do?

Here is what I suggest you do:

  1. Watch your reviews closely
  2. If you get slammed with a bunch of negative reviews research them
  3. Take action

Watch Your Reviews Closely

This is easy to do when you first launch an app, because you are thrilled that people are actually talking about your app. But as the excitement wears off, you’ve got to be committed to checking your reviews daily.

Research

If you see something similar to what I explained, after you have your short hysterical break down, start researching. Are these for real? Is something really wrong with your app?

Some tell tale signs of fake reviews:

  • They sound fake – read em – really they do!
  • They mention another app that you need to go get
  • They all happen at once

Take Action

  1. Contact Apple and ask them to be removed (may or may not help)
  2. Decide how to fight back

Contacting Apple is not easy. You probably don’t even have an app store account manager. But try to reach out to Apple and report what’s happened.

The biggest decision you have to make in all of this is how to respond. Do you want to strike back? Oh yes! Go write some of your own reviews.  I won’t do that because you are just stooping down to their level. Yes, it’s a question of morals and I wouldn’t go there, but it’s obviously your call. 

You could also write your own glowing reviews of your own product and beef them up by fake means. I’d personally prefer to read reviews of my apps that I like and click on them as helpful (as long as they are). It’s for you to decide. But I indeed would act if I were you.

Has this happened to any of you? What would you do?

Need more help? Check out the How to Market iPhone Apps eBook!

Photo credit: chefranden

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ace Book August 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

seems like a lot of work just to discredit a competitor. Wouldnt it be easier to just spend those hours making their product better?

One problem here – you actually have to own the app to comment on it or rate it.

Brook Lenox August 6, 2009 at 6:38 am

Good point. Not sure how they did that. I’ll have to check on that one.

Mike August 7, 2009 at 9:36 am

They probably bought 14 copies for $84. Not a big price to pay to trash your competition and put a few referrals to your own app in. I’m sure you lost more than $84 in revenue from those reviews. I’m only guessing you don’t have to own the app to mark the review helpful.

Brook Lenox August 7, 2009 at 9:51 am

Mike,

Good point. Especially since many of the bad comments said: “Check out our app named XYZ!”.

Mike August 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

Let us know if contacting Apple produces and helpful results!

Kele August 7, 2009 at 11:18 pm

You need to contact to Apple, report this. This kind of competitor will do this again if you do nothing.

Brook Lenox August 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Kele,

Already done so.

Thanks,
Brook

Brook Lenox August 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Mike,

Apple is investigating the comment spammer. We’ll see.

Brook

Michael August 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

We had similar problems. Our paid app retails for $9.99 but we found that most of the 1-star reviews were from people who only review our app an no others. 😉

We started a section of our Forum where we respond to each and every 1-star review. Most of them are spurious. We also invite those ‘reviewers’ to participate in the forum along with our other 2,000+ members. Naturally, they don’t :)

Immediately after each 1-start review, we post our own review using our Corporate name, and we direct readers to the section of our Forum that responds to each and every 1-star review.

Not sure if it works; we’re in our infancy. We shall see.

Brook Lenox August 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Michael,

Excellent thoughts. Sounds like you have a good, sound strategy for handling review.

Thanks,
Brook

Michael August 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Thanks. We shall see! I am of course distressed that our competition sees the need to stoop to these lows. But that tells me our product is good, and we will continue fighting. But we will not compete that way.

Anna June 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Did you ever hear back from Apple?

We are having a similar problem. An anonymous competitor is giving us hundreds of 1-star ratings.

Brook Lenox June 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

@ Anna – Ugh…that’s a bummer. No never got any help from Apple, but I’d encourage you to keep trying to get them to help.

alex sabonge July 2, 2010 at 6:27 am

GREATTT article man. Got a questions for all developers here. I have develop two apps for the store, and on launch or new versions I manage to position the app in the top 10, takes about a week, but after distributing promo codes, and send emails, etc (the regular marketing) just after a week the app starts going down in position until i get steady around 50. any tips or ideas to help a hard working developer, I even tried writing a story to the news which helped me appear on TV (will be air this week, lets see what happens). anyway, I have try everything. Even writing in the back of my car so when im driving on the highway, i get more customers. Sounds like im desperate but after that week of glory i run out of ideas on what else to do, because i have done everything. Any clues. Any one sharing the same experience

Brook Lenox July 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

@alex – got your email as well I’ll respond. I’d encourage you to read my iPhone App Marketing eBook and the articles on my blog here and make a list of the marketing activities you need to pursue. Keep track of those that work and those that don’t. Don’t give up! Best of luck.

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