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The path to improving your app ratings

This is the seventh post in the “12 Weeks of Christmas” series.

First, a quick heads-up!

Update: remember in week one when we told you about the App Store Christmas lockdown? Well, the dates have been announced: the App Store will freeze from Dec 21 – 28. That means no new submissions, no updates, no price changes, no In-App purchases.

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Every app publisher has to deal with app ratings: one to five stars left right on your main sales page, often by frustrated customers. Sometimes they’re accompanied by entertaining (or not) comments that you have no way of responding to – the joys of being an app developer!

Some publishers will tell you that your app lives and dies by its ratings. It’s not that bad really, but ratings are still important. While having great ratings won’t guarantee your sales will explode, having a low rating will definitely deflate your app’s true potential.

Think of great ratings as having a great landing page: it simply helps your app store traffic convert better, along with your screenshots, icon and text. We even make it easier for you with tools like Review Bar, which encourages good ratings and directs unhappy users to give you feedback instead, so don’t fret.

There are many small things you as a publisher can do to influence your own app’s ratings. The two main approaches are:

  1. minimize low ratings by removing issues you get complaints about
  2. encourage happy users to take a second and give you a good rating

There is healthy disagreement in the community about whether pestering your best customers makes for sound business strategy. Our opinion is that your best customers understand why you’re asking and will happily ignore you if they don’t have time for it.

So here are some easy ways to drive more 5-star reviews to your app:

Ask for ratings in your app

It may sound obvious, but if you want something why not just ask for it? One of the most effective ways of getting great ratings is to ask people while they’re using your app. The key is to not ask too early – a new user who’s just getting started may not have the time nor the affinity to your app to want to leave a rating. Instead, wait until the user clearly likes your app and uses it a few times before making the ask.

Ask for ratings on your website

Next, use your website effectively. Many of your best users will visit your site for tips, support and information. Users are often too engaged in your app to take the time to leave you a good rating, but while on your website they’re in a different mode. They are much more likely to leave you a rating, especially if they’re on their desktop computer. So why not ask for it? We have made it very easy too, just add the aforementioned Review Bar to your site and call it a day.

Examine customer touch points

You are your app’s best ambassador. If you communicate with your customers frequently (and you should), make sure they know that ratings and reviews really help your business. You’ll be surprised what having a compelling call to action (CTA) in your signature can do. We used:

“Help us immensely, review our app” with a direct link to review page.

And don’t stop with your own signature: make sure that all of your outgoing support email has similar messaging attached. Even an unhappy customer will be happier when they receive a reply from a human, and it just may get them to change their 1-star rating to 3-stars (this really did happen to us several times).

Make your app worthy of that good review

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out. Users are asked often to review apps and are getting desensitized to it, but you can change that. Make an app that truly delights and surprises people: they will not just give you a good rating if asked, but will spread the word on their own. So don’t forget to work hard on earning your customer’s adoration.

There are also other point-in-time strategies: if you’ve had an unforeseen problem – maybe an unexpected bug made it to release and flooded you with bad reviews before you were able to get the fix out – you may have to be more proactive. Try sending an apology email to your best customers (you do have an email list, right? More on this next week), with a straightforward ask at the end for help on the ratings front. Alternatively, post your request to your app’s Facebook page, Twitter, and blog. Your true fans will be there to help.

Frequent updates to your app will eventually adjust your rating average and start ignoring reviews from the previous app version. This may seem like a loss if you’ve worked hard to get those good reviews, but it’s also a blessing when a buggy release toilets your ratings.

So, don’t fret individual reviews or ratings and work on a long-term strategy to encourage a steady influx of good feedback so that an occasional bad review will no longer matter.

Recap:

  • Ask for ratings in your app, but not too early
  • Use Review Bar to prompt website visitors to give you good ratings, will unhappy customers send you feedback instead
  • Use a signature in all your email support with a CTA to rate your app
  • Unforeseen problems? Send an apology via email
  • Work on a long-term strategy for customer happiness – ratings average out over time


Next week: building your email list, plus how and when to use it.

This is part seven of the 12 Weeks of Christmas series

This post is just part of a weekly series on marketing your mobile app more effectively – the sort of way that spikes your holiday sales.

To catch the whole series stay dialed-in to Tapstream, or why not subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss a post. We have lots more great tips coming up.

You can read the first six posts here:

  1. Warning: the App Store freeze could kill your holiday sales (here’s how to thrive)
  2. Planning and testing for your marketing push
  3. Beyond the App Store: how to start winning with content
  4. Find Your Audience
  5. Get discovered: tuning-up your mobile app’s SEO (free 60 day SEOmoz trial)
  6. How to kill it on social media in 20 minutes per day