App Developer Confession: We Manipulate the App Store Rankings All The Time

March 12, 2012 -

We have heard whispers that iOS developers use companies to manipulate their app rankings on the Apple App Store, but one such developer speaks frankly with Digiday about the practice and why he'd like to see it go away. Applications of iOS platforms have a hard time getting visibility on Apple's App Store because there are so many apps competing for the same business. 

Developers can rely on word of mouth, do-it-yourself PR methods and a bit of luck to get their apps in the sweat spot of the store (the Top Rankings lists), but the chances of that happening (in most cases) is somewhere between slim and none.

Fueled by a sense of futility and helplessness (or even greed), many app developers have turned to companies that have no problem doing questionable things to get their apps a better ranking - and in turn - more sales.

One developer, who remains anonymous to protect himself - admits that he has used companies to do this and that it is a cost effective way to get an app the attention it needs to be successful. The problem is that the methods these companies use - though not illegal - should be considered amoral and wrong. Meanwhile Apple is apparently helpless in combating the practice.

We offer two small snippets from the interview. The first explains how it all works:

Question: I hear it’s now essential to get your app in Apple’s top 25 chart to have any chance of generating a significant audience. Is that true?
Yes, it’s something you have to do. It’s got to the point that so many people are out there trying to manipulate the charts that the only way to compete is to do it yourself. The point is to get as near to the top of the charts as possible and then let the viral effect take over. Those spots are essentially ads, and the only way to get any visibility is to force your way in.

The unnamed developer goes on to say that these companies charge in excess of $5,000 to manipulate the charts on a given app. Most focus on "free" apps because they don't have to spend money to download them. While these companies claim they are not using an automated method to do this, the anonymous developer says that he knows that they are using "bots" because of how quickly they can start and stop downloads. 

At the end of the interview he explains why he thinks these practices should go away, despite having used such services regularly and for his company's benefit:

Question: If these tactics work, why do you want to draw attention to them?
Because I would rather these companies all went away. Every time you buy from them, you get a dirty taste in your mouth, and they make it hard for the people that want to do things right. Part of why I have no qualms talking about this is because everybody does it. They have to compete. But we’re not using bot networks anymore. We can’t risk our clients and apps being pulled from the App Store, and I can’t risk Apple being pissed with me.

You can read the rest of it here.

Source: Digiday


 
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