Impact of (Negative) Ratings & Reviews on ASO

Sukanya Surby 
Content Marketing Manager

10 min read

In the competitive landscape of the digital era, maintaining a positive presence on the app stores is crucial for the success of any mobile app. Your app ratings and reviews are primary indicators of how users feel about your app. This makes it imperative for ASO practitioners to monitor app reviews and ratings constantly and make it an integral part of their ASO efforts.

It’s important to understand that ratings and reviews significantly impact ASO, and negative ones can have adverse effects. In this blog post, we will explore how negative app ratings and reviews affect ASO and provide practical tips for effectively managing them.

What is a good app rating?

App users typically shy away from downloading apps with ratings below 4.0 stars. Given the saturated market in the app stores, apps with ratings below 4.5 stars can find themselves at a disadvantage when pitted against those with higher ratings. It’s important to note that both Apple and Google highlight and endorse high-performing apps. Therefore, your app stands a better chance of ranking high within its specific category (like Arcade, Social, or Music) if it outperforms lower-rated competitors.

However, a high rating alone isn’t enough. Today’s discerning users also consider the number of reviews an app has received before deciding to download it. To put it simply, if your app only has a few reviews, its 5-star rating may not impress users. They might prefer an app with a 4.5-star rating that has hundreds of reviews.

So it’s not just about maintaining a top-notch rating, but also about gathering a substantial number of reviews.

Ratings & reviews: App Store vs Google Play

Let’s start with the definitions of ratings and reviews to better understand the differences.

  • Ratings: A score is given between 1 – 5 stars that may or may not also include a written comment.
  • Reviews: A score given between 1 – 5 stars that include a written comment.

An app’s rating score is a lot more visible to users than the reviews. While Apple and Google both define ratings and reviews the same, there are some key differences between both platforms:

  • Reviews and ratings tend to have a bigger impact on Google Play than on iOS. On Google Play, the rating score is much more visible than it is on iOS. The rating score essentially appears everywhere an app icon does, such as featured app collection lists, category rankings, offers section, search results, and the store listing page. Google Play’s algorithm also puts more of an emphasis on recent ratings and reviews. This means an app’s overall rating score on Google Play is more impacted by recent reviews and ratings.
Difference between a category list on iOS vs Google Play
Difference between a category list on iOS vs Google Play.

On iOS, ratings and reviews are only visible from the search results and when a user clicks through to the product page.

The rating score on iOS does not emphasize recent reviews and ratings. So, a review from 2 years ago has as much weight as a review that was just written.

Rating visibility on the search results and the app page on iOS and Google Play
Rating visibility on the search results and the app page on iOS and Google Play.

Leverage our App Reviews Manager to monitor, analyze, and improve your app’s rating score

How can negative app store reviews affect your ASO?

1. Lower average rating

One of the primary effects of negative reviews is a lower average rating for your app. Both Google Play and the App Store use an app’s average rating as a key parameter for ranking apps. Google sets a minimum ratings bar of 3.0 stars to improve their top charts.

Also, app store users often rely on this numerical representation as a quick indicator of an app’s quality. A lower average rating can deter potential users from downloading your app, as they may perceive it as less reliable or subpar compared to higher-rated alternatives.

For instance, an app with a 2-star average rating may struggle to attract new users when competing against similar apps with higher ratings. And, given the intense competition on the app stores, even an app rated below 4.5 stars is at a disadvantage compared to higher-rated competition.

A lower average rating caused by negative reviews can, therefore, lead to decreased visibility in the app store search results. This diminished presence can directly affect the number of organic downloads your app receives, and limit its reach and growth.

2. Reduced visibility in search results

Negative reviews can also lead to reduced visibility of your app/game in the app store search results. Both Google and Apple have officially stated that star ratings, user reviews, and the number of ratings are factors their algorithms consider when ranking apps. Store algorithms tend to favor apps with higher ratings, making them more likely to appear in search results and recommendations.

For example, if your app has numerous negative reviews, its chances of appearing in the “Suggested for You” section on the Play Store are significantly diminished. This reduced visibility directly impacts the app’s discoverability and, ultimately, the number of downloads.

3. Poor branding & user distrust

Negative ratings may sow seeds of doubt in the minds of potential users. Users often read reviews before downloading an app to gauge the experiences of others. If negative reviews are prevalent, it can create a sense of distrust, causing users to question the reliability, functionality, or safety of your app.

Negative reviews thus create a “snowball effect,” influencing potential users to question an app’s quality and reliability. For example, if a user sees numerous reviews mentioning poor customer service, they might perceive that the app developers don’t value user feedback. This negative perception can deter potential users from downloading the app, resulting in lower download numbers and slower growth.

4. Decrease in app downloads

The download numbers of an app are directly influenced by a combination of factors, including its overall rating, visibility in app store search results, and user trust. When an app accumulates negative ratings, experiences decreased visibility, and fosters user distrust, it results in a substantial decline in download numbers.

