An app’s ratings play a large role in its success, as they help determine its placement within the App Store and Play Store as well as inform users on what others think of it. This makes them important for App Store Optimization for both rankings and conversions. Now, Google is changing how the star ratings on its Play Store work, so that an app’s ratings are weighted towards its most recent version.
Apple and Google have not always managed star ratings the same. Apps on the Apple App Store can keep all ratings for every version of the app or, as added in 2017, reset them upon launching a new version. Google Play apps, on the other hand, are normally given a lifetime rating. While resetting the ratings would let an app get a fresh start after fixing bugs in previous versions, it also removed its positive ones. A lifetime rating, meanwhile, fails to account for changes and improvements over time, so an app could still be impacted by negative reviews for issues it had long since fixed.
Google is now attempting something different: an app’s average rating will be recalculated to give more weight to the most recent ratings, while older reviews for previous versions of the app will have less of an impact.
If an app’s average rating goes up as a result of an update, the new ratings will reflect this. Older reviews that may address features or bugs the app has changed or fixed will no longer impact the rating to as large an extent as before. As Google’s engineering director Milena Nikolic stated at Google I/O, the rating is “based on what your app is today, not what it was years ago.”
Developers can view both their weighted rating and lifetime rating from the Google Play Developer Console. This can provide a clear indication of how the app has improved in its users’ eyes by showing the difference between previous versions’ ratings and the current one.
Why it Matters for ASO
Ratings and reviews play a significant role in an app’s conversions. 59% of users check for ratings and reviews before installing, so a low star rating can turn away potential users.
Additionally, an app’s star ratings can impact its positioning in the app store. If an app has a large amount of 4-star and higher ratings and positive reviews, the Play Store will recognize that the app is engaging with users and can improve its positioning in search results.
On Google Play, the star rating is one of the few things users see in the search results, along with the title, developer and icon. If an app has a high rating, users are more likely to click on the app and view the page, whereas they may pass by an app with a lower rating.
As the new method of calculating star ratings presents apps based on their current versions, rather than lifetime average, users will get a more accurate idea of how the app is received in its current state. This can improve conversions and click-through rates, which would in turn help improve its rankings. With any luck, those users will also leave positive reviews to better improve its ranking.
This change may seem like a minor adjustment to star ratings at first glance, but it can have a significant impact on apps. Changes and improvements to recent versions will now have more of an effect on the app’s ratings, which can improve its click-through rate, conversions and keyword rankings within the Google Play Store.
Updating and improving an app is key to success. Developers should look at their reviews and see what users are saying, then address their concerns for future versions. With the new rating calculations, the improvements will shine through in each version’s ratings.