Responding to App Reviews Can Boost Your ASO, Are You Doing It Right?

Try and remember the last time you downloaded an app that you weren’t very familiar with beforehand (no, we’re not talking about WhatsApp or the Domino’s Pizza app). Chances are your eye met the review section on the Apple Store or Google Play, and that you at least skimmed through some reviews that were shown. Even if we don’t believe these reviews are %100 percent authentic and free of interests, we still like to read them, to get a sense on how people feel about the app.

Each week, about 500 million people visit the Apple App Store for some reason or another (and probably even more than that go to Google Play). In 2018, 194 billion app downloads were registered globally. That is quite a huge potential crowd for your app, but don’t forget that the competition is also a tough one.

This is exactly why the way you choose to interact with your reviewers is vital – especially the negative ones. While an app with all positive reviews may seem suspicious to many, another app with proper responses to negative comments can sometimes be deemed more trustworthy. Let us take a look at a few golden rules to handling app reviews.

Before we dive in, let’s get to know some common terms:

App Store – where people can find and download your app. Also considered a key source for reading reviews about apps.

ASO – app store optimization, with an end goal of maximum app downloads. ASO is achieved mainly via boosting the app’s appearance and proper handling of reviews received by users.

Rating – the app store lets a user rate the app, on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest). A user may choose to add a review as well, but isn’t required to

Review – the app store also allows the user to express their opinion on the app, according to some guidelines. Sometimes the app store will remove a user’s review, for example, if it is suspected to be not authentic, if it is offensive, or if it uses foul language or racist comments.

Positive, negative, and neutral reviews – positive reviews are the ones with content that encourage a user to download the app and negative reviews do the opposite. Neutral reviews do not leave any impression on the potential user.

Featured reviews – these are the top reviews shown by the app store on the app’s main page (without the user having to click on anything to see them).

Why is responding to app reviews important? Two main reasons:

  1. Replies can influence what a potential user thinks of your app after reading a review. If an answer is well put and provides an explanation to a complaint made, it might turn a negative review into a neutral/positive one.
  2. Replies enable you to add keywords to them, hence boosting your app in searches.

Who should answer reviews?

We recommend that this task should be allocated to someone specific within the organization, with proven skills and abilities to handle it. That way, there’s someone in charge and everything is done in an orderly fashion.

Which reviews should be answered?

In general, it is much more important to respond to negative reviews, in order to change a reader’s opinion on the app. If you have the time and ability, it will do no harm to answer positive reviews as well, but only those which address a specific issue (for example, the app’s speed or the friendliness of your support team).

When should reviews be answered?

Ideally, you should try to respond within a day to reviews. If you can’t, a time standard of 3 or 4 days is fine. Make it a rule to prioritize negative reviews that address an issue and after that deal with generally negative reviews. Positive reviews, as we said, come last in line.

When you answer reviews, keep this in mind…

  • Language – it is very important to answer a review in the language it was written and to make it sound like a native speaker responded (do NOT use Google Translate or other tools of that sort). Also, make sure your writing is professional. Spelling and grammar mistakes make you look very bad, and so do unnecessary insults or offensive comments toward your reviewer.
  • Length – try to keep the review at two or three lines. On the other hand, it is important to get the exact message through, so don’t omit vital content just to make the review shorter.
  • Uniqueness and standardization – on one hand, you must pick a voice for your brand and stick to it. On the other hand, you do not want the reviewer to think you are copying and pasting reviews. Make all reviews sound like you, but make sure to add a personal twist to each one.
  • Tone – using negative words like ‘can’t’, ‘never’, and ‘impossible’ is not recommended. For example, instead of using ‘we can’t understand the issue’, try ‘please contact us so we can further understand the issue’. Notice how much better it sounds?
  • Manners – be polite and respectful. The use of ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ makes reading your reply a lot more pleasant, and even puts you in a better position than the reviewer themselves, if the review was written with an attacking tone.
  • Humility – if users are complaining about a certain problem, don’t be afraid to admit it exists (unless, of course, that is not true). It would be better to acknowledge, apologize, and tell them you are working on fixing it. It would be even better if you go the extra mile and update them when the issue is fixed.
  • Follow-up – if you provide a contact number or email, the user can continue the dialogue with you outside of the review box. Furthermore, it shows you really care about their complaint and want to fix the issue.

