Apple to Developers: Don’t Game App Store Rankings

Apple is giving iOS and Mac app developers a reminder that it doesn’t look kindly on attempts at manipulating the App Store ranking system. Developers that don’t heed the company’s warning could lose their Apple Developer Program membership.

In a note on the developer website, Apple stated,

Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership.

The announcement followed a post on the Touch Arcade website where an iOS app developer said a company told him that for US$5,000 it could guarantee a top 25 ranking on the App Store.

apple logo“I came across this ad network which guaranteed to get my app into the Top 25 in the app store at a relatively cheap price ($5000),” the developer said. He added that the company representative told him that he “had outsourced someone to build him a bot farm and the bots will automatically download his clients’ apps and drive up their rankings.”

According to the representative, eight of the top 25 apps on Apple’s App Store were using his service. If so, that $5,000 investment landed the developers rankings that may not last long if Apple determines the apps were artificially bumped up to the top of the list.

Using bots to game the system calls into question the legitimacy of App Store rankings, although it isn’t breaking news that some developers have tried different ways to push their apps higher. Apple previously warned developers against in-app rewards for downloading other titles — a practice some developers had been using.

Apple will likely watch closely to track down developers that are artificially boosting their App Store rankings. The company isn’t saying what it plans to do to prevent bogus app rankings.

[Thanks to The Guardian for the heads up.]