Google Cracks Down on Incentivized Android App Visibility Actions

Google this week announced a revision to its Google Play rules, essentially cracking down on incentivized Android app ratings, reviews and installs associated with the app store.

New language in the Developer Program Policies states: "Developers must not attempt to manipulate the placement of any apps in the store. This includes, but is not limited to, inflating product ratings, reviews, or install counts by illegitimate means, such as fraudulent or incentivized installs, reviews and ratings."

The term incentivized, Google said in a blog post, refers to practices such as developers offering money or goods to individuals in exchange for the above listed actions.

Any app installs that are deemed to have occurred only to manipulate app placement in the store will be detected and filtered, the company said.

While the company said it recognized that some developers use incentivized installs as a legitimate user acquisition strategy, it said it has found such incentivized users are different from users who install apps of their own accord. Incentivized users, Google said, typically display lower retention rates and make fewer in-app purchases than other users acquired via paid or organic acquisition channels.

To distinguish between the two use cases, Google outlined this approach:

  • Whilst we won't automatically remove apps from the store just because they utilize incentivized installs as one of their user acquisition channels, we will monitor for, and take action against behavior that compromises the integrity of the store.
  • To address those whose intent we perceive is to manipulate the placements of their apps, we will monitor and filter incentivized installs in our systems, including removal from the top charts. If warranted, identified apps also may be removed from the store.

The company said it hopes its rule changes will make sure the placement of apps in charts and other discovery mechanisms will accurately reflect the popularity of such apps.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.