Google is doing a little cleaning up and revamping before the holidays, with a new anti-spam system and redesigns to the Play Store. While some of these changes are simply visual updates, others may have an impact that developers should consider.
Fake Review Detection
The biggest news is a new anti-spam system that detects fake ratings and reviews. This new system uses machine learning to identify fake or profane reviews and has already helped Google remove thousands of malicious apps with fake positive reviews from the Play Store. This also includes incentivized ratings, such as when developers offer in-app currency or bonuses for leaving positive reviews. Google’s new system can recognize when users are leaving false positive reviews in exchange for bonuses and will remove them accordingly. Additionally, reviews with harmful comment such as profane language or hate speech are also targeted for removal.
Some of the changes are merely cosmetic. For instance, the various sections of the Play Store have always been color-coded, but now the colors are slightly darker and more accented. On the pages for individual apps, the app info layout has been changed. The details are now larger and bolder, making them easier to see at a glance. Similarly, the developer details are no longer listed directly on the app info section. The email and address have been moved to the “Developer contact” listing.
A new addition to the Reviews section is the inclusion of three new “tell us more” cards below the text box. These are simple and optional yes/no/not sure questions, which users can answer when reviewing the app to help provide Google with more information about the app being reviewed. This may be helpful for improving the app’s placement in recommendations or categories, although as these question cards are just now rolling out, there’s no visible impact from them yet.
Event and Sale Cards
The next update being tested is important for apps such as shopping apps and mobile games that frequently have events or sales. While previously apps could include small green banners about ongoing events, the update being tested turns it into a scrollable banner, providing more information about ongoing event(s) or sale(s). This banner is visible from the Play Store app listing, so only people visiting the app page will see it, but it could encourage users who are on the fence about the app to install it before the special event or promotion ends.
While many of these changes are minor, developers should still consider what they mean. The question cards may be important as they gather more information about individual apps, while the event banners will be useful for advertising upcoming sales, specials and limited-time events. Perhaps most importantly, though, is the anti-spam system. Positive reviews are important for an app’s ranking, so there are some developers who will utilize underhanded tactics to artificially inflate their review scores. Removing fraudulent and incentivized ratings will help even the playing field and discourage such tactics. If you want positive reviews, the best way to get them is not through leaving fake reviews or bribing users to leave them, but rather through having a quality app and good reputation management. Responding to user concerns will let them know that you care about their feedback, which can result in more positive feedback and improved reviews. Users leaving positive reviews could also be encouraged to answer the question cards, which may help your app within the store. No matter what the change, it’s important to stay on top of the shifts within the app stores. Keeping up with the latest updates and developments can help ensure your app is always up to date.