How Reviews and Ratings Affect App Store Optimization (ASO)

Unlike other facets of ASO, ratings and reviews are the only areas where the market opinion of your app directly shapes the visual appearance of your page: Here's a comprehensive guide

This article will cover the best practices for app store ratings and reviews, in-app ratings, and reviews, how to track, manage and reply to app store reviews and how it all fits with your App Store Optimization of reviews. 

Given the volume of apps publicly available these days, it is almost inevitable that your app has similar functions (and audiences) to another. App store optimization (ASO) is key to effectively competing for downloads and users, and reviews and ratings are integral to ASO strategy. 

A typical app store journey exposes the user to the name, icon, and user ratings of a given app. After being drawn in by a relevant name, appealing imagery, and stellar ratings, the potential user who will read the reviews, will be provided the social proof and credibility necessary for potential users to take the next step: downloading.

Unlike other facets of ASO, ratings and reviews are the only areas where the market opinion of your app directly shapes the visual appearance of your page. After all, you cannot simply delete reviews or change ratings—this can be done only on iOS by resetting ratings with new version releases.  

In this resource, we will explore why it is important to manage your reviews and ratings, and we will present unique findings that demonstrate their importance.

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Understanding Ratings and Reviews in the App Stores

It is important to recognize the differences between the two major app marketplaces (Google Play and the App Store) and to adjust strategies accordingly. Let’s break it down: 

Users ratings and reviews on the app stores

Ratings and Reviews in the App Store

In the App Store, it is important to be aware that ratings are visible on both the search result page and the app page within the store. When your app is shown as a result of a search query, a star rating system appears below your app’s subtitle. Adjacent to the stars is the number of ratings.

When a user opens your app page within the store, the five-star rating system, its corresponding number (rounded to a tenth), and the volume of reviews are prominently featured below the download button, making all three nearly impossible to miss for potential users. 

Specific reviews selected by Apple’s algorithm are reflected on a “featured reviews” portion of the page, but diligent users view all reviews by clicking through to different pages. 

Ratings and Reviews in Google Play

In the Google Play store, reviews and ratings appear more frequently but less prominently. The app rating is visible on the store’s “Top Charts” page. However, an important distinction to make is the star rating system: while the App Store relies on five stars fractionally shaded to indicate an app’s cumulative rating, the Google Play store utilizes a single, always-shaded star and a number that reflects the current rating. Although Google Play’s rating system is initially more nuanced, users prefer imagery, and thus reviews and ratings on the Google Play store are harder to differentiate. 

Google Play’s rating widget appears in several places, including the store’s top charts and the app page.

Below the star and numeric rating, the Google Play store quantifies the number of reviews. A review portion of a Google Play app page is also significantly more developed than an App Store app page. In addition to showing the distribution of ratings, Google utilizes Natural Language Processing (NLP) to highlight the average rating and keywords that are widely used within reviews. Below the keywords, Google Play features the top positive review and the top critical review. The remaining reviews can be viewed on a separate page.

In sum, ratings in the App Store and on Google Play directly affect search performance by informing the tap-through rate, the conversion rate, and the on-page conversion rate from all sources. The main distinctions between the two marketplaces are that 1) ratings for apps in the Google Play store directly affect the app’s performance on the Top Charts and 2) the Google Play store’s reviews and ratings feature more prominently.

What’s the Impact of App Reviews and Ratings on Conversion Rates for ASO?

To measure the impact of reviews and ratings on conversion rates, we analyzed data from thousands of tests run by mobile app publishers on Storemaven.

Generally, reviews are significantly less important than ratings. In both app marketplaces, all users are shown the cumulative rating. However, a limited number of users explore reviews.

On the App Store, about 17.2%-26.2% of users will be exposed to the review widget (where a user can choose to leave a review) and only 0.25%-1.5% of users will click on reviews to read them on the review screen. Similarly, in the Google Play store, about 13.8%- 18.5% of users will be exposed to the review widget and only 1.44% – 2.8% of users will click on reviews to read them on the review screen. 

Users Exposure to Reviews

However, don’t forget that users are exposed to the number of reviews constantly, making both ratings and reviews important marketing tools to convince potential users of your app’s credibility.

One of the most fascinating takeaways from analyzing our data is that perfect ratings (five stars or, written numerically, a perfect 5.0) lead to a drop in conversion rates. This drop is most likely the result of disbelief: certain users having a hard time trusting a 5.0 rating, as it’s almost “too good to be true.” 

Instead of aspiring for a perfect rating, aim for a rating within the 4.0-4.99 range. As long as your app’s rating is above 4.0 you’re fine—whether it’s 4.1 or 4.9, these changes don’t really impact the conversion rates. However, once ratings drop to 3.99 or less, conversion rates start to drop, as users associate a rating in the three-star range with low quality. Intuitively, conversion rates continue to drop as rating decrease. To many users, reviews in the one-star or two-star range signal critical issues. The table below shows how apps with three stars and lower lose half of the possible downloads. 

How Reviews and Ratings Affect App Store Optimization (ASO) - 1

After testing the sentiment of reviews, we discovered that users are sensitive to the tone and nuance of the reviews’ language. That said, recall that only a small number of users actually reach the review screen. The tone of the reviews themselves has a very minimal impact compared to other “first impression” features (such as cumulative rating and other “above the fold” marketing assets), and tests show that it has a negligible effect on conversion rates.

