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.
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.