How To Get a 5-Star App Review

By / March 1, 2017 /

The days of “app skinning” and affiliate style marketing where one could release dozens of low quality apps and earn an income are over. Through various means, Apple and Google have seriously cracked down on quality in their stores and making your app visible to users means fighting for every impression and every conversion.

Perhaps more than any other growth hacking technique, making sure users love your mobile app is the first step. The product needs to solve a problem, be easy to use and intuitive and any issues reported by users need to be quickly addressed. Step two, and the number one way to improve your conversion and thus your search rankings, is convincing users to speak positively about your app.

You Won’t Get Reviews If You Don’t Ask

If everything is executed correctly, the average app may have 3-4% of total users leave a rating and perhaps 40-50% of those users will actually leave a written review. Executing correctly means asking users to leave reviews by leveraging pop-ups inside the applications at opportune moments. There are many solutions offered by third parties to solve for this functionality and Apple is even planning to introduce its own official functionality in iOS 10.3 via a new API.

Key to this pop-up scheme working is determining when and where the pop-up should appear. This is different for every app and the decision should be based on your UI/UX flow and also which features are core for your app. Ideally when a user exits a core feature you may want to have the rater pop-up for the user to share their experience. Top app developers and publishers will also scan their existing reviews to determine which features produce more positive user sentiment and then use that data to decide where to place the rater as well.

In addition to simply having a pop-up, it is also important to consider how to funnel the negative reviews away from the App Store and Google Play. Of course, this doesn’t mean manipulating your reviews – it means connecting with a technology like Zendesk and if a user indicates negative sentiment, send them to your own customer service to report the issue instead of having them leave it in a review.

Don’t Incentivize or Manipulate Reviews

Reviews are a core part of Apple and Google’s app search algorithm. Both stores will crawl your reviews to discover which features and/or keywords uses are talking about – and you’ll gain some small advantage in ranking when people mention terms that are important. Having said this, Apple and Google have both become much better at policing for fake reviews and removing apps that clearly manipulate their user sentiment. Aside from removing apps from the store, Apple has also employed the technique of deleting all reviews from an app that they view as suspect.

At the end of the day if you are building a real business and have a real product, you’ll probably value real user feedback more than fake comments anyway. Users are going to naturally tell you where you need to spend more time and also provide positive comments about what they like best. Listen to them! It isn’t worth playing the short game anymore in the App Store and Google Play.

Engage With Users Who Review Your App

Users who review your app in the App Store and Google Play are among the most invested in your product, and thus in your success. Aside from simply being courteous to users by responding to reviews, as developers are allowed to do in Google Play and soon in the Apple App Store, you can actually improve conversion by engaging with your reviewers.

The App Store and Google Play are crowded and consumers often don’t know which app to choose from when they are looking for specific functionality. The first thing that will guide users to your app is a clean user acquisition funnel – meaning your screenshots and page presentation clearly show the features that users are looking for when they search. The second thing that will make their decision is your reviews and ratings.

If you have terrible reviews, users are much less likely to download your app. In fact, once you drop below 4 stars conversion can drop as much as 20-30%. This is why Apple and Google won’t feature an app that has less than 4 stars as an average rating.

When you make the effort to reply to users reviews, it shows potential new customers that you genuinely care about their experience. This is critically important. There are so many “dead” apps in the store, users need to see that you are still engaged and committed to providing a good experience with solid updates before they download. Engaging with reviews can also negate the decline in conversion that comes with negative reviews because users can see that you are addressing the issues – or perhaps you already have!


The secret to getting more reviews is simple – ask for them! But do so in a way that is non-intrusive to the user experience and at times when users are more likely to grant your request. Understand that negative reviews should be taken as lessons as how to improve and always engage with and users to thank them for their feedback. Show users that your app is a real product and that you are committed to improving the experience and, in turn, they may even flip negative reviews to positive ones as a thank you.

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about the author

Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. In this role, Dave is responsible for overseeing the business strategy for the company, driving growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.