A Framework for Managing Ratings and Reviews from an ASO Perspective

Keep in mind that reviews and ratings are just one aspect of your ASO strategy and changing other facets of your ASO strategy will more easily improve conversion rates. But remember that reviews and ratings will always reflect the quality of the product. If your product is performing poorly with users, it is not productive to worry about your review and rating strategy; instead, address your users’ burning complaints—improve your app and better reviews and ratings should ensue. 

However, if you are confident in your product and the most pressing complaints have been addressed, there is a clear, five-part framework to follow in order to ensure reviews and ratings are being managed optimally: 

1. How to inspire more reviews

It is recommended to use an iOS native in-app review request widget in order to collect reviews and ratings. Instead of building a customized pop-up that would send users to the store, an in-app review request widget is less intrusive and takes only seconds, as users remain within the app to both rate and review. Unfortunately, in the Google Play store, there is no native in-app request widget (although Google is testing one), so you will need to implement a custom one.

2. How to encourage more positive reviews

In order to improve the quality of reviews themselves, make sure that you are asking for the review at the right time. A user is more likely to leave a positive rating or review if asked immediately after a happy moment. For example, a “right time” might follow a situation where the user was delighted or went through a “wow” moment. Perhaps they just moved up to the next level in a game or completed a task. 

Monitoring your review quality will help you test and optimize the exact moment when you ask users for a review. It will also ensure that you don’t interrupt users in a critical time (such as mid-game).

Additionally, tracking and monitoring your reviews (with a tool such as AppFollow) will allow you to reply to (and address) any issues that led to a negative user experience. Remember that if you ignore negative reviews about technical fixes or customer support, then the similar reviews will continue to populate your app store page and affect downloads. The table below demonstrates the impact of engaging with your users—replying to even a third of reviews leads to a higher rating, as users often update their review after they receive assistance.

3. How to manage your ratings

Since ratings are easier to provide than reviews—in fact, users can submit a rating and skip the review portion altogether—users tend to leave ratings more often than they leave reviews. Although a rating with a review is preferable, understand that users are frugal with their time. Thus, it is best to request a review only when a user is willing to deliver high praise—in other words, you need to time the “right moment” perfectly.

When you ask a user for a review, also consider the target range of ratings (4.0 – 4.99) that we discussed previously. Monitor your ratings and make sure to act when your reviews drop sharply. 

For iOS apps, this means consider releasing an update and then resetting your app’s rating. For Android apps, Google Play will value recent reviews more than it values old ones. Thus, by promptly addressing issues that arise, your ratings should recover quite quickly. 

4. How to use reviews for user research 

Use review and rating data to familiarize yourself with your audience, drive keyword optimization strategy (resulting in more relevant search traffic), and identify (and market) the most important features to your audience. Ratings and reviews provide valuable feedback that can result in higher conversion rates and lead you to better paid or organic growth. For example, by analyzing your app’s reviews, you might discover a feature that most users greatly value but isn’t represented in your app store creative assets such as screenshots, video, icons, etc., pointing to a missed opportunity.

Surprisingly, many mobile marketers neglect key aspects of their reviews. Reviews and ratings are not only helpful for discovering bugs and other technical troubles, but they also provide insight into their users’ experiences, feelings, thoughts, and values. 

5. How to handle bad reviews: should you delete a bad review? 

As mentioned, the most important thing to do when getting a bad review is to address them and acknowledge the issue. In case your app is being spammed, both the App Store and Google Play have algorithms to identify and remove spam reviews. To get these spam reviews removed from your app page, you can report a concern to the App Store or Google Play. It usually takes up to two weeks for a concern to be considered. Below, you can see an example of such a review: not only critical towards the app but also mentioning the competitors.

You can’t remove all negative reviews from your page this way, and some of them will stick around forever; but you can try to clean up the reviews that you feel affect your install conversion rate the most.

In conclusionexplore your app’s full potential

To sum up, reviews and ratings are an important part of ASO. Better ratings mean better conversion rates, as 79% of users check an app’s rating before downloading. 

By inspiring users to give you more reviews, encouraging them at the right time to send better reviews, monitoring and managing your ratings, and addressing negative reviews and replying to them, you will maximize conversion rates and enjoy the best reviews and ratings page possible. Follow this guide and the four-steps method, and your reviews and rating will soar. 

Improving reviews and ratings

Ensure that you map your user journey and identify the points in the journey where you delight users the most and optimize the timing of your in-app review and rating prompt to those points.
First and foremost ensure that you’re listening to user feedback (also by reading user’s reviews) and create a world-class product. Also make sure to reply to reviews, including negative ones, and follow-up with users to improve their experience of the app, and suggest they’ll update their rating after you alleviated their pain.
Jonathan Fishman
About Jonathan Fishman
Jonathan is Storemaven's Director of Marketing. Before joining Storemaven he spent ten years commanding tanks, working on Wall St., consulting high-growth companies, and exploring Black Rock City. In his spare time, he likes building things from wood, writing, and listening to Frank Zappa.