Google intends to take a more proactive approach to manage fraudulent and spammy applications in the Google Play Store. The company said it has new tools on deck that will help it protect the integrity of the store by automatically finding apps that attempt to falsely boost their visibility in search results.
"From time to time, we observe instances of developers attempting to manipulate the placement of their apps through illegitimate means like fraudulent installs, fake reviews, and incentivized ratings," explained Kazushi Nagayama, Search Quality Analyst, and Andrew Ahn, Product Manager, in a blog post. "These attempts not only violate the Google Play Developer Policy, but also harm our community of developers by hindering their chances of being discovered or recommended through our systems. Ultimately, they put the end users at risk of making wrong decisions based on inaccurate, unauthentic information."
Moving forward, Google is rolling out a new detection and filtering system meant to help ensnare apps that manipulate their search ranking. For example, aggressive app installs that are pushed onto users simply to improve an app's placement on Google Play will be caught and filtered out of results. Google will also be on the lookout for bogus app reviews and faked app ratings, though it didn't provide specific details on how it will weed out such violators.
Google's move to crack down on incentivized ratings and reviews follows similar action from Amazon. Last month, Amazon changed its guidelines and banned reviews written in exchange for free products. Earlier this year, Apple took action to clean out old and/or out-of-date apps from the iTunes App Store. In Apple's case, it was sure to explain to developers what they need to do to keep their apps in good standing.
Google plainly reminded Android app writers that they need to adhere to the Google Play Developer Policy. Google's Nagayama and Ahn said the company won't necessarily take direct action against the developers behind the apps routed out by its new detection tools. Google does suggest developers follow legitimate promotional practices, especially when working with third-party marketing agencies. Repeat offenders may have their apps removed from the Play Store permanently.
"These important changes will help protect the integrity of Google Play, our developer community, and ultimately our end users," concluded Nagayama and Ahn.
With more than 2 million apps in the Play Store, standing out is hard to do. Even so, it's better for everyone if apps stand out based on their merits, rather than juiced search rankings.