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Shifts in App Ratings Distribution After Google Play Algorithm Change

Surbhi Modi  //  June 2, 2020  //  5 min read

Google Play changed their star rating algorithm towards the end of August 2019. We conducted a study to understand the effect of this change on how ratings were trending in the App Store before and after the ratings algorithm adjustment.

We analyzed average daily star ratings of more than 2,400 apps over a six-month period ranging from June 2019 through December 2019. (Note: the rating change went into effect at the end of August 2019.)

We looked at the rate of change in monthly ratings, compared to Aug 2019, from June to December 2019. This was further broken down by “Star rating category” (range from one to five).

The key findings and takeaways from our research include:

  • The average app ratings returned to pre algorithm change levels after seeing a decline briefly.
  • The average 1-star volume and percentage distribution was higher than it was prior to the change.
  • The average 2-star, 3-star and 4-star percentage distribution did not return to the same level as prior to the change.
  • The average 5-star volume and percentage distribution was higher than it was prior to the change.

From these findings, one potential explanation might be that a more recent change in extreme star rating categories (i.e. one-star and five-star) will likely have an effect on the decrease and increase of overall ratings for an app because recent ratings get more weightage. If there is an increase in the recent volume and/or percentage distribution of both one-star and five-star but there isn’t any increase in the recent volume and/or percentage distribution of two-star, three-star, and four-star, the overall average ratings might remain the same.

Onto the data.

Average App Rating

Average App Rating

Average App Rating

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, average ratings for all apps in the dataset started to decrease from 9/30 and continued to show this trend till the end of October ‘19. As of 9/30M and 10/31, the average ratings were lower by -1.7% and -1.4% respectively compared to 8/31.

The average ratings from mid-November through the end of the year were higher than the previous two months and levelled up again to the levels observed in August. However, this change was not as much as to bring the ratings to the level it was prior to August.

Average Ratings Volume: 1 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 1 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 1 Star

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, the average one-star volume for all apps in the dataset had been stable till 9/30. As of 10/31, average one-star volume was higher by 11.9% compared to 8/31.

From mid-November, the average one-star volume further increased until the end of the year. The average one-star volume on 11/30 and 12/31 was 45.9% and 53.3% higher than that on 8/31.

In terms of percentage distribution, the average one-star percentage distribution in the months post-change was also more than the percentage distribution in August. The average one-star percentage distribution on 10/31 was 2.5 percentage points more than that on 8/31.

Average Ratings Volume: 2 Stars

Average Ratings Volume: 2 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 2 Star

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, the average two-star volume for all apps in the dataset started to decrease till the end of Ocober ’19. As of 9/30 and 10/31, the average two-star volume was lower by -16.7% and -9.5% respectively compared to 8/31. The average star volume from mid-November through the end of the year was higher than the previous two months. The average two-star volume on 11/30 and 12/31 was 17.9% and 22.3% higher than that on 8/31.

In terms of percentage distribution, the average two-star percentage distribution in the months post change was lower than the percentage distribution in August. The average two-star percentage distribution was lower by -0.4 and -0.5 percentage points on 11/30 and 12/31 respectively than that on 8/31.

Average Ratings Volume: 3 Stars

Average Ratings Volume: 3 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 3 Star

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, the average three-star volume for all apps in the dataset started to decrease till the end of October ’19. As of 9/30 and 10/31, the average three-star volume was lower by -24.9% and -19.8% respectively compared to 8/31. The average star volume from mid-November through the end of the year was higher than the previous two months. However, this increase was not as much as to bring the volume to the level it was prior to August. The average three-star volume on 11/30 and 12/31 was 3% and 5.5% higher than that on 8/31.

In terms of percentage distribution, the average three-star percentage distribution in the months post change was lower than the percentage distribution in August. The average three-star percentage distribution was lower by 1.2 and -1.3 percentage points on 11/30 and 12/31 respectively than that on 8/31.

Average Ratings Volume: 4 Stars

Average Ratings Volume: 4 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 4 Star

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, the average four-star volume for all apps in the dataset started to decrease till 11/14. As of 9/30 and 10/31, the average four-star volume was lower by -29.2% and -24.2% respectively compared to 8/31. The average star volume from mid-November till the end of the year leveled up to the levels observed in August. However, this increase was not as much as to bring the volume to the level it was prior to August.

In terms of percentage distribution, the average four-star percentage distribution in the months post change was lower than the percentage distribution in August. The average four-star percentage distribution was lower by -2.7 percentage points on 12/31 than that on 8/31.

Average Ratings Volume: 5 Stars

Average Ratings Volume: 5 Star

Average Ratings Volume: 5 Star

As compared to 8/31, when the change was implemented, the average five-star volume for all apps in the dataset started to decrease till 11/14. As of 9/30 and 10/31, the average five-star volume was lower by -11.5% and -4.6% respectively compared to 8/31. By mid-November, the average five-star volume increased and continued the trend until the end of the year. The average five-star volume on 11/30 and 12/31 was 22.3% and 25.9% higher than that on 8/31.

In terms of percentage distribution, the average five-star percentage distribution in the months post change was also more than the percentage distribution in August. The average five-star percentage distribution was higher by 2.7 percentage points on 12/31 than that on 8/31.

Improve Your App Ratings

Although the Google Play changes are already live, it’s not too late to focus on your Android app ratings strategy. If your teams need any help understanding the relationship between app ratings, customer experience management, and long-term customer value, let us know, as we can help.

About Surbhi Modi

Surbhi Modi is a Data Analyst at Apptentive supporting the Customer Success team and a driving force behind customer data reporting projects. She leverages predictive and text analytics to provide data-driven insights to our customers.
View all posts by Surbhi Modi >

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