Apple's Latest Ratings Sweep is Barely Noticeable (for Bigger Apps)
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Lots of developers have told me their iOS apps have lost ratings in the last week.
In the last year or so, Apple has done this more than once, and I expect it's a sweep for fake ratings, a major issue on the App Store I see all the time when analyzing keyword ranks and results.
I wanted to get a better understanding of how deep this sweep was so I crunched the numbers and the results will surprise some of you.
To see the impact of the "sweep" I analyzed the ratings of the top 100 apps and games in the US over the last 30 days, looking at the total number of ratings that appeared in the App Store for the day, and I limited that to the US.
Can you guess how many ratings the top 100 apps in the US have combined?
348,268,613 as of yesterday!
In the last 30 days, the top 100 iOS apps and games received 5,088,573 new ratings.
Those are big numbers. But back to the sweep.
Looking at the total for the group over time, I expected to see a massive drop at some point. But here's the kicker. I didn't!
That isn't to say the sweep isn't real. It is. For example, VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy, #41 on the list, lost more than 3,000 ratings. It wasn't the only one.
But in the grand scheme of things, the sweep wasn't even noticeable.
This, to me, is an indicator of the (small) scale of this sweep.
There's an inherent challenge to tracking sweeps like this. We capture the total ratings for every app every day. The top apps are very popular and continue getting new ratings every day, and we know Apple is only removing existing ratings and not blocking new ones. That means that if Apple removed the same (or fewer) number of ratings as new ones being added, we wouldn't see much impact.
We would see it if the numbers were the same, which suggests they weren't. Apple removed fewer ratings, overall.
So even though many smaller apps got hit harder, overall, which is how I'd expect Apple to look at it, this won't have a big impact.
FYI - This sweep shouldn't have any impact on keyword ranks. Those rely on new ratings.
I suspect that the sweep is really a two-step process. The first is to identify and shut down Apple accounts that are used for fake ratings. That prevents new fake ratings from going into the store. The second, or maybe a result of the first, is to erase the ratings left by those accounts, which is the sweep.
Get ready for more sweeps like this in the future. I can see another coming this summer. Get ahead of this by making sure your app or game asks for a new rating directly.
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