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

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.


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., 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.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 10:36 AM MacArthur Fellow Alison Bechdel Recounts Telling Her Mother About Her Best-Selling Memoir MacArthur Fellow Alison Bechdel recounts telling her mother about her best-selling memoir.
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 11:14 AM How Does That Geometry Problem Make You Feel? Computer tutors that can read students’ emotions.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.