Home Apple to Developers: Don’t Mess With Our App Store Rankings

Apple to Developers: Don’t Mess With Our App Store Rankings

Apple really does not like it when you mess with its finely tuned systems. Especially when it is the company’s cash cow iOS platform. In a short statement yesterday, Apple warned developers not to game the rankings system in its App Store, threatening the loss of Apple Developer Program membership to those who are found using services intended to artificially raise the profiles of their apps in Apple’s store.

Full statement from Apple’s developer page:
“Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership. Get helpful tips and resources on marketing your apps the right way from the App Store Resource Center.

This is not the first time that Apple has reacted to entities trying to game the App Store rankings. Mobile marketing company Tapjoy was famously kicked off the iOS platform last year after providing users incentives for downloads through virtual currency. This latest threat comes as some developers may be turning to third-party services overseas where users are paid to download apps in order to have them raise their rankings.

The practice of paying users to download apps or flood the Web with posts has been called “water armies” because of their willingness to inundate the Internet with content or downloads for the right price. Tactics include link and content farming or posting to social media channels. Google has battled water armies in its SEO rankings for some time with its Panda program.

The same concept applies with the Apple App Store rankings. Users getting paid to download appsbecame enough of a problem that Apple felt the need to speak out on the subject. As Apple is usually tight-lipped about its metrics and methods, the announcement is a bit of a wonder in itself.

Apple paid $700 million to developers last quarter with the top performing apps likely taking up the bulk of that revenue. Publishers getting their apps in the top rankings is the difference between making hundreds of dollars on an app or thousands.

There are a variety of third-party marketing services that developers can use to avoid the ire of Apple. Options include analytics firms like Flurry, Localytics and Apsalar, PlayHaven (among others) to more traditional marketing outlets like public relations firms or mobile marketing studios such as SapientNitro or AKQA.

In any business, marketing is not easy. There is really no easy fix. Attempts to game the system are likely to be punished by Apple or scorned by the larger community. Tapjoy found out the hard way and has been spending a good portion of the last year finding ways around the App Store (through its own application marketplace and HTML5 initiatives).

The best advice to get into the top rankings of the Apple App Store is to have an app worthy of the attention. Releasing a mediocre app and gaming the system will only work for so long, as users find it subpar and start flooding the reviews sections with calls for the developers head on a pike.

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