How to remove fake and inappropriate app reviews in the App Store and Google Play
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Stats show that 79% of users check reviews before downloading an app. This means that experience with your app starts even before users download it. And sometimes it can finish right there, on your app’s page. But luckily, in app stores it is relatively easy to find those sneaky reviews that scare your potential users off. Now you may think that the problem is solved and you are off to find those malicious reviews. But then what? Simply delete them? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. We put our heads together and built a comprehensive guide for you to understand how to build an efficient strategy around reporting and removing inappropriate reviews.
If you build your strategy right, you may get up to 80% of those reported inappropriate app reviews deleted.
How to identify fake and inappropriate app reviews?
First things first: to build an efficient strategy, you need to identify the root cause, the reason why negative reviews appear. A part of negative reviews are left by your users who are not happy with the app, so they are letting you know about bugs, UX issues they face or missing features. They actually want you to fix these issues and by leaving 1 or 2-star reviews with the detailed description; they attempt to attract your attention.
These reviews need to be addressed and responded to once you noticed them and then do that again once the matter is fixed. If the users are satisfied, they are very likely to increase their rating.
You may get a sudden increase in reviews after your app was featured, added to an Apple list, your UA team bought lots of irrelevant traffic, or your competitors ordered negative reviews.
Other negative reviews are left by spammers, haters, and sometimes even by your competitors with the only thought: they want your app to look bad, drag your app rating down, and affect your user acquisition. These reviews need to be deleted ASAP before they do any harm.
It may sound easy: you find a malicious review, you report it. But what if there was a flood of spammers leaving hundreds or meaningless negative reviews. Let’s talk about how to fix your reputation (and app rating) by reporting them.
What reviews are you allowed to report?
So, you faced a ton of inappropriate reviews and want to delete them. Unfortunately, you cannot delete them by yourself, you should report your concerns to app stores’ moderators. Once the moderators are satisfied with your reasons for reporting those reviews, they will delete them in no time. If they decide that the reported review does not violate their rules, it will be left in your app’s Ratings & Reviews section.
This is how the process looks like if your request was satisfied:
To increase the chances of reviews to be deleted, you need to carefully examine Apple’s and Google’s guidelines. This will help you write a reason that matches the stores’ policies, meaning those reviews will be deleted. There is a long list in those guidelines. But, if to summarize, there are 3 types of reviews you can report:
- Spam reviews
- Aggressive and offensive reviews
- Off-topic and fake reviews
Let’s check examples of each.
How to identify:
- Copy-pasted reviews (text of the review was used either for your app or for some other apps)
- Ads of another service
- Offers of money for reviews
- Reviews with no text in them
- Reviews with links to websites, phone numbers, email addresses
- Reviews with no meaningful words, just letters (like “ghghghg”).
Aggressive and offensive reviews
How to identify:
these reviews contain
- Hate speech
- Uncensored words
- Sexual context
- Violence and promotion of violence
- Any discrimination against others
- Reviews with aggressive emojis
Off-topic and fake reviews
How to identify:
- Anything that is irrelevant to the content, service, or experience you're reviewing like complaints about pricing or ads in the app
- Solicitations, political or social commentary
- Fake reviews generally have just one word or several reviews with the same text in them. Most of the time those are paid reviews left by people who have never used your app and might have been ordered to leave poor feedback by your competitors.
How to report a concern about malicious reviews in app stores?
While some reviews won’t go through app stores’ policies and even be posted, the majority will still appear in your app’s Ratings & Reviews section. Once you’ve identified inappropriate, spammy, or malicious app reviews, there are a few ways to report them either in consoles or in third-party services.
The processes are not that different in App Store and Google Play, in both stores you’ll have to do it manually and write a comment for each review (this is relevant for App Store only, Google Play doesn’t require that). Third-party services like AppFollow allow you to automate this process by identifying and reporting inappropriate reviews by themselves without you going through them daily and even monthly.
