These Companies Will Rig Your App Store Ranking... for a Price

Analyzing the top news stories across the web
Dec. 3 2013 10:43 AM

Some Companies Are Offering to Rig App Store Rankings

107904102
For the right price, app developers can get thousands of artificial downloads.

Photo Illustration by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Apple's App Store will not reveal how its top charts' ranking system works, but a study from Boston app marketing agency Fiksu found that it is not purely driven by download volume and speed. Somehow, ratings factor in. And critics think it is ripe for exploitation.

"Apple is a super helpful company. But its algorithm needs to change. It's still a mystery. You'll see two-star apps in the top 10, and you say, 'Why?' There are companies out there that will pay to download your app. And there are guys out there that are a complete sham," Chris DeWolfe, CEO of the Social Gaming Network, told Adweek.

Advertisement

His allegation may be a bit exaggerated, as a recent study from Readdle found that it takes between 3,500 and 4,000 downloads per day for a 4.5 ranked app to make it into the top 10. But a cursory look at the top 20 apps does show the occasional app that has more one-star ratings than five-star ratings.

There are certainly dubious services available to inflate an app's ranking. SafeRankPro.com, for example, offers "a large network of USA reviewers (several thousand) that can download and rate your apps favorably," with positive reviews available from 80 cents—and that was information provided by the company's sales manager Karan Khubchadani.

Developers told Adweek that it is common to see a message coming from a country like Nepal that promises to give an app thousands of American downloads for a price.

But the consensus seems to be that these manipulations are increasingly marginal. 

"Last year was all about chart-boosting. Buying as many app installs as possible [in] as short a timeframe as possible to get to the top of the charts. Now there are fewer loopholes available to artificially inflate rankings, and legit companies won't spend their time with it," Bill Clifford, chief revenue officer at the mobile ad agency SessionM, told Adweek.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Naomi Klein Is Wrong

Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.

The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 1:38 PM Mad About Modi
 Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.

  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM Listen to Our September Music Roundup Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 12:42 PM How to Save Broken Mayonnaise
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 11:55 AM The Justice Department Is Cracking Down on Sales of Spyware Used in Stalking
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.