Google Play Ratings Changes

September 06, 2021

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Reviews serve an important role in the app stores, both as a way to guide consumers in their decisions to install and inform developers about what is positively and negatively impacting conversion. Despite being an extremely useful tool, reviews do not always provide a clear picture of an app’s performance. Google has announced plans to improve the user review process on the Google Play Store over the next year by accounting for regions and device form factors, to help provide a clearer picture. Learn more about what these changes are and how to assess them as part of your App Store Optimization strategy.

Google Play Ratings - Changes by Region

There are a few common issues that plague online reviews, particularly in regards to app ratings. One such problem stems from the reviewer’s location. Often times bugs found in an app can be localized, occurring only in certain countries or regions. As it currently stands, an influx of negative reviews from a country that is experiencing issues like bugs and crashes can bring down an app’s overall rating. This can impact a user’s decision to install, even if they reside in a location where this issue is not occurring.

Starting in November of this year, Google will segregate reviews by region to combat this issue. This will provide users with a more accurate insight on how well an app or game is received in their location, as well as performance issues they can expect. Additionally, this change could help culturally relevant apps improve ratings in the regions they are primarily intended for.

Changes by Device Form Factor

Another common discrepancy in ratings that many users are familiar with is performance based on device type. Some apps may be optimized for certain devices, such as high-end phones, but suffer from lag or even inoperability on budget devices or tablets. A low rating that calls out performance issues could impact a user’s decision to install, even if they would have a seamless experience on their own device.

While the exact date has yet to be announced, Google stated that next year they will expand review filtering to encompass device form factors. Users will immediately have a better idea of how well an app will work on their device without having to pore through reviews or download and see for themselves.

This is especially impactful as the number of different devices continues to increase. Unlike Apple devices, the Android operating system supports a multitude device manufacturers. With tens of thousands of unique devices with a full range of hardware specifications all allowing apps from the Google Play Store, being able to see which apps will function on a specific device will be a very helpful data point.

New for Developers

Google will also be providing tools for developers to track their KPIs in regards to these changes. Developers will be able to access more granular data in their Google Play Console dashboard than was previously available. On the Ratings tab under “Performance Over Time” it will now be possible to independently select the plot’s time period, from the last 28 days up through the complete life of the app.

Above: examples of the new charts from Google.

Additionally, ratings data can now be aggregated daily, weekly, or every 28 days. Developers will have the option to download CSVs of rating data. Applying the new selection options to these CSVs will provide deeper insight into how fluctuations in rating may reflect campaigns and updates, and make it easier to provide customer support for negative reviews.

Google has assured developers that they will provide ample time to minimize the negative impacts of these upcoming changes. Starting 10 weeks prior to each deployment of the new rating system improvements, Google will automatically analyze the expected impact on an app’s rating. Any developer who can expect a shift of 0.2 stars or more will be given notice so they can address any issues before they arise. Developers can get ahead of the game now by viewing ratings by device and country in the Google Play Console.

Overall

Google has announced upcoming changes to the Google Play Store rating system. These changes aim to improve the accuracy of app ratings depending on a user’s location and device type. Starting in November 2021, users will see ratings and reviews specific to their country or territory.

Sometime next year, these reviews will be segregated even further into device form factors. Along with user facing changes, developers will have new tools available in the Google Play Console, which will provide more insight into what factors are impacting their app’s rating.

Want to learn more about App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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