Linking users back to the Play Store is a big no-no.
Image: Google

Google’s removal of 17 malware-spreading apps from the Google Play Store last month highlights the ongoing struggle the company faces trying to keep poor-quality, broken, or downright dangerous software out of the ecosystem. While bad actors will always find ways to sneak malware onto users’ devices, developers have a role to play in keeping the app marketplace free of junk, too.

Google outlines its rules for app developers within the Google Play Developer Policies and Developer Distribution Agreement, which lay out the boundaries of app content and functionalities that are allowed on the platform. Developers who break these rules risk having their apps pulled and their accounts suspended permanently.

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After analysing apps for policy compliance on Google Play earlier in October, the company has identified four of the most common mistakes and policy violations that developers make, and offered tips on how to avoid them.

Links that take users back to other apps on the Play Store

According to Google, one of the most common mistakes developers make is including buttons or menus within their apps that link users back to the Play Store, either to apps by the same developer or to ads or promotional links.

Andrew Ahn, product manager, Google Play App Safety, said: “Without this clarity, apps may get enforced for having deceptive / disguised ads. One of the ways to avoid such mistakes is by explicitly calling these out by labelling the buttons and links as ‘More Apps’, ‘More Games’, ‘Explore’, ‘Check out our other apps’, etcetera.”

Spammy app descriptions

Stuffing keywords into the app description is another big no-no for developers. While this might improve your app’s discoverability, it will also promptly land you in Google’s bad books. “Text blocks or lists that contain repetitive or unrelated keywords or references violate our Store Listing and Promotion policy,” said Ahn.

Writing a clear app description explaining exactly what your app does in a way that users can understand is the best way to avoid this violation, Ahn added.

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Abandoned and broken apps

Broken and abandoned apps are of no use to anyone. Not only are they likely to draw poor ratings for developers, but they’ll also be flagged as violating Google Play’s minimum functionality policy. To prevent this, developers should consider unpublishing such apps from the Play Store. This won’t affect users who have already installed the app, and developers can always choose to re-publish them after addressing the issues, Ahn said.

Webview ‘apps’

Google says sees a high volume of app submissions that are simply ‘webviews’ of existing websites designed to drive traffic to said site. These are considered spam and are removed from Google Play. “Instead, consider thinking through what users can do or do better with the app than in a web experience and implement relevant features and functionalities that enrich the user experience,” said Ahn.