Improving Your App Store Rating

On August 16, 2011

Lets face it, 80% of the apps out there are garbage. They either don’t solve a problem well, they were poorly built, or just don’t work at all. These apps deserve bad public ratings and don’t belong anywhere on the app store charts.

Then there’s the other 20% that are backed by passionate designers and developers changing how we interact with technology. People like Mobile Orchard readers :) These apps deserve recognition.

Even great apps get negative feedback, and that’s OK. Feedback is a great thing when we can learn and improve from it. What’s broken is that when someone leaves a negative review in the app store, it scars your app for life, you can’t respond to it, and you can’t learn more about the problem in order to fix it quickly.

Harsh app reviews

Most of the developers I know building great apps tell me how app users are so quick to make a harsh review without much use or thought. I can only imagine how frustrating this is to deal with if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating something useful.

This is human nature though. When we’re frustrated with something, we want to vent, and in the heat of the moment we usually say things we don’t mean and without much forethought.

Get feedback coming to you and not the app store

As an app developer you want feedback (especially heated negative feedback) to come directly to you and never find it’s way into the app store.

When the feedback comes to you instead of the app store, you control your destiny:

  • You can turn your angry customer into a happy one by promptly responding and supporting them
  • You can learn more about the problems and fix them faster
  • You receive less negative reviews in the app store

It’s a win/win.

Creating an outlet for customer feedback

One of my personal favorite apps for taking and sharing panoramas, 360 Panorama by Occipital, does a really good job at keeping negative feedback out of the app store while helping disgruntled customers. They have two buttons, “Send Feedback”, and “Send Love”. Send Feedback opens up a screen which looks and feels like a review, but sends an email directly to the developer. Send love takes you to the app store for a review.

As you can see they have quite a good rating, which is well deserved, but it wasn’t always that good.

Crittercism is a handy framework for quickly incorporating a feedback mechanism into your app. Shacked Software recently incorporated this into Flickpad and has reported good results so far. Crittercism loads a support forum where users can submit bugs, ask questions, suggest feedback, and spread the love for your app.

I was recently chatting with my friend Nick who is one of the developers behind Diptic, a top photo app in the iTunes store, and he mentioned experimenting with Google+ and “hangouts” to field support questions. Great use of modern (and free) tools to improve customer support.

Appirator is a class that you can drop into any iPhone app that will help remind your users to review your app on the App Store. This technique can be effective to remind people to rate your app. Displaying the review reminder after several uses will help ensure that only people who are enjoying your app see the reminder.

Frequently update your app

Not only do updates reset the bar in the iTunes app store to that you can re-establish a good rating, but they (hopefully) improve your app. Fix the bugs and add new features, even minor updates in small increments can have a positive impact.

There is no silver bullet

Achieving a great app store ranking isn’t easy, but with some conscious effort and planning you can maximize your rating and avoid the permanent scaring of harsh reviews.

In recap:

  • Create something useful
  • Provide an outlet for feedback other than the app store and make it very accessible within your app
  • Quickly respond to your customers
  • Quickly fix bugs and update your app
  • Remind frequent users to rate your app in the app store


  • Anonymous

    Maybe those “reminders” seem nice to you, but with the current notification system they’re very intrusive. I’ve had to stop myself a number of times from clicking yes and then writing an angry iTunes review, because they are so… offensive.

    If your app is good, I will review it, but right now I’m trying to use it, okay? Don’t interrupt.

  • Santiago Lema

    I mostly agree with what you wrote here but while Appirator only annoys your most loyal users it still annoys them at a moment when they want to use the app. There’s just no good moment if the user isn’t searching for it. Users do not like popups, anywhere.

    I’d definitely recommend the way Occipital did it because it helps you get good reviews from infrequent users too. I happen to have recently created a very similar system for my apps and the results were close to unbelievable (went from 5-10 to 200-300 reviews a day on my apps, vastly improved my rating and took me back in the top 10 rankings in several major countries ).

    I have written about that a pair of weeks ago:

    About the implementation:

    About the (more or less incredible) results:

    The downside is that I went from having 1 email per month to about 100 per day (but part of it is due to having apps back in the top rankings in Japan, Korea, and UK). I guess it’s worth the additional work though.

    I think the wording here is very important. Nobody is going to write a bad review when clicking a button that says “Send love” (or in my case “I liked his app!”), they’ll have to find the app in the store which is tedious.

    Also I firmly believe that translating this feedback part in 20 languages helped me a lot.That includes even languages the rest of my apps are not translated into. Even though my about box explains to users I cannot answer in japanese, it does explain it in Japanese. Since I translated my about box I started receiving reviews in languages I rarely did before, like hebrew, arabic, turkish which in turn seems to have boosted my apps in the countries that speak those languages.