How to delete fake iOS reviews in the App Store
- Go to your console and choose an app that has a review you want to report;
- Click "Activity" > iOS app;
- Find the review you want to report, click "Report a concern" at the bottom of the review;
- Choose a concern in the pop-up menu, enter a description;
- Click “Submit”.
How to delete fake Android reviews in Google Play
- Go to your console and choose an app with an offensive review and go to the Reviews page;
- Find a review you want to report about, click on the flag icon, then select Report;
- There will be a sign above the review that the report is under moderation.
If Google Play sees that the reported review violates its rules, it will be deleted. Otherwise, there will be a sign above the review that it will remain there. As soon as the review gets several similar reports, Google Play will delete it or cut its rating so that it won't be visible for new users.
How to report reviews to both the App Store and Google Play
If you have apps in two different platforms you may want to report reviews in both apps from one place. This can’t be done in the consoles, but can be done in third-party services like AppFollow.
- Go the Reply to Review section, choose your app;
- Filter review by the needed parameter. For example, short with a Review Rating of 1 star;
- Find reviews you want to report and click “Report a concern”.
You will need to connect your profile with both consoles to be able to report reviews from AppFollow.
How to remove inappropriate reviews automatically
Reporting all reviews regularly and manually is time-consuming and requires a dedicated person, which is an extra expense for your business. The great news is that our Report-a-Concern feature can automate this routine and free your team up for doing more important tasks
Think of it as of your robotic helping hand that can save up to x10 of your time when fighting inappropriate reviews.
Of course, you will need to set it up first. But once it’s done, you won’t see how spammy, off-topic, and aggressive reviews drag your app rating down anymore
How to set up automated Report-a-concern:
- Go to the Reply to Reviews section in AppFollow, then to Auto-replies section;
- Add a new rule and choose conditions a review should meet to be deleted.
Example of rules you can set up:
Add as many rules as you want and save them. When creating rules it is recommended to go through your reviews and check for the lingo that is used by your users, so that you cover as many cases as possible.
There is a limit of reports you can do per day. Unfortunately, neither Apple nor Google share data on how many reviews you can report per day. But if you report too many of them manually, your actions can be considered abusive. When using AppFollow’s automatic Report-a-Concern feature, the system will queue all requests and submit not more than 15 reviews per app per day.
How to evaluate the efficiency of your report-a-concern strategy?
You set everything up, but now the question is: how to understand if your request was satisfied?
As we mentioned before, not all concerns will be satisfied and deleted by the stores’ moderators. You need to understand what to say in your requests and what wording will work. This can be done by checking which reviews have been deleted and what reasons you used when reporting them.
Unfortunately, it can’t be seen in any of the consoles unless you save links to the reviews you’ve reported together with the explanations and check them in a week or two. If you want a proper report on which concerns were satisfied you can find it in AppFollow. It will look like this:
Once it’s clear what requests were satisfied, it will be easier for you to find similar reviews and report them, too. You can try to delete as many as you can, adjusting your strategy once you understand when reviews are considered spammy, off-topic, and/or offensive.
Generally, it takes up to several days for moderators to review your request and accept or decline it. In rare cases, it may take up to 2 weeks. However, this happens once in a blue moon.
If your request hasn’t been satisfied, it is not recommended to report the same review again. Neither of the stores will delete it if they haven’t done it earlier while your app might be suspended (a rare case, but still happens).
You should monitor your reviews closely and report those that violate Apple’s and Google’s guidelines. These reviews may contain irrelevant complaints that are not talking about your service or app, spam, hate speech, or aggressive content. As these reviews do not contain any useful information it is useless and time-consuming to fight them, so deletion is the path to choose. Besides, after your requests are satisfied you may see an increase in your app’s rating.
You can delete reviews manually or automatically whatever suits you best. Our last piece of advice here is not to ignore these reviews in your app. They are harmful to your reputation, rating, user acquisition, and, in the long run, revenue.