How to Manage Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews

There are 2 main reasons you should care about your app store ratings and reviews.

For one, you can bet your app’s potential users will first want to know what your existing users think of it. And make the decision to download and use your app based on this. Over 94% of consumers say that they will not engage with a product or a service with many bad reviews. 

Second, app store reviews and ratings affect your app’s visibility and ranking. This means that having too many negative reviews and a low rating will affect your app’s chances of standing out and attracting more users.

Because app store reviews and ratings are so important, managing them is the main topic of this article. Keep reading to learn how to manage negative reviews and boost your app’s chances of becoming the most popular in its niche.

What Are App Store Ratings and Reviews?

App store ratings and reviews are two different things. So, let’s break each of them down. 

Reviews are the messages your users can leave on your app’s store page. They can be both positive and negative.

Users can send these messages to:

  • express their appreciation for your app’s features and/or design
  • ask questions on how to use the app
  • ask for additional features or feature changes
  • complain about issues they encountered while using the app or features they did not enjoy

App store ratings are a star system. It ranges from 1 to 5 and goes hand in hand with a user’s review. Both iOS and Android app stores require users leaving reviews to also use the star system to rate the app they are leaving the review for.

Why Are (Negative) App Store Ratings and Reviews Important?

App store ratings and reviews show how much users appreciate (or don’t appreciate) your app. They show value.

The math is simple. Good reviews equal good reputation, bad reviews equal bad reputation.

Based on your app’s ratings and reviews, the app store will push it up or further down the list of similar apps. Users will also be influenced by your ratings and reviews in their decision to download and use the app. 

Ideally, your app is great, all your users love it, and all your reviews are positive, and your ratings are all 5-stars.

In reality, that never happens. Not even the most appreciated apps out there have a clean 5-star rating. Someone is always going to have something to say against your app.

While it’s important to answer all your reviews, managing negative reviews is of the utmost importance.

This is because negative reviews can:

  • dramatically impact your app’s visibility pushing your app to the bottom of the app store results
  • decrease your app’s popularity as potential users see other users were unhappy with the app
  • help you understand what users need from your app in order to be able to fully enjoy it

Negative reviews can vary from empty ones like “Bad app” to useful ones like “I wish the app had X feature included”.

Empty negative reviews won’t help you much, but reviews that contain details on what you could improve about your app can be very valuable since no matter how hard you try, you can never design an app considering any and all user experiences.

You need users to share their experience of the app with you to better understand if and how you can implement changes that will enhance it. 

These useful negative reviews can help you identify:

  • user pain points
  • improvements that can increase the app’s usability and number of downloads
  • potential additional features that could improve user experience and boost the app’s ranking 

Why Is It Important to Manage Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews?

App stores use data and metrics to promote, feature, and rank apps. Your app’s rating will influence its position on the app store and the number of potential users that see it. It will also affect your app’s conversion rate.

A low score also decreases your growth in dark social sharing, which is arguably the most valuable type of sharing there is. 

By actively responding to negative reviews, you can:

  • provide answers that will clarify user concerns and build a connection between you and your audience
  • encourage users to update their reviews and improve their rating, increasing your app’s raking
  • show that you value your users’ opinions and encourage new downloads while also increasing retention rates
  • promote trust in your app as users see you take their feedback into account

How to Effectively Manage Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews?

The rule of thumb for managing negative app store ratings and reviews is to address them. That is to answer them instead of ignoring them.

However, there are also some additional rules you can apply to streamline your negative review management processes and increase your app’s chances to rank high and crush your app store competition:

Take Measures to Prevent Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews

As we all know, prevention is better than cure. That’s why your main focus should be to prevent negative app store ratings and reviews. 

It’s true that you clearly won’t be able to prevent all of them. But you can try to ensure you limit the number of potential negative reviews your app gets, based on your typical customer profile and other indicators. 

 Doing this is not as complicated as you may think.

 The number one reason users leave negative reviews is the app crashing or a bug preventing them from using it properly. They will be so frustrated that they downloaded your app to scratch an itch and were unable to that they will want to vent their dissatisfaction wherever they can.

 One simple way to prevent users from leaving a negative review on your app store page is to encourage them to share any negative feedback on the app’s functionality inside the app.

Offer them one or several easy ways to share any complaints directly with you by implementing in-app and website feedback options.

You can implement:

  • in-app surveys
  • feedback forms
  • contact forms
  • feedback widgets
  • pop-up rating requests
  • shake-to-send feedback 

Doing this will help you manage the number of negative reviews that make it to the app store that could potentially influence other potential users and your rating and it will increase user satisfaction as they will see you are open to feedback and quick to address their concerns.

