updated 11:30 pm EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Using bots to drive up rankings results in banning
On the heels of a drive to kick out "copycat apps" that rely on name confusing and similar graphics to get sales intended for original apps, Apple is also warning developers to avoid using third-party marketing services that are known to employ "bots" to automatically download free apps that rely on in-app purchasing for monetization to push up rankings, AppleInsider reports. Simply hiring a third-party marketer that uses such tactics can get the developer banned, Apple says.
The company posted a message on its Developer website that reminds developers of the rules of using third-party marketing services and also points back to Apple's own guide on promoting apps from the App Store Resource Center. Tips include using the App Store Affiliate program and App Store Volume Purchase program. "Avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts," the note says. Using services that employ bot-purchases or generate fake user reviews or other methods of chart manipulation, it warns, "may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership."
The message is likely a part of a renewed effort on the part of the company to starve third-party app marketing companies of business, a major source of fake user reviews and other attempts to rig the charts, exposure in which can lead to a huge jump in sales and therefore profits.
The reminder could be a reaction to a forum posting from Touch Arcade that appeared yesterday, where a developer got a marketer to admit that he was using bots to drive up rankings on "free" apps by automatically downloading them. The marketer was aware that Apple is in the process of shutting down "botters" and thus was offering cut-rate prices before they themselves got caught, promising to put the developer's app in the top 25 for $5,000 and pointing to clients (seen in the chart below) that were (and still are) using the service.
The marketer told the developer that another developer, going by the name Dream Cortex, had already been banned from the App Store for using similar "bot farms" to drive up rankings.
Apple has had difficulty in catching and barring developers who abuse the App Store guidelines, since many are driven to do so by the remarkable income made by those whose app reach the top of the charts. Because the App Store has so many apps available, users often rely on top charts as a starting point in their buying research. [via AppleInsider, chart via TouchArcade]