Reputation management

Dave Bell, Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube, looks at the importance of reputation management as part of a holistic App Store Optimization strategy. 

If bad reviews and ratings are plaguing your app, you may think there’s little you can actually do to improve them. After all, user-derived app listing assets can’t be altered in any way. Some developers may even resort to writing fake reviews or artificially inflating their ratings to help save their app store reputation.

As a fact, your ratings and reviews can’t be changed on any developers end. We’ll also discuss in a moment how any artificial attempts to improve rantings and fake reviews may do significantly more harm than good.

App Store Optimization goes beyond owned app assets. Reputation management is a fundamental part of your growth strategy. Simply put, if your users aren’t raving about your app, both the app store algorithms and potential users shy away from your app. Instead, algorithms start recommending other apps on their platform, which in turn, diverts the users to “better” apps in the category.

In this post, we’ll discuss the dynamic between the user and the app to better understand the importance of reputation management. We’ll also explore the effect it has on your ASO performance, and some best practices to keep in mind.

Understanding the relationship between the user and the app
Comparable to Amazon reviews, users want to know if an app they’re considering is truly worth their time. While an app may have enticing creative assets or data-backed metadata to help it rank, these elements are expected by the user. 

As a user, you expect app listings to have certain qualities like ease of readability, an engaging presentation of assets and so on – like how an avid moviegoer expects certain services or products at a movie theater to be standard (fresh popcorn, movie trailers, comfortable seats, etc.). In short, a stellar app listing is expected – not necessarily applauded.

However, users typically trust other users over developers’ claims on how excellent an app is. The stakes are higher for users who look for paid apps or apps with in-app purchases. Out of an abundance of caution, users will look through reviews to understand how other users have benefitted from using the app.

Reversely, users will also look at significant problems others have faced. While the threshold for negative reviews varies from one user to the next, the standard is actually quite high.

Research has shown that users are significantly less likely to download an app if it has less than a 4-star rating. This statistic isn’t very forgiving, unfortunately. Newly launched apps may find this particularly challenging given the common hurdles that occur before and after launch. 

Reframing reputation management
Many developers often think that reputation management is only reserved for negative reviews and ratings. To an extent, this is true. Developers who see negative reviews plaguing their app listing might need additional help in managing them. They also require a slightly different approach to reputation management compared to everyday reputation management.

However, developers who have a spic and span review section and high ratings also benefit from reputation management significantly. When users see a responsive developer in the reviews section of their app listing, there’s a foundational trust establishment that takes place in the users’ minds. When an app developer responds to rave reviews, users feel as though any problems or feedback will be swiftly addressed if they arise.

Users want to feel heard and their feedback to be genuinely considered – whether it is good or bad. The app review section is the intermediary between the developer and user experience. There is no faster or more effective way for a developer to understand how users are responding to their app. It’s the place where the user and developer can develop a rapport with each other and engage more personally. Moreover, it’s the source of a lot of excellent feedback.

The app stores and reviews
Another reason why reputation management is fundamental to ASO is that the app stores are less likely to recommend a poor-performing app in their algorithm. 

From the app store’s perspective, this makes perfect sense. They wouldn’t want to recommend a bad user experience to the user. Consequently, app ratings and reviews drive conversion and visibility to an extent. Regardless of your app metadata and creative assets, reviews and ratings influence your performance more than you may assume.

However, not all hope is lost if you have poor ratings and reviews. In fact, even some of the worst cases of poor reputation can be saved. Yet, it’s important to note that there should always be an intent to improve the user experience instead of just masking it to save face. This will not only improve your performance over time, but happy users are worth their weight in gold.

Reputation management: the good, the bad and the ugly
Now that we’ve explored the importance of reputation management, let’s take a look at some best practices and practices all developers should avoid at all costs.

The good – best practice

1. Respond to the MAJORITY of Reviews – The sweetest rewards often come at a steep price, but that makes them absolutely worth it. Replying to most reviews, whether good or bad, grants developers that invaluable rapport establishment that influences users even before they initiate a download. In this process, however, the split as to the types of reviews needs your attention. Don’t just respond to the positive reviews. Ideally, a developer would want to respond to all negative reviews and a good portion of positive ones.

2. Address, Sympathize & Resolve – Once you discover the source of negative feedback, its crucial to address it with sympathy. Users want to feel like their concerns are valid and that their needs are given the right amount of attention, followed by swift remediation. If an issue can’t be resolved immediately, like a feature update or a significant bug fix, it’s important to redirect the user in the right direction. Look at the users feedback, identify the issue, and provide them with clear direction for remediation or acknowledge their problem with gratitude and appreciation.

The bad – poor practice

1. The One Size Fits All Response – Responding to reviews should give developers time to reflect on current problems with the user experience. The user took time to formulate constructive feedback that the developer could use to improve their app, so the review response should reflect this. The “copy and paste” responses to problems not only sound robotic, but it indirectly shows disinterest in the user experience. Again, users want to feel heard, not just swept under the rug. Thoughtful, short, and to-the-point responses are best.

2. Playing the Blame Game – Nobody wants to feel like they’re the source of their own problems. Whether it is a genuine problem with the app or a misinformed user, the problem they’re facing shouldn’t be directed back at them. Using pejorative language with a direct address to the user like, “Your problem…”, or the “You are not using XYZ correctly”, can dissatisfy the user. Remove the problem from the user, even if they may just be misinformed on how to use the app. This is an excellent learning experience opportunity for both the user and the developer.

The ugly – avoid these practices

1. Faking it ‘till You Make it – Many developers often resort to buying fake reviews or artificially boosting their ratings. This practice not only defeats the true purpose of reputation management but can also result in the disbanding and removal of the developer’s account. There may be a few bad actors in the app stores who truly do just want to give users shoddy apps and make a quick buck, but some developers turn to this practice because they feel as though they cannot influence their reputation any other way.

Reputation management is no easy feat. These best practices only scratch the surface of what a robust strategy should look like. With the help of an ASO company with over 12 years of reputation management experience, all developers can significantly improve their reputation on the app store for continuous and sustainable growth.

About the Author
Dave Bell is Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube. Gummicube is a global leader in App Store Optimization with more than 11 years of experience optimizing and marketing apps. We offer the leading enterprise ASO technology and agency services, providing support to clients around the world. Our company is trusted by thousands of enterprise brands and leading startups including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Bethesda, SWEAT, GrubHub, McAfee and many others.