This is why your Android app’s Play store rankings dropped this week

Google is now factoring app quality in its Play store ranking algorithm. It’s looking at “performance data, user engagement, and user ratings” – in the same way as its organic search rankings.

“As part of our continued effort to deliver the best possible Google Play experience, we recently enhanced our search and discovery algorithms to reflect app quality. This results in higher quality apps being surfaced in the Play Store more than similar apps of lower quality (e.g. apps that exhibit more frequent crashes). The change has had a positive impact on engagement – we’ve seen that people go on to use higher quality apps more and uninstall them less.”

So apps that have a tendency to crash or that frequently get poor reviews will show up less often. This was inevitable. Google tweaks all its algorithms to disproportionately reward good behaviour and disproportionately punish bad behaviour.

Several months ago Google claimed that following “an internal analysis of app reviews on Google Play…half of the 1-star reviews mentioned app stability. Conversely, people reward the best performing apps with better ratings and reviews. This leads to better rankings on Google Play, which helps increase installs.”

Its highly likely that Play Store will allow users to filter out apps completely if they don’t meet an expected standard when it comes to star ratings, in the same way that local search results have since late 2016.

The latest tweaks to the Play Store ranking algorithm should have been expected because they’re reflective of Google’s organic search ranking algorithms:

  • Googlebot visits websites that are frequently down less often and these websites tend to rank poorly
  • Websites with poor ratings appearing in their search results (low star ratings on their listing or in the knowledge graph, bad press) tend to get lower click through rates and therefore become less visible over time

40% of users’ awareness of apps comes from browsing the app stores according to Think with Google, which means that the latest changes to the ranking algorithms could have a devastating effect on discoverability and cost some businesses thousands.

Graph of sources of awareness of smartphone apps

How to diagnose quality issues with Android apps

At I/O 2017 Google announced the Android vitals dashboard, which collects usage statistics in the Google Play Console – which makes it the ASO equivalent of Search Console.

Google has published an in-depth checklist for app quality here.

For help getting started, you can also check out our app store optimisation checklist.

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