Black Hat “ASO” App Store Optimization – Is it Legit or Scam?

Photo Credit: Silkstream
At first sight, app store optimization seems so darn simple, doesn’t it?
You just need to develop an app, pick keywords you want to rank for, create amazing icons and screenshots, ask marketers and bloggers to promote your app in their posts, and BAM! As if by magic your app begins to climb in App Store Search Pages.
Yeah, there are some intricacies and ASO ranking factors that you need to consider when optimizing your apps. For instance, as much as 30% of your ASO success depends on the keywords you use and 20% of reviews, while the rest falls on the quality of your app and other factors.
So as long as you follow this ASO strategy, you should be fine, right?
Now tell me…how do you stay ahead from the pack when everyone else is doing the same thing?
Increase your ASO efforts?
Launch more apps?
Send more marketing emails?
Or…turn to ASO strategies that your competitors would prefer to stay away from, like Black Hat “ASO” App Store Optimization?
That’s exactly what I would like to know that’s why I took the initiative to do my own research to find out whether black hat SEO is legit and is affordable without breaking Google’s or Apple’s guidelines. Can this strategy really help in ranking higher, attracting more traffic, and increasing conversions? Let’s find out.
But before we begin, just a quick recap…
What Is Black Hat “ASO” App Store Optimization
The term Black Hat refers to aggressive App Store Optimization strategies that (may or can) violate the search App Store Search Engine’s guidelines and best practices.
The primary recognizable trait of black hat ASO is its disregard for users and its primary focus on manipulating app rankings.
Black Hat ASO Firms used strategies like app traffic or downloads automation, and keyword stuffing to manipulate app rankings and position low-quality app in the App Store search results.  

Eventually, Apple & Google caught on and tackled black hat practices by updating their search algorithms. From then on, an app would be penalized by Google or Apple when using black hat tactics.
However, there are some firms out there who still use or incorporate these strategies in their ASO campaigns. I am not sure though if it’s still working or if they are doing it in a white hat way to help skyrocket an app’s organic traffic.
While I was researching for Black Hat ASO, I have stumbled upon this site: This company seems to offer pretty much the same Black Hat ASO services as AppGratis did back in the golden days.

What is Apprb?

Apprb is a black hat aso service provider that conducts an in-depth analysis of apps & its main competitors. They also provide aso solutions which are mainly a combination of PR activities, marketing, and media buying. Their goal is to boost your app rankings, make it relevant & visible to search engines.  
Honestly, Apprb black hat service is quite tempting. It sounds pretty interesting though there’re no serious testimonials or whatsoever. No example apps or game that I am to trace in the iTunes or Google Play ranking history. And I find it a bit scary to cash up when there’s no proof of concept. They can’t even provide their case studies, KPIs, documentation, and explain their process on how they boost app rankings. Below is a screenshot of my conversion with one of their sales representative via Skype. To read the full transcript, click here.
Unfortunately, they can’t optimize keyword rankings in the US because of the recent algorithm changes made by Apple. Also, They can’t do rank pushing for these regions: US, CA, AU, RU, GB, DE.
With regards to payment terms and cost of their service, they are asking 50% in advance for the first five Black Hat ASO campaigns. Then for the rest, you can choose to pay post-paid.
The total cost per campaign is $1000. So, you need to pay $500 upfront.
Honestly, I find their service cheap, but I just can’t trust them. All I am asking is a proof of their successful campaign. It can be a report, an analysis, a before and after comparison/data that includes App name, dates, downloads provided, charts, etc. Nope, they were not able to provide it. All I get are promises, so I decided to walk away.
I already sent an email to Apple and asked for their opinion of Apprb’s Black Hat Services so that I won’t violate my developer user agreement with them.
Searching for Apprb on Google doesn’t really inspire any confidence in their “Black Hat ASO service”.
Take a look at their social media profiles:
and the blog associated with them:
Check out their stats from Userxp:
Looks sketchy eh? What do you think?
I wonder why they still exist. As far as I can remember, Apple did a crackdown on these Black Hat ASO firms and banned app developers who are using them.
“Apple hasn’t said a lot about the crackdown beyond this Feb. 6 statement: “Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership.”
“Since Apple has showed a more aggressive attitude toward this malicious manipulation, the [third-party marketing] firms hire paid posters to download and write reviews for the apps, just like what normal users would do,” Cheng said. “In this way, their behavior will become even harder to be discovered. The firms also suggest that attempts to enter into Top 10 or Top 3 are very dangerous and can be easily detected by Apple, but the Top 30 to Top 50 would be OK.”  – [Venture Beat]
And for additional articles on these Black Hat ASO firms and Apple’s view of them, read here.


Black Hat ASO is really intriguing as it’s being touted to be the easiest path to ASO success. However, there are many intricacies in the process, and they seem to violate Apple’s terms of service.
For now, I’d say it’s best to avoid them. Especially, when they want $$ up front. So far, I am using LEGIT ASO tactics and strategies with integrity, and they seem to propel my app higher in App Store search results, attract more traffic, and increase conversions/ROI.
Have you used, or seen others using, Apprb or any other black hat “ASO” App Store Optimization strategies? Share them with me in the comments below!

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