How to Respond to a Bad Review?

Angry ThumbnailIt can be tough being a developer. You can work for months on a project and then nothing happens. Your app can be buried by thousands of other apps. Which is worse — to be ignored or to have mean things said about your app? While it might feel better to be left alone, rather than being abused by harsh words, a bad review can actually work for you. I was recently reminded of that fact when reviewed The Unofficial GameSalad Textbook. It felt like a pretty brutal review, but it could actually be good publicity for my app.

So, here’s a typical scenario – you’ve contacted dozens of review websites and you’ve sent out all your promo codes. You wait for some encouraging feedback. But unfortunately, not much is said about your app. Most of the review websites just ignore you. Some even respond with a solicitation for advertisement on their website. Just when you’re about to give up on marketing your app, a site posts a review of your creation. Has your work finally received a reprieve from the drought of attention? Not exactly, the review doesn’t reflect too favorably on your app. You have received a bad review.

That’s pretty much what happened to me. With the update of my textbook, I figured that I should try marketing my book. Since I had access to 50 new promo codes, I thought that I would try to boost activity. Overall, my marketing efforts were working. Apple returned the textbook to the “What’s Hot” section. My customers were writing great things about the update. That’s why I was a bit surprised by the wording of Chris Hall, a reviewer from He said the book… “just feels sloppy, and considering the price, it feels doubly sloppy.”

Whoa, that’s pretty harsh. Words like that can be damaging to my business. How do I respond? Do I get angry? Do I write nasty letters? Do I give up? No! If you find yourself in a situation like this, there are a few important things to remember.

Step 1: Focus on the positive – While there were some pretty bad words in the review, there were some greats ones too…

a nice resource to have
does a pretty good job teaching

That’s all I really need to spice up my app listing. I have a popular review website that’s saying nice things about my app. That’s a great quote to add to the description of my app. When you read a review, look for positive quotes. Those are the ones you play up and downplay the bad parts. Even this article is an example of emphasizing the positive. Did you notice how I highlighted the good parts of the review. It’s bold and in a blue, while the bad words are buried at the end of a paragraph. Also, I don’t even link to the website. If the review was better, I would. By focusing on the good pieces of the review, it gives me something to work with.

Step 2: Fix – Constructive feedback is good. If someone is writing critiques about your app, that’s useful information. You can make your apps better.

Step 3: Relax – There’s a popular saying from Brendan Behan, “There’s no bad publicity except an obituary.” The reality is, that’s mostly true. Even though Mr. Hall’s review of my textbook is not favorable, it still can have very favorable results. As an example, there are huge Search Engine Optimization benefits — even from a bad review. Search Engine Robots index keywords. They’re not advanced enough [yet] to distinguish the tone of the review. I checkout out the source code of the review and I noticed this…

Developer: <a onclick="javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview('/outgoing/');"  href="">Photics</a><br />

So, they’re tracking outgoing links and they didn’t use the “NOFOLLOW” setting. That means the website wants to see where visitors go, but they’re not blocking sites like Google from using that link to rate the popularity of my website. That’s awesome! If someone searches for “GameSalad Textbook”, is more likely to appear.

Even a bad review can spark interest in your app. It’s impossible for everyone to like everything. People have different opinions and different tastes. The trick is to not take it personally, spin it into a positive and learn of ways to improve. If you love building apps, then some harsh words shouldn’t stop you.