Incipia blog

ASO Crack-down: Burst Campaigns and Incentivized Reviews

Gabe Kwakyi | November 3, 2016

ASO marketing strategies such as burst campaigns (gray hat) and incentivized reviews (black hat) were always inherently risky of causing an app to be flagged and penalized. Yet it appears that they have become more dangerous than ever in the Play Store, as Google, the king of ranking algorithms announces plans to crack-down on ranking manipulation.

These tactics aim to improve an app's keyword or category ranks, and can lead to rank gains of hundreds of spots instantly, by gaming the ASO algorithm preferences to:

  1. Reward apps which drive high velocity of installs, with better category and keyword ranks (i.e. the more installs your app gets in a smaller period of time, the better your ranks are).
  2. Reward apps which drive a high velocity of 4 and 5 star reviews, with better keyword ranks (plus this can increase conversion rate from users as well).

Even apps with tremendous history and total install volume have been bested in both keyword and category ranks by newcomers who use cheap (as low as cents per install from international bot devices using US app store settings), paid downloads or reviews to overcome organic inertia.

While keywords are less susceptible to general burst campaigns (though keywords do obtain a halo effect from direct app downloads), there are also keyword burst campaigns, which drive downloads on a specific keyword and improve ranking for that keyword.

It will be interesting to see how well Google's new plans work to keep spammers at bay, and which apps lose/gain from this crack-down.

Per Google's words:

"From time to time, we observe instances of developers attempting to manipulate the placement of their apps through illegitimate means like fraudulent installs, fake reviews, and incentivized ratings... Today we are rolling out improved detection and filtering systems to combat such manipulation attempts. If an install is conducted with the intention to manipulate an app's placement on Google Play, our systems will detect and filter it. Furthermore, developers who continue to exhibit such behaviors could have their apps taken down from Google Play."

The Bottom Line: Google moves to penalize apps that attempt to manipulate category and keyword rankings. Burst campaigns and incentivized reviews are prime targets, leaving apps that use these tactics at danger of being penalized.

Original Source: Grow.co Newsletter