Price comparison service Pricetree contacted us earlier today, illustrating why going app-only is risky for a business: what if an application store bans you? Pricetree received an email from Google Play, indicating that they’ve been suspended because they’re using an alleged spam keyword.
— Pricetree.com (@price_tree) July 30, 2015
Pricetree’s app has been reinstated, according to the company. We have contacted Google for comments, and will update in case they respond, but it still does highlight a few important things, which MediaNama readers should bear in mind:
1. The apps ecosystem is less open than the web: the two primary app stores, of Apple and Google are likely to be the source of a majority of your installs, with Google dominating the Android store install base (dare we say, “monopoly”, given the CCI investigation into Google?), and Apple for iOS. Despite the presence of other app stores, a majority of your eggs are in these baskets.
Even if you’re not going app only, it’s important to look for other means of achieving a wider install base – whether through partnerships with handset manufacturers, or via third party app stores. In the same vein, publishers need to ensure that their news consumption isn’t only happening via social media, or one social media platform. Diversify your distribution and your risk.
2. Google is run by bots, even if they’re humans: PriceTree looks like it got lucky with its app, but they could well have been banned forever, without knowing why or more importantly, how they can get the block removed. Google lacks transparency: users have often complained about their Gmail accounts being blocked. We’ve had instances where our site was marked as being hacked by Google search, or our AdSense account was blocked.
We weren’t able to find anything or find out why, and when you contact Google, all you get in response is a standard, templated, non-specific response. If we ever got removed from search, it would be a major hit, but it wouldn’t kill us altogether, because we have significant direct traffic (people who type in medianama.com to visit us), and some social. But, Google being Google, we would probably never find out exactly why.
Of course, if you are a bigger player, say, a telecom operator and a key business partner, Google and Apple are likely to turn a blind eye to app store policy violations, and you’re likely to not be banned, or get bot-like emails. If you’re a key e-commerce partner and spend millions of dollars a month on search advertising, it’ll be surprising if an app store violation leads to a ban.
But a majority of app developers are not like that, so it’s important for them to diversify their risk.