How to Get Positive Mobile App Reviews

Frank Zinghini

Founder & CEO
Likes on social networks, positive customer feedback

Every app developer wants great reviews. When you put your time, energy, and creativity into a project, you want to know that you’ve made a difference and brought a net positive to your target demographic. But the need for great app reviews goes far beyond your own personal feelings. Reviews can ultimately make or break your app over the long term.  

Let’s discuss why getting great reviews is so important and how to garner those reviews organically in a way that is helpful to your users.  

Why App Reviews Are So Important 

How often do you make an online purchase without scrolling through at least a few user reviews first? For most people, the answer is “never.” 

Think of high-quality app reviews as proof to potential downloaders that your app is worth their time and effort. Some users may be contending with a low budget, limited storage space, a tight schedule, or other limitations. These potential customers want to know if other users in the same boat have had good experiences with your app.  

Depending on the function of your app, those good experiences could range from getting lost in an immersive and challenging game or boosting their daily productivity and reducing stress.  

If your app users have had a strong reaction—positive or negative—that reaction will undoubtedly show up in the review section and influence the future of your app’s performance in the marketplace. 

Beyond that, you have probably found that positive app ratings boost an app’s visibility in the search algorithms. Apps with low ratings fall to the bottom of the search result list, along with apps that have few or no reviews at all. 

Why the Quality of Mobile App Reviews Matters 

App review quality absolutely makes a difference.  

A lot of potential users screen similar and competitive apps and make their decision based on app reviews.  

Developers often forget to put important information in the app description. User reviews can provide helpful information about a number of common issues: 

  • Does the app function smoothly on older devices? 
  • Has performance decreased following a glitchy or buggy app update? 
  • Is the purchase price transparent, or are there in-app purchases? 
  • Does the app serve the purpose it was built for? 
  • Are there better alternatives available on the marketplace, for a comparable or lower price? 
  • Are ads smoothly integrated or do they disrupt the user experience? 

By scrolling through the top reviews on several comparable apps on the marketplace, potential users are able to decide quickly which option is most likely to suit their needs and personal preferences.  

Getting App Reviews and Making Sure Most of Them Are High-Quality 

The simplest way to get reviews is to ask for them. If you put an easy, convenient, and positive way to leave a review in front of your customers, you engineer the best way to populate your marketplace listing with a lot of high-quality reviews.  

However, it isn’t always easy to strike that balance of “easy, convenient, and positive.” That’s where the trouble can start.  

A lot of app developers feel tempted to ask for reviews at every available opportunity. However, this practice can backfire if your goal is to get a large volume of positive reviews.  

Seemingly random “rate my app” pop-up boxes plague most mobile games and apps at the worst possible moments. When they interrupt the user experience, they cause frustration and annoyance. As a result, most users simply roll their eyes and hit the “Not Now” button, and never think of it again. Additionally, any reviews that you may get when you interrupt your users with an intrusive dialogue box will probably be less than stellar.  

How to Make Pop-Up Boxes Work for You 

You want to gently guide happy users to leave reviews at points in the process when they are likely to be satisfied and impressed with the user experience. You could try to strategically time a pop-up so it appears after a user has accomplished a major task, beaten a difficult online foe in a game, or achieved some other goal that’s likely to put them in a favorable mood.  

Try to look for developer tools that track your users’ time spent in the app, their rate of progression, or their major accomplishments. Once you know some or all of these metrics, you can time your “rate my app” box to show up in the moments when your user is most likely to be in a great mood and enjoying your app.  

You may also want to play around with the wording and the underlying functionality of that pop-up box. Many developers use pop-ups as an extra point of interaction with their user that encourages a net positive outcome regardless of the user’s answer.  

The most common example of this strategy would be a pop-up that asks users, “Are you happy with your experience so far?” The user can answer “Yes,” in which case they are asked politely to leave a review reflecting their good experiences. Focus on convenience to increase the likelihood of a user following through on your polite request. For example, a simple star rating requires only one click, and a conveniently placed text box lets users elaborate on their feelings if they choose to without having to navigate out of the app’s interface.  

