The social media world was shaken when the popular social network Tumblr was removed from the Apple App Store. While the app does have built-in filters designed to block people from posting illegal images and content, they failed to stop certain harmful images from being posted. As a result, the app contained content that violated Apple’s terms and conditions and was subsequently removed. Now developers are wondering: how can they be sure their apps won’t make the same mistake?
Terms and Conditions Made Simple
There are several guidelines developers have to follow when selling an app on the App Store. This covers the content within the apps, including mature content or hate speech, payment options and copycat or spam apps. In short: the app should provide clean content, perform properly and be fair with its payment systems, among more specific requirements. The introduction to the terms and conditions provides a quick overview, but it’s important that developers fully understand what their apps can or cannot contain. Violating the terms can result in the app being pulled from the store or the developer being removed from Apple’s developer program altogether. Recently, Apple has been cracking down on apps with misleading subscription offers. Developers looking to offer subscription services must be careful about how their subscriptions are advertised and offered, so that they don’t go against Apple’s business guidelines. Along with the takedown of Tumblr, it’s quite clear that Apple cares about enforcing its guidelines, no matter how popular the app may be.
User Submitted Content
Tumblr’s removal was not due to the content of the app itself, but due to content users posted on it. As a social network, users can post and share content from all over the internet. While Tumblr does have its own terms and conditions, they aren’t as strict as Apple’s in regard to some of the content on there. While it does have rules against particularly harmful content, as well as filters to prevent it from being posted, the risk that people will find a way to circumvent it remains. Apps that allow users to post content must be careful about what they allow. Things such as sexually explicit content, hate speech and so on can go against Apple’s terms and conditions. Including a filter to catch them can work for the most part, but as the case with Tumblr demonstrates, it’s not perfect and users can find a way around it. As such, careful moderation is also important.
How Removal Impacts ASO
Naturally, having an app removed from the App Store is damaging to its App Store Optimization, but not just in the obvious way. While, naturally, users will not be able to find an app that isn’t available on the store, the damage from removal can linger even after the app has been fixed, re-approved and uploaded again. An app’s ranking in the App Store involves more factors than just how many downloads it receives. Just as negative reviews can result in an app losing rankings, infractions resulting in removal can certainly have a negative impact. Apps facing removal even once may find that their rankings in searches are hard to recover after the app is restored, while those that are frequently removed may struggle to rank high for any keywords. However, a well-optimized app can recover from the damage. Good ASO will help an app show up in search results and better appeal to users, which will improve its rankings over time. While being removed from the App Store can be very damaging to an app, following Apple’s terms and conditions will help ensure an app stays safe on the store. While there is always a risk with user-submitted content, proper management and oversight can help keep your app up.