In the current mobile app landscape, trusted recommendations in the form of app ratings and reviews carry more weight than ever. Case in point — moving a three-star app to four stars can lead to an 89% increase in conversions.
Clearly, the value of a star is huge.
You can’t just sit back and expect users to leave a review or rating. In fact, users tend to leave bad ratings willingly but skip giving feedback when they’re satisfied with your app. And we all know what having more negative reviews means — doomsday.
No need to worry, though.
We’ve put together this (very) thorough guide that’ll set you on the right track to app growth. Read on to discover why app ratings and reviews are so important, and how to secure a higher ranking on popular app marketplaces like the Apple App Store and Google Play.
What are app ratings and reviews?
App ratings and reviews are the one-to-five-star clusters and individual comments that users can leave under an app in the App Store or Google Play store.
Each user’s individual rating of your app contributes to its average rating, with a one-star rating representing the lowest and a five-star rating the highest. Generally speaking, the more satisfied a user is with your app, the higher the rating they’ll give you.
When leaving an app review, users elaborate on their experience with your app, voicing their praise and concerns. Note that the Apple and Google marketplaces have different criteria for the reviews they choose to highlight — we’ll explore that a little later in this guide.
When browsing or looking for apps, ratings and reviews are the first contact potential users have with your product. But they go beyond first impressions. They’re also an important part of App Store Optimization (ASO) and give users a medium to provide feedback, request improvements, and help other users.
App Store Optimization (ASO) checklist for 2023
What is a good app rating?
Ideally, an app with four stars and above is considered good.
Apptentive conducted a study of 1,000 iOS and Android apps and found the following:
- The average iOS app has a 4.53-star review with an average of 455 App Store reviews.
- The average Android app has a 4.05-star rating and an average of 2,586 Google Play reviews.
There was a time when a five-star rating was viewed as a badge of honor. But user behavior has changed, and today people are also factoring in the number of reviews and ratings an app has before deciding if it’s worth an install.
In other words, a five-star rating won’t mean much to them if your app only has one or two reviews. Instead, they‘re likely to choose another app with a 4.5-star rating if it has hundreds of reviews.
How do you check your app rating?
You can see all the ratings and reviews customers leave under your app, including the average rating assigned based on the feedback. You can also respond to these reviews, thanking users or acknowledging their issues, to build a rapport with people actually using your app.
Why are app ratings and reviews important to ASO?
App store optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile apps to improve their ranking in an app store’s search results. Think of it as search engine optimization (SEO) for the app store.
Potential users have tons of options, which makes standing out in the already crowded app marketplace difficult.
App ratings and reviews serve as positive social proof that can help influence users to give your app a shot. They also indicate user value to app stores, making them more likely to rank your app higher.
Paired with proven ASO techniques, app ratings and reviews significantly improve organic visibility both within app stores and outside and result in the following benefits:
More app store traffic
When searching for an app in the app store, users can see both the name of your app and a summary rating. Naturally, the more stars your app has, the more convinced they’ll be to check out your app, increasing the traffic to your app’s store page.
Note that both Apple and Google prioritize apps with higher ratings and hide apps with lower ratings. So the quality and quantity of your ratings directly affect your app’s keyword rankings and searchability.
If you want to rank higher for a particular keyword, pay attention to your app’s ranking and feedback. The more positive feedback you receive, the more organic traffic you’ll see.
Positive app ratings and reviews encourage potential users to see your app in a positive light.
Think about it: when buying online, if you find a brand has a lot of negative reviews, won’t you feel skeptical of its products and services?
Users feel the same way when they see an app with a lot of negative reviews.
On the other hand, if you work on getting more positive reviews and ratings, you can build a professional and reliable reputation for your brand.
Improved conversion rates
Your job isn’t done when users land on your app store — you’ll still need to convince them to go ahead and hit ‘Install,’ which is where app ratings and reviews come into the picture.
When users see your app has plenty of positive reviews and a high ranking, they’ll be more likely to download it. But if your competitors rank higher, users will be more inclined to choose their app over yours.
In short, the more positive your app ratings and reviews, the higher your conversion rate.
Increased in-app revenue
As an app developer, generating more in-app revenue is likely one of your primary goals. The good news is that app reviews and ratings have a direct impact on app revenue.
More positive app reviews means more downloads, and — even if your app is free to install — that translates into increased revenue opportunities, be it from in-app advertising, in-app purchases, or paid subscription models.
You also attract more app monetization and marketing opportunities from investors and advertisers and earn more revenue. A Statista report found that top-rated apps will grow global mobile app revenue to up to $613 billion by 2025.
Stronger rapport and trust
Reviews and ratings open a communication channel between you and the reviewer.