  • Cory

    Fair point about the Appirator pop-ups, they are intrusive and I’d be lying if I said I was never annoyed by them. iOS 5’s notification system is probably a better way to handle that once it arrives. However, there’s no denying that the reminder gets you more reviews than you would have otherwise had.

    I dont know for sure, but I’d guess that it was one of the main tactics that first shot Angry Birds to the top of the charts. This was the first app where I saw this technique, and it seemed to work well for them.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the feedback tactic, it’s great to hear that it’s worked well for you! The downside of extra support emails is a good thing though because while it’s extra work, you can properly support your customers which every app developer should be doing anyways.

  • cliff

    Or, do what my competitors do and pay for good reviews… yes, you know who you are…

  • M.T.

    I also hate the appirator pop-ups as an app user. When it came time to launch my first app in the store, I was sorely tempted but included nothing. And pretty much just got reviews from family and friends and one or two one-stars from people who had problems. No one emailed me.

    In the next major update, I included a small “i” button (for “info”) in one corner of the screen. That pops up a tab view with a few choices. The first is a brief “about” statement (in which I mention that I am a single developer and working hard to make the app great) and includes a button for sending a review. Another tab has tips for using the app. The last tab has a button to send me an email.

    I definitely get a lot more email (about one a day, maybe). And a lot more reviews. And a lot more of those reviews are positive (I think I’ve had nothing less than 4 stars since the change).

    Having read this post, I’d love to rearrange things so that the “send feedback” and “send love” buttons are on the same page.

    (My app is called “Cross It Off!” – my goal is for it to be the simplest, easiest to use basic toDo and shopping list app available.)

    • Phil

      maybe you try free – which exposes your app to other developers who download,test and review it. Ccollect honest feedback on the true quality of your app.

  • Jon Vlachoyiannis

    You should also try A lot of big apps (more than 5.000.000 installations) have 5 star rating and are using BugSense.

  • Santiago Lema

    Having not tried the popups I cannot give comparative numbers. Maybe they do give you more reviews. All I know is that well visible button on the home screen brought about 1 review for every 100 download, which is quite enough if you are ensure this review is mostly 4 or 5 stars.

    I still need to write an extensive blog post about this but short said before this update my free version had a much lower average. Now the average for the last 1270 ratings on my app is 4.5 stars. I am a sure a popup would ruin this.

  • hashtech

    Good post on checking out customer rating but if you don’t do so then only one option left is checkout competitor’s work

  • Paul Portman

    iPhone app “MacroPlus” lets you type any text into your iPhone or iPad once. Then one click pasting into any other device application. Great time saving application. Here are 10 promo codes for your review….


  • vishesh

    still not sure about including popups,
    im getting decent reviews for my new game(,
    its a funny physics puzzle game

    people are liking it, but im not sure how to get more ratings,
    ive thought about appirater,but i have mixed feelings,as i know that a lot of people dont like the popups,while the counter arguement that it worked for angry birds also is valid,

    im liking the send love idea though….

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  • Grover

    One point you missed: don’t release the app until it’s finished, tested and bug-free. Submit buggy software and you can expect to take a big hit in the rating.

  • Adam

    We released a new app called Boxckey that is a box hockey game from when I was a kid turned into an iPad game. We had a huge spike in downloads by just linking our website and our iTunes Store link in several iPhone app forums.

  • tech forum

    Wow! very good tips i think this tip prevent bad reviews.

  • Red Russak

    Great advice! I’d love to note that there’s another great tool on the market called Apptentive – Apptentive builds tools that make it easy for app developers to intelligently prompt for ratings, solicit feedback and conduct research using real-time surveys, all in the app.

    We’re already delivering better app reviews and ratings for customers like CheezBurger and Urbanspoon, and we’re growing fast. I put together a custom video that walks you through how Apptentive works:

  • Steve

    Great post! As app developers, we should never be afraid of getting bad reviews. The fact that your apps are getting reviews is a good thing. This means that people are using your app. If you have bad reviews, work on fixing what the issues are and update your app.

    Like every developer, I strive to get more reviews and ratings for my app. I work with services like Gnome Escape to drive more real users feedback and reviews to my app.

  • Prerna Kathait

    We completely understand the immense potential of Apple user reviews and ratings. Try to get as many reviews as you can manage to get for your app. Review exchanging has been quite effective too. Its an easy way to catch some genuine reviews. Review EXchanger website has helped us quite a lot in this regard.

  • Adriana Silva

    Hello developers,

    We just release a site where developers can reviews each others app for free.

    It is a great way to get several honest review about your app and help get it better and get a better position on appstore ranking.


    Best regards,

    Adriana Silva