Recently, Google has pushed a new update out very quietly to Android developers. Their guidelines now prohibit developers from including user testimonials in the Play Store under their app descriptions. The rule has been implemented in order to stop developers from making their apps easier to find by using unrelated or irrelevant keywords in their apps. Very often, the user testimonials are actually fake and have been placed there by the developers themselves, to allow for keyword stuffing. This will no longer be possible.
Google has released new advice to their developers as well. They now ask that all descriptions be kept short and sweet. They should provide a highlight of the best points of the app and they should include a short but very accurate description of the app itself. Additionally, they are no longer allowed to use repetitive keywords. Furthermore, Google has included a specification that user testimonials can no longer use “unrelated keywords or references” and that these testimonials cannot be included in the description of the app itself.
Please do not include user testimonials in your app description. They tend to be dubious and are frequently utilized to include references to popular search terms and competitor apps in violation of the policies outlined here. Let your users speak for themselves via Play’s comment review system.
It is quite obvious what Google is trying to do. At present, the testimonials are filled with spammy keywords. As a result, people no longer trust them to be an accurate description of the app itself and they are losing faith in the Google Play Store, in general. Indeed, users do not appreciate the fact that they are confronted with a full range of irrelevant apps that only show up because they are using keywords that link to other searches.
As expected, Google is not actually asking their app developers to stick to the new rules. Rather, they are telling them to. If excessive references and details are included that refer to other products and apps, they will be penalized. This will, of course, create a problem for developers as they often try to capitalize on the fact that they have had a successful app, which allows them to push any new apps forward.
The new guidelines are designed to ensure that Android users have a positive and honest experience when they go to the Play Store. Within the existing Google Play guidelines, anti-spamming rules have long been included. Publication of spam has never been allowed, but they have now expanded on those rules by including the use of repetitive, deceptive and irrelevant content or keywords. If developers do not stick to these rules, Google will lower the ratings of the app. The new guidelines have made it very clear that the consequences can be severe.
It can result in your app being suspended or your developer account being terminated.
However, most developers have already found a way around the new guidelines. Indeed, they have seen the update coming for quite some time and they have already been working on options to work around it. The most popular one is the use of screenshots instead.
This new policy won’t, at this point, prevent developers from overlaying user testimonials on screenshots, which is another common practice.
However, for users, the new development should be highly positive. Indeed, it means that they will no longer be confronted with as many apps that have absolutely no relevance to them anymore. In the past, when you would search for an app, the description of the app itself would include a customer review with links to other apps of the same developer. Although these may now still be there on screenshots, it is much easier to not look at screenshots and simply read the description, which will have to highlight what the app is about and what its main features are.
In reality, it was about time that Google included such an update. Before these updates, if you were to search for something like “best photography app,” you could end up with a list of apps that had absolutely nothing to do with photography at all, but simply had those keywords in their description. This has now changed completely, meaning search results are more honest and realistic. But the guidelines do not mean that app developers cannot ask their users to leave reviews. It simply means that these reviews can no longer be used in the description of the app itself.
This is an important factor because users do look for reviews in order to decide whether or not to download an app. It seems, therefore, that Google may be moving closer to the way Amazon deals with their products, allowing for reviews without these affecting the popularity of a product in search options. However, this does raise the question about how you can ensure reviews are honest and reliable. It is easy enough to find websites that will pay people to leave positive reviews for products that they sell on Amazon, so it could be that the same will happen with the Google Play Store.
Responses to the new guidelines have been mixed. On the one hand, users have reacted positively as they feel that any search results they receive are more honest and reliable. Naturally, developers have been less enthusiastic about the development. They feel that using reviews in descriptions are actually an age-old marketing technique that should not be removed.
There is a fine line between making stuff up and marketing. Yes, we all understand that there is some cheeky marketing out there, but just turn on the TV – you see this sort of thing everywhere!
Indeed, any advertisement is, most often, a lie to some degree. Every product claims to be the best, the most innovative and the most necessary. What Google is basically saying is that you are no longer allowed to truly promote your product, and this can be a real problem. Advertising will never be fully honest, after all.