On the other hand, if the user answered “No” to the initial question, you wouldn’t want to provide a convenient rating dialogue for that unhappy user to air his or her grievances in that moment of frustration. Instead, you could provide a text field that allows the user to explain the problems or bugs he or she may be experiencing. That explanation could then be emailed straight to your inbox (or that of your support team) so you can address the problems and respond privately.

In addition to a simple text box, you can also provide surveys with relevant questions, fields for collecting email addresses and other information, and links to any customer support communities you offer. All of these items open up new lines of communication between you and your users, and let your users know that you are listening to their opinions. 

Be careful to respond to any unhappy user feedback in a timely and supportive way. Take that feedback into consideration as you fix bugs and develop future app updates. Often, users who send in negative feedback and receive a prompt update that fixes their issues will come back to leave a glowing review reflecting your dedication and responsiveness as a developer.  

Chat with Your Users 

If you are already implementing feedback prompts, why not take it one step further? Live instant messaging is surprisingly easy to set up with the help of plugins.  

With one click, unhappy users can be directed to an instant messaging platform to receive help immediately. Solving problems quickly gives users a sense that developers truly care about their opinions.  

Better still, if you are able to smooth out any existing bugs or clarify issues on the spot, you will start to develop a reputation for exceptional service. That reputation will certainly show up in the form of positive app store reviews.

Think of collecting user feedback as more than just a way of getting more positive app ratings. Every opinion, gripe, and suggestion that comes into your inbox provides valuable information to you, as a developer, about how your customers are faring with your product. When you make building a solid, high-quality app your priority based on boosting customer happiness instead of just chasing profits, your user base will be able to tell the difference. 

Always remember, your reputation as a developer follows you. A good track-record for quality will eventually, and organically, generate more positive reviews on every app you build. 

What Are the Rules for Incentives? 

One thing you definitely want to avoid is incentivizing your users to leave a good review in exchange for rewards either in real life or in your app. Promising a free month off of a subscription cost, a gift, or extra in-app functionality crosses the line of manipulating user reviews. This could get your app removed from the marketplace or, worse, your entire developer account could be shut down.  

What you can do is provide an incentive in exchange for a review without the implication that the review must be positive. You can absolutely reward users with in-game coins, for example, if they leave an honest and unbiased review, even if that review happens to be negative.  

Some developers hold contests where reviewers can earn prizes. The important thing is that the winner is picked at random, the decision process is transparent, and the contest is not restricted to only certain reviewers or only those who left reviews over a certain star rating. A user who left a one-star rating should be equally as likely to win as a user who left five stars, and that fact should be transparent both to the contestants and to the marketplace where your app is listed.  

Just be cautious providing incentives for reviews. Any gray areas or misunderstandings could lead to negative consequences, so it’s important to be up front and honest.  

Stay On Top of Marketplace Changes

What worked five years ago will not work today. Things change quickly when it comes to technology, so you will need to adapt as the rules change

For instance, toward the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, expect your Google app store customers to see tailored ratings based on their specified location and the device they are using. This means that there will no longer be one pool of ratings for all users of a particular app. 

While the change will mean you now have to monitor multiple ratings per app, it should also make it easier to discern where problems may be cropping up. For instance, if you have a lot of tablet users complaining about awkward formatting and a higher rating for mobile phones than for tablets, you will know right away that the tablet version of your app needs some work. 

Long-Term Success 

Any of the above strategies can help you generate high-quality app reviews. However, it’s not enough to simply ask for a review or provide an incentive. Users are basing their reviews on their experiences with your app, so those experiences need to be as seamless and enjoyable as possible.  

The backbone of any long-term strategy, in any business, is to build a good product that users will find helpful. Without that backbone, all the creative marketing and purchased reviews in the world won’t propel you to success as an app developer.  

In general, remember the rule of thumb that happy customers leave great reviews. Build a helpful app, interact with your users in a positive way, and do your best to address bugs quickly and politely. Fantastic customer service is your path toward long-term success and a marketplace listing full of glowing, positive feedback.