Let’s talk a bit more about keywords

This is basically a tool to boost awareness to your app when searching an app store. The general rule is to make sure that the response includes keywords that describe and categorize your app on one hand – and mark its advantages on the other. However, you should always try not to stuff your reply with too many keywords, because it will just make it seem incoherent. Two or three keywords, which you decide on in advance, should be enough (and the help of an SEO specialist in determining them can’t do any harm).

What happens after you reply to a review?

The Apple App Store notifies the user when you reply to their review. You can edit a review at any time, and on-screen will be shown only the last version of it. You can also go to the Users and Roles section in App Store Connect and set up email alerts, to be notified when your response is being replied to by the original reviewer.

Google Play, on the other hand, only notifies the reviewer when you first respond to their review or after they modify their review and you respond again. If you edit your response, the reviewer will not be notified.

OK, let’s see some examples:

This is a review for a flashlight app, and as you can see it is very negative and has specific as well as general complaints. Now, take a look at this reply:

Hi jimsch71,

We’re sorry you are having trouble with our flashlight app. Due to settings, some phone systems may not properly sync with it and cause it to crash. Please contact us at support@*COMPANY NAME*.com and we will try to assist you.

What to look out for:

  • The tone is very positive, polite and in no way accusing the reviewer of lying, even though the content of the reply contradicts their claim and even though the original review has an angry tone.
  • The answer hints that the problem can easily be solved by the user and encourages them to contact support.
  • A relevant keyword to the app was chosen to describe the app for people who search for it (flashlight app).
  • The reviewer is provided with an email address, hence encouraged to continue the dialogue outside of the review page. Also, they get the feeling that someone is waiting to hear more details about their complaint.
  • The answer is 3 lines long, so all the desired content is included but no more than that.
  • The answer has a personal tone, and it doesn’t seem like a generic answer given to all bad reviews.

Here’s a review for a calorie counting app. You can see that the reviewer was originally satisfied, but something changed over time. They are also specifically asking to be contacted. Now, for the reply:

Hi Roberta H,

We thank you for your review and apologize for the technical difficulties you have been experiencing using our calorie counter app. We’ve been working on upgrading it and technical difficulties on some phones were a result of that. We’ll be glad to provide you with more information and update you on the progress of fixing your problem. Please contact us at support@*COMPANY NAME*.com

What to look out for:

  • The tone is positive, the answer starts with “thank you” and “apologize”.
  • The problem is acknowledged and not denied. There’s no reason to hide the truth (if the complaint is not false), but the problem is rephrased as “technical difficulties”, so it sounds light and temporary.
  • There is an explanation to the problem, and the explanation emphasizes, once again, that the problem is very temporary.
  • The reviewer asks specifically to be updated and receives that option. We recommend offering reviewers the option of being updated how their complaints and problems are handled. It can turn a negative review into a positive one later on and even further improve your ASO.
  • This review demands an answer that is over the three-line limit, so it is longer but still tries to stay as short as possible.
  • Notice once more the keyword that relates to the essence of the app.

Here’s a review that is a bit more challenging. It’s very short and you can’t really understand what the problem is. You may get a lot of these reviews; some are even more general and shorter. Take a look at this answer:

Hey Bobbi,

We’re sorry you are having problems logging into our recipe app. We recommend you try deleting the app and reinstalling it, to see a wide variety of recipes. If that doesn’t help, please contact us at support@*COMPANY NAME*.com so we can better understand the issue and solve it.

What to look out for:

  • There is no disrespect to the reviewer. However, you can see that the complaint and the problem are downsized, so as not to make it seem like a common issue. The reviewer is asked to reinstall the app, hinting that the problem described can sometimes be solved very easily.
  • Notice how this time there are two keywords: one which describes the app and another describing its good qualities. It is important, however, to keep the keywords in context and make them look natural inside the text.
  • The review is very general, so the reviewer is encouraged to contact the support team in order for them to understand the problem better.
  • We recommend that whenever you get a bad review which does not even state a problem (such as “very disappointing” or “bad app, don’t download”), you encourage the reviewer to contact you and explain the problem. However, don’t forget that – as we stated earlier – general bad reviews are prioritized after specific bad reviews and hence should be dealt with according to your time limit and capabilities.