How do application developers manipulate users’ mood to improve app ranking

Time:2020-9-13

How do application developers manipulate users' mood to improve app ranking

It takes only a second to rate an iPhone app. “Do you like this app? A question will pop up in the app, and then you will face a star rating of 1 to 5. Every day, millions of people need to respond to this question, but very few of them think carefully about the decisions they make.

But behind the app rating, the industry has spent countless hours and lines of code to create this moment. The seemingly random prompt can be carefully arranged and only appears on your screen when you are most likely to leave a five-star comment.

The game app will not solicit comments until it has won. The bank app will ask at payday. The gambling app will prompt users after they get the perfect 21 point card. Sports applications will only give a prompt when the user’s team wins.

Apple has been cracking down on the “point brushing robots” for a decade, using them to cheat five-star scores and manipulate app store rankings. And achieved certain results. But these tactics are so bad that they clearly violate Apple’s rules. There is a more complex advanced technique that can achieve a good effect without violating the rules. With the help of behavioral psychology, you can understand your mood, emotion and behavior,They’re not in the black system, they’re blackening your brain.


Saoud khalifah, chief executive of fakespot, a service that analyzes the authenticity of online reviews, “this algorithm for analyzing human emotions is very secretive. “

“When users are excited, the body produces a lot of dopamine and tends to leave positive comments. The algorithm will mark this group of users as the target users and push the evaluation information to them. “

Instead of collecting the right comments, developers know when not to send comments to users: a news app won’t ask for comments from people reading stories about death and destruction. Don’t ask anyone who has been making a mistake. These techniques help to prevent negative scores from being published and improve the overall average.

“We call this” latent value sensing, “says Michael Sikorsky, chief executive of robots and pencils, which helps mobile Internet companies improve.” when you think you’ve got someone in the dark corner of an app, it’s definitely not a good time to ask for comments. “

Brian Levine, vice president of strategy and analysis at mobiquity, a consulting firm, said that these strategies have been deliberately hidden from the public, but they are public secrets among developers. “It’s very difficult to find companies that don’t do this among major enterprises nowadays.”. Even those enterprises that have not done so have realized that this is a necessary condition to enter Apple’s app store. So now the situation is that the rating of the app store becomes meaningless to customers.


The impact of the “inflation” of high scores is profound. Millions of companies use mobile apps to reach Apple’s nearly 1 billion users. Business on the app store grew to more than $500 billion last year, more than the GDP of most countries.

According to mobile data and analysis provider app Annie, 27% of the global average user’s waking time is spent on mobile devices.

Apple is currently facing criticism, and the lawsuit of Epic Games, the developer of Fortress night, has become the focus of attention because Apple charges 30% of the app’s fees through the app store. But this only affects 16% of the paid apps, and the inflation of high scores will affect every app in the app store.

The competition between applications is very fierce, so getting high marks is very important. Apptentive, a reputation management group, calls ratings “the lifeblood of the mobile application world.”. Its research shows that jumping from two stars to three stars can increase downloads by 306%, while jumping from three stars to four stars can increase downloads by 92%. Gummicube, who helps companies optimize the app store, says four out of five users don’t trust apps with a rating below four stars.

In the evaluation of “inflation”, developers get more installations, apple gets more commission, and this snowball effect will get bigger and bigger, but the problem is that the truth becomes more and more blurred.


The trigger for this “inflated” rating was Apple’s update in September 2017 to increase consumer engagement. Users no longer need to take the initiative to go to the app store to rate an app. This mechanism leads to the low evaluation of most applications.

With the launch of IOS 11, Apple has given developers the ability to provide “in app prompt scoring.”. The advantage of these cues is that they can lead to wider participation, that is to say, they can effectively overcome the “responder bias” and give the negative voice a loudspeaker. For a wider population, it is to improve accuracy.

In a sense, it was a big success, and participation soared. According to apptentive, the average number of applications increased from 19000 in 2017 to more than 100000 in 2019. By contrast, Google’s play store, which did not offer in app ratings during this period, climbed from 33000 to 43000.

But critics say apple designed the system in a way that allowed developers to exploit multiple vulnerabilities and lead consumers to exaggerate their ratings. By allowing developers to request prompt in the application at the time of their choice, developers can use techniques to make the number of fans reach almost zero and avoid asking users who are considered to be at risk, so as to achieve “sample bias”.

Apple asked developers to use a standard interface to collect users’ 1-5-star ratings for their products. In order to collect real scores, developers have introduced “frame bias”. If the developer prompts the user with a positive note, such as “congratulations on your high score! 」。 Then immediately ask for their comments, and the chance of getting a five-star rating will increase.

Although Apple banned developers from saying, “how would you rate this app? The user is prompted to ask the user to rate the application after obtaining a satisfactory answer. However, developers can still guide consumers by adjusting problems. Video conferencing applications can ask, “how is your call quality? After obtaining the answers, the scoring tips will be issued.


“What they’ve done is to tilt the scales in favor of themselves in the open ratings,” said Rob Markey, a consultant at Bain and co-founder of Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter Score is an indicator to help companies measure, manage and improve customer loyalty. “As companies become more adept at manipulating scores, the rating system itself is becoming less and less useful to consumers. “

Other platforms have also encountered the problem of false high scores. Amazon is investigating the most prolific “commentators” on its UK website after a Financial Times survey found evidence that these “commentators” made money by publishing thousands of five-star ratings.

Apple users can choose not to receive in app prompts. In addition, they can go to the app store and write negative reviews at any time. Apple doesn’t allow developers to block them. However, it allows app manufacturers to reset their ratings, and since in app prompts are very effective at getting average users to click 5 stars, negative ratings can easily be drowned out. There was an app that had 1090 one star reviews, but within weeks of changing the feedback mechanism, the app received more than 35000 reviews, 90% of whom gave it five stars.

“It was designed to a large extent. Wendy Johansson, a user experience designer at consulting firm Publicis sapient, said.

Apple has been trying to prevent developers from scrutinizing users to give them higher ratings and threatening to ban developers who violate the rules. In response to a financial times question, apple said it had removed apps that violated its rules from the app store and removed developers from its Apple Developer program. “Our app store audit guide clearly states that any developer who tries to cheat the system, such as by manipulating ratings or how their app appears in search results, may be taken off the shelf and removed from the developer plan,” Apple said. “

How do application developers manipulate users' mood to improve app ranking

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