Google Play’s policy on incentivized ratings, reviews, and installs

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Posted by Kazushi Nagayama, Ninja Spamologist and Bryan Woodward, Policy
Specialist

Ensuring Google Play remains trusted and secure is one of our top priorities.
We’ve recently announced improvements in fighting spam
installs as well as fake
ratings & reviews. In order to underscore these announcements and provide
more clarity, we have now updated our Developer
Program Policies on incentivized ratings, reviews, and installs:

Developers must not attempt to manipulate the placement of any apps in the
Store. This includes, but is not limited to, inflating product ratings, reviews,
or install counts by illegitimate means, such as fraudulent or incentivized
installs, reviews and ratings.

Defining an incentivized action

We deem an action to be incentivized if a user is offered money, goods, or the
equivalent in exchange for the action – be it a rating, review or install.
Incentivized ratings and reviews have always been against our policies and we
will continue to take action against them in order to protect the integrity of
our store. Installs done with the intent to manipulate the placement of an app
in Google Play will be
detected and filtered.

Incentivized installs as user acquisition

We’ve observed instances where incentivized installs are utilized solely to
manipulate the placement of apps in Google Play; these instances are a policy
violation. However, we also recognize that incentivized installs can be a
legitimate user acquisition channel for some developers. In order to recognize
these two distinct use cases, we are taking the following approach:

  • Whilst we won’t automatically remove apps from the store just because they
    utilize incentivized installs as one of their user acquisition channels, we will
    monitor for, and take action against behaviour that compromises the integrity of
    the store.

  • To address those whose intent we perceive is to manipulate the placements of
    their apps, we will monitor and filter incentivized installs in our systems,
    including removal from the top charts. If warranted, identified apps also may be
    removed from the Store.

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Through this approach, we hope to further ensure that the top charts and other
discovery mechanisms on Google Play reflect the reality of the popularity of an
app.

As a general rule, we advise against utilizing incentivized actions.
Incentivized users are a very different user base than users found through other
acquisition channels. In an internal analysis, the Google Research team found
that incentivized users generally have lower retention rates and make fewer
in-app purchases than users found through paid or organic acquisition channels.

For more information on the Google Play policies, please visit the developer policy
center. For tips and best practices to find success on Google Play, visit
the Android Developers website.

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