By leaving a review, users tell you what they like and dislike about your app. You can then reply and talk to them, taking the conversation forward. Express your gratitude for positive app reviews, or acknowledge frustrations for negative reviews, and use them to eventually improve your app.
Two stores, two strategies: Apple App Store vs. Google Play Store
Apple App Store and Google Play Store are the two big shots of the app market, so it makes sense for app developers to prioritize them when publishing their apps and optimizing them for searchability.
While there are a few similarities between the two (think: one-to-five-star ratings and the option to leave detailed reviews), there are also significant differences you must know about.
App ratings: Apple App Store vs. Google Play Store
In the Apple App Store, your average rating is calculated based on every rating your app receives.
Moreover, if you feel the average rating doesn’t accurately reflect the current state of your app, you can reset it when you push a new update to the App Store Connect. In other words, all ratings for prior versions will no longer be considered when calculating the summary writing.
Note that old user reviews will still be visible.
Resetting your app rating is exclusive to Apple. Google Play doesn’t allow this, but it does allow users to change their current rating.
On the other hand, Google Play doesn’t factor in lifetime rankings when assigning an average ranking.
Google considers this measurement unfair and skewed, as it doesn’t reflect the improvements since made to the app. Instead, it gives more weight to ratings made on the current app version so that it better reflects the current state of the app.
If users are increasingly satisfied with your new updates, your app ratings will also improve quickly.
App reviews: Apple App Store vs. Google Play Store
Apple’s algorithm chooses about six reviews to highlight on the app listing page. These reviews can be from a few hours ago to even a year ago, so there’s always a fear of the platform featuring your negative user reviews.
Google Play also highlights reviews, albeit with a twist. It shows users the most positive and the most critical review of an app. So, there’s no getting out of having a negative user review featured on your Google Play page.
The other important difference to note between the two app marketplaces is the role of keywords.
Being a Google product, Google Play indexes all descriptive words on your app store listing, including user reviews. This means you can get your app to rank for keywords aside from ones included in your app name and app description.
You can also sneak in priority keywords when responding to user reviews in Google Play to improve your ranking. Don’t go too crazy and stuff keywords into your replies, though, as it‘ll only turn off the user.
On the other hand, Apple doesn’t index any keywords found in user reviews. It gives you an additional keyword field when editing your App Store listing, where you can input keywords you haven’t already added to your app name and app subtitle.
How can you improve your app store ratings?
Now that you know the importance of app ratings and reviews, let’s discuss some proven ways to improve them across all marketplaces.
1 — Make improving the app your prime focus
At the end of the day, it’s your app’s features and functionalities that influence whether users leave a positive or negative review.
When your app meets their preferences and needs, users will leave a high rating, along with a positive review. But if your app — for the lack of a better word — sucks, they’ll not only uninstall your app but also send you a lot of negative feedback, causing your ranking to plummet.
Therefore, the first step toward better app store ratings is improving app performance and ensuring you’re offering the features users want.
2 — Ask users to leave a rating
Another way to improve your app store ratings is to get more of them. The more ratings you have, the less volatile your average star rating will be. Plus, apps with a large number of ratings rank higher in the app store.
And the best way to get more ratings? Simply ask.
You’ll find several opportunities where you can ask users to rate and review your app while keeping it organic. Even if you have older ratings, you can ask new users to leave fresh ratings and old users to change their previously negative reviews.
Push notifications are great for the wider public, while personalized notes work well for a smaller audience. The good news is users are generally happy, especially when satisfied with an app, to leave a rating if you just ask for it.
3 — Release app updates frequently
Use every review your app gets as a developer response source. If a review points out downloading issues, for instance, release a new update that overcomes this problem and provides a better experience to users.
Once you’ve released the new update, notify users about it. This shows them you want to deliver a better experience and appreciate their engagement, allowing you to build a network of loyal users. More importantly, users will then give you a better rating and review, improving your app’s overall ranking in the app store.
To stay on top of your ratings, we recommend tracking them. If you find they’re getting worse or decreasing in number following an update, read through your newest reviews to find what users didn’t like about it and take the necessary action to fix the issues.
Remember, it’s never too late to rescue your app store ratings and reviews.
4 — Make it easier to leave reviews and ratings
It’s important that the process of reviewing your app is hassle-free and seamless. Some of the best tactics include:
- Embedding your ask organically in your app experience
- Sending push notifications
- Executing strategic email campaigns asking users to leave a review
You want ratings and reviews from active and satisfied users. So think about how to segment and approach these users accordingly. Consider deploying a trigger when you know users are feeling positive towards your app or in moments where they don’t feel interrupted.
For example, you can send a friendly push notification an hour after the user receives the food order they placed through your food delivery app.