A decline in downloads directly impacts an app’s success and its potential for revenue generation. Apps with lower downloads have fewer opportunities to convert users into paying customers or to benefit from in-app purchases.

Consider a gaming app that receives negative ratings for frequent crashes. As users encounter these negative reviews, they may choose alternative mobile games that boast stability and positive user experiences. As a result, the negatively reviewed game is likely to witness a decline in downloads. This would limit its success in the competitive app market and hinder potential revenue generation.

5. Impact on ASO rankings

Lastly, reviews and ratings are essential components of ASO rankings. Negative reviews and low ratings can detrimentally affect your app’s ranking in the app stores

Just as search engines use keywords to rank websites, app stores use ratings and reviews to rank apps. An app with numerous negative reviews and low ratings will likely rank lower than apps with positive reviews and high ratings. This drop in ranking can lead to reduced visibility, fewer downloads, and slower growth.

6. Lower chance to get featured

The app store algorithms also take into account an app’s ratings when deciding on which apps to feature. Both the App Store and Google Play are more likely to feature apps and games that drive user engagement and downloads. Also, the app stores strive to maintain a reputation for offering high-quality content. Featuring apps with lower ratings could be perceived as endorsing subpar content, which may reflect poorly on the app stores.

Therefore, a lower average rating not only affects your visibility and downloads but also reduces the chances of your app being selected for featured spots in the app stores.

Boost your chances of being featured on the App Store and Google Play

7. Lower conversion rate

Poor app ratings can significantly impact your app’s conversion rates:

  • Users tend to see ratings before reviews (due to their positioning on the store page), and they are a simple metric to understand. So users tend to pay close attention to it. A low rating communicates that your app may not meet users’ expectations or needs, leading potential users to look elsewhere.
  • If a user is deciding between two apps and everything else is equal, they will download the app with the higher rating. The finance category, for example, is especially important to have a high rating because users do not want to invest their time and money in an app they do not believe is credible. An app should aim at keeping a rating between 4.3 and 4.9 stars but, at the minimum, needs to have a rating of at least 4.0. Otherwise, conversion will be significantly negatively impacted.
  • Lastly, poor app ratings can undermine the success of your paid campaigns. Investing heavily in ads, only for users to land on an app page filled with negative reviews, isn’t a wise strategy. A balance between advertising spend and attention to user feedback is key for effective marketing and overall app success.

Read these useful tips to monitor your app reviews and ratings and drive conversion

How to manage negative app reviews?

Negative reviews can significantly impact your app’s success, particularly in terms of visibility and downloads. However, negative feedback also provides an opportunity to improve your app, enhance user satisfaction, and ultimately boost your App Store Optimization (ASO) efforts. Here are some practical tips on how to effectively manage negative reviews:

1. Respond promptly

Time is of the essence when it comes to addressing negative reviews. A swift response shows that you value your users’ feedback and are committed to improving their experience. It can also prevent potential customers from being deterred by a negative review. Make it a practice to monitor reviews regularly and respond to them within a reasonable timeframe.

2. Address the issue

A generic response will not suffice when dealing with negative reviews. It’s important to address the specific concerns raised by the user. This demonstrates that you have taken the time to understand their complaint and are actively working towards a solution. Be sure to communicate any updates or improvements made in response to their feedback.

3. Apologize if necessary

If your app has genuinely caused inconvenience or frustration for a user, don’t hesitate to apologize. An apology can help to diffuse any negative emotions and shows that you take responsibility for your app’s performance. Remember, it’s about acknowledging the user’s experience, not admitting fault.

4. Offer a solution

Alongside an apology, provide a solution or workaround for the issue. This proactive approach shows that you are committed to resolving the problem and can help retain unhappy users. If a solution isn’t immediately available, let the user know that you’re working on it.

5. Follow up with the user

Don’t let your interaction end with a single response. Follow up with the user to ensure their issue has been resolved. This reinforces that you value their feedback and are committed to providing a positive user experience.

6. Keep track of common issues

If multiple negative reviews highlight the same issue, take note and address it promptly. This not only helps improve your app but also shows users that their feedback is taken into consideration. Use these insights to drive your app development process.

7. Don’t take it personally

Finally, remember that negative reviews are not personal attacks. They are opportunities to gather valuable feedback and make improvements. Maintain a professional attitude and use this feedback constructively.

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To summarize, it is extremely important to constantly monitor, analyze, and improve your app’s rating and reviews. Not only will having a low star rating negatively impact how users perceive your app, but it will also significantly hinder your ability to implement an effective ASO strategy. Having a positive rating score, in general, will make it much easier to reach your apps’ visibility potential and your ASO goals!

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Sukanya Sur
by , Content Marketing Manager
Sukanya is Content Marketing Manager at AppTweak, creating intriguing content for app marketers. She possesses strong editing skills, delights in storytelling, and holds a deep appreciation for classic literature.