Categorize Negative Ratings and Reviews

Since we clarified that taking measures to prevent negative app store ratings and reviews won’t actually stop them, let’s see what you can do to manage them as they come in.

Your first step before addressing negative reviews should be to categorize them. This will give you a better picture of what you are dealing with.

Next, prepare some reply templates based on each category you’ve identified.

The most common types of negative reviews you will encounter are:

Empty or Silent Negative Reviews

Empty negative reviews are the ones that contain no details about what the user did not like.

They can be frustrating, to say the least, since they affect your rating without leaving you much room to understand what you can do to prevent getting even more such reviews.

However, this is exactly how you should address this type of review.

Simply thank the user for sharing their feedback and invite them to share more details, if they want. There’s not much else you can do about it until they decide to tell you what the problem was.

This approach at least gives you the chance of showing other potential or existing users that you are concerned with their feedback and want to know more about how you can improve the app.

Constructive Negative Reviews

Constructive criticism is undervalued.

Reviews containing specific issues that users have encountered while using your app are a great way to identify potential bugs, outages, or crashes you may not have known about otherwise.

These negative reviews can also reveal issues relating to your login or payment processes or customer support operations. They will give you a chance to fix any issues keeping users from fully enjoying your app and improve the app’s rating.

Updated Negative Reviews

Updated negative reviews are important because they tell you whether you’ve managed to improve the user’s experience since they first shared their feedback or not.

You should address them quickly and monitor whether the user’s concerns were resolved or not.

Negative Reviews Containing Feature Requests

 When you develop your app, you want to make everyone happy and take any potential user’s needs and wants into account.

That’s not really ever going to happen.

So, you will need to rely on the feedback you get from users to understand what they feel could improve the app and make it more suitable to their specific needs.

You should carefully analyze negative reviews containing feature requests and consider whether or not they can be implemented and can add to the value your app brings. 

Spam Reviews

Negative reviews that contain offensive language, links to other apps or websites, or are unrelated to your app can simply be deleted.

Check the app store Terms of Service to see which types of reviews qualify. Deleting the ones you are allowed to will give you a chance to improve your app store rating without much effort.

Be Positive in Your Responses

It may be tempting to fight fire with fire especially with all the hard work you’ve put into developing your app.

However, don’t!

Any reply you craft for negative app store reviews needs to be positive.

You will have to:

  • reply as soon as you can
  • show empathy
  • be understanding and responsive
  • be honest, open, and defuse potential conflicts
  • thank the user for sharing their review
  • encourage users to provide detailed feedback that you can use to identify and fix any issues
  • assure them that you are taking their feedback into account
  • offer explanations and clarifications if the negative review is based on a misunderstanding
  • offer tips for improving their experience if the negative review is based on the user not understanding how the app works
  • assure the user you will do your best to meet their expectations and solve their complaints

Addressing negative reviews with a positive tone will:

  • increase user engagement by creating a connection between you and them
  • help build your reputation
  • show users you are proactive and dedicated
  • give you a chance to identify opportunities like adding a feature that users will surely appreciate

Constantly Monitor Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews

As you start replying to negative app store reviews, you will build a library of templates that will help you continue this activity and streamline your processes.

You should constantly monitor the percentage of negative reviews your app is getting. Ideally, it should not exceed 10%.

You can automate how you manage negative reviews using reputation management software that will do the sorting and categorizing work for you. 

If negative reviews do exceed 10% of your total reviews, carefully review them and prepare replies that will put your dissatisfied users’ concerns at ease and work together with your customer support team to identify common issues and fix them.

Optimize How You Manage Negative App Store Ratings and Reviews

To grow your brand and your app, you put a lot of effort into your marketing strategies, sending outreach emails, and implementing various SEO tactics, building backlinks, promoting your social content, and much more. All this work can go to waste if you mistreat the way you deal with negative reviews.  

You should put just as much effort into optimizing your review management processes.

To do this, consider using these best practices for how to manage negative app store ratings and reviews:

  • analyze negative reviews in detail
  • identify and categorize common issues
  • use semantic analysis to identify common pain points
  • create reply templates that address the most common issues
  • reply quickly especially to negative reviews
  • pay special attention to updated reviews and see if they are improving or getting worse
  • pay special attention to featured reviews
  • constantly adapt your reply templates to user feedback
  • set up notifications about critical reviews so that you can identify and address problems immediately
  • if you have replied to a negative review saying you will fix a bug, come back with an update once you do
  • report or delete spammy reviews that affect your overall rating 

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