5 — Time your reading request well
Timing is another important factor when asking for app ratings and reviews.
Ideally, you want to catch users when they’re feeling positive about your app. This could be after they receive an order, pass a milestone, or explore a new feature. Consider setting up triggers based on in-app behavior or other milestones to achieve this.
Ensure you aren’t interrupting the user’s app experience or reaching them when they’re in a negative mindset. For instance, don’t request a rating or review after their order was delayed or when they’re in the middle of completing an action on your platform.
6 — Reply to user reviews properly and promptly
According to Google, developers who respond to user reviews see a +0.7 boost in their app rating. In fact, users often change their initial negative rating to a positive one after getting a developer response.
Users love it when they’re being heard. So regardless of whether they leave a positive or negative review, acknowledge them interacting with your app. Say thank you for positive reviews as well as more critical feedback, and reassure negative reviewers that you’ll make improvements. .
When you’re confident you’ve addressed or solved a user’s concern, let them know. Every time you respond, users will get a notification, and when they see you care about their experience, they may change their minds and give you a better rating and review.
Note that the quality of your response also matters. Here are a few tips to help you get this right:
- Be respectful and professional in your response
- Be clear and concise when addressing the user’s issue and reassure them you’re taking care of the matter
- Personalize your review response as much as possible
- Avoid arguing and instead be courteous and patient
- Don’t be dismissive or defensive
- Avoid including personal information, spam comments, or marketing lingo
Make users feel you see them as real human beings instead of faceless commodities and that you want to genuinely improve their app experience.
7 — Leverage other channels
While in-app feedback is undoubtedly the most efficient way to collect ratings and reviews, we recommend trying other alternatives to increase the volume of your feedback.
Here are some alternative channels you can use to request ratings.
- Contests: Have reviewers leave their Apple ID or Google Play usernames as replies within your thread. Then select a winner randomly from there.
- Website: Encourage people to download and rate the app on your website, especially when your app is brand-new and recently launched.
- Social media: Hire social media influencers to drive awareness and encourage people to try and rate your app.
- Send transactional emails: Use post-transaction confirmation emails to prompt users to reach your app and incentivize referrals. Alternatively, you can send an email after a customer has received an order.
How to understand your app ratings and review
Once you get users to leave a rating or review, it’s time to understand and analyze them.
Here’s how to go about this:
Filter and organize your reviews based on positive and negative. You can also use filters to search for certain words you’re interested in to collect information, and accordingly change your strategy to satisfy users.
Ask for clarification when needed
Don’t hesitate to ask for more information to serve your users better. Review forms may not always have enough space to provide detailed explanations, and taking the conversation off app stores allows you to start a more free, in-depth conversation.
Reach out to unhappy users via email offering a detailed solution to resolve their grievances. If possible, add other sources of information or attachments so that they can use your app optimally. We recommend notifying them later about app updates to ensure they notice the progress.
Translate non-native language reviews
If you have a global audience, you’ll likely get reviews in other languages.
Don’t ignore them — instead, translate them into your native language to understand what these users want. Sometimes, problems can be geographical, highlighting cultural problems you can adjust to get more satisfied users.
Be sure to acknowledge these reviews by answering them in both languages to show your effort.
Make a note of user likes and dislikes
The best thing about app ratings and reviews is they make you aware of user preferences. You’ll know which features they want to use and which ones they don’t, making the app development and improvement process significantly easier.
Also, make a note of the language and keywords users use to describe your app. This will give you insights into their app store search behavior, enabling you to refine your ASO strategy to increase app store visibility.
- App ratings are the one-to-five-star clusters and app reviews are the individual comments users can leave under an app. Each user’s individual rating of your app contributes to its average rating. Generally speaking, the more satisfied a user is with your app, the higher rating they’ll give you.
- Users are now factoring in the number of reviews and ratings an app has before deciding if they would like to install it. They’re likely to prefer an app with a 4.5-star rating and hundreds of reviews over an app with a five-star rating and just one or two reviews.
- App ratings and reviews are a critical part of an effective ASO strategy, helping improve your app’s search visibility, thereby leading to more traffic and more downloads.
- The Apple App Store and Google Play store handle ratings and reviews differently. For example, the App Store calculates your app’s average rating based on every rating your app receives in its lifetime, whereas Google Play considers ratings given to the current app version.
- The best time to ask users to rate or review your app is when they’re feeling positive towards your app or in moments when they don’t feel interrupted.
- You can use app ratings and reviews to better understand user preferences, including which features they want to use and which ones they don’t, simplifying app development and improvement.
- Reviews are also an opportunity to engage with users, continue the conversation, and build a positive impression of your brand.