Learning the basics of app promotion is essential for app developers, who wish to get exposure, grow their audience and succeed in app monetization. The app advertising market may seem hard to grasp, with a variety of available platforms and solutions. However, with basic knowledge of ad campaign set-up, customization and analysis, it gets easier. App developers can get the hang of attracting the right audience on a budget. So what are the main platforms for acquiring users and how to make sure that the campaign is working?
Choosing the platform
Among the advertising platforms, Google is the biggest name, and it caters to both advertisers and publishers. There are several platform for mobile user acquisition and monetization.
Google AdWords works for advertisers, on desktop and mobile web; it also opens the possibility to place ads in mobile apps.
Since August 2017, all the app install campaigns in Google AdWords become Universal App Campaigns. Now with the new feature, advertisers don’t need to create individual ads, as they would normally do in AdWords. They only need to provide some text ideas and images from the app. Then, UAC creates ads for various Google properties: Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. The system automatically targets the audience, tests and optimizes ads, selecting the ones that perform best. Advertiser provide a starting bid, budget and information on the locations and languages to advertise an app. Everything else is streamlined by Google.
Google AdMob works for both mobile app publishers and advertisers, but in mobile apps only. AdMob is essentially a self-serve platform, where advertisers customize campaigns and set audience targeting at their own discretion.
Google allows choosing goals for the campaign: impressions, clicks or percentage of traffic. Advertisers can also run house ads in their own apps, or choose the Direct sold option. The CPM rate (cost per thousand impressions) that advertisers are willing to pay is specified during the campaign setup, as well as the cap on impressions.
The definitive advantage of Google platforms is that they are suitable even for small advertisers on a budget. For starting with user acquisition campaigns, Google is a convenient solution. However, Google doesn’t work with certain verticals, such as casino, so not all apps can benefit from advertising with Google.
Facebook is another advertising market giant. The platform is also suitable for marketing apps: there are features designed specifically for apps. Advertisers can set campaign goal “App Installs”. The ad will contain a link to an app store.
Thanks to large data sets that Facebook accumulates, advertisers can experiment with audience targeting, selecting the parameters like gender, age, languages, interests, education level, relationship status, etc. Facebook also provides a certain variety of ad formats and placements. There is a possibility to advertise with in-stream video, images or copy; in the Facebook news feed, Instagram or Facebook Messenger. Advertisers can pay for cost per install, click, in-app action or video views.
Overall, Facebook is great for starting out and running test campaigns. It’s a platform for drilling down audience, working on detailed targeting and split-testing creatives. However, for scalable campaigns, advertisers tend to choose CPI networks or programmatic platforms.
CPI networks take the place of intermediaries between advertisers and publishers. Unlike Google and Facebook, CPI networks usually provide a dedicated manager for running ad campaigns. The manager customizes targeting, tests and optimizes advertising, analyses the results and makes the necessary changes into the strategy — in order to achieve the KPI goals, provided by the advertiser. The CPI networks work by cost per install model, and advertisers pay for each install completed by the users.
The advantage of this type of platforms for user acquisition is their efficiency in delivering results. In the majority of cases, advertisers get the volume of downloads they requested. However, one of the key limitations for CPI networks is fraud. Fraudulent partners can fake installs or sell incent traffic at the price of non-incent. As a result, the users that download the apps are not interested in them and more ready to discard them.
This is a highly technological solution for buying and selling mobile traffic. The main differential of programmatic is its full automatization. There is no need for human interaction and negotiations. The inventory is going on auction — whether open to all participants or limited to selected few — which is regulated by advanced algorithms. The whole process takes place during the time a web page or an app is loading, that is no more than a couple of seconds.
The complex targeting enabled by programmatic technologies doesn’t focus on the audience segments, but rather on each specific user. It takes into account the demographic, interests and more data about the user, allowing the high precision of targeting, reaching even the audience that doesn’t usually visit websites or apps in the advertiser’s vertical.
Programmatic platforms work by CPM model (cost per mille), the cost per thousand impressions. Then, marketers can optimize the campaign, to achieve the desirable CTR (click-through rate) or a specific number of installs.
Advertisers usually work with demand-side platforms (DSPs) to manage their campaigns, through which they can also access real-time bidding marketplaces — the platforms where inventory is auctioned to advertisers after they have customized audience targeting on DSPs.
Programmatic solutions are very effective for buying traffic on a scale, therefore for medium and large advertisers, who have several apps.
Analyzing the results
Detailed traffic analysis is a prerequisite for a quality campaign optimization. Marketers need to understand whether user acquisition campaigns are profitable, what is the cost of one lead and what is the lifetime value of a user.
To have all that information and to promote an app efficiently, without wasting the resources, it is absolutely necessary to set up in-app analytics.
One of the main indicators of app performance is the number of unique users for a certain time period. DAU (Daily Active Users), WAU (Weekly Active Users), MAU (Monthly Active Users) show the number of people who opened the app during a day, week or month. An important metric is a sticky factor, a ratio of the number of unique visitors per day to the number of unique visitors per month (Sticky=DAU/MAU). Sticky factor helps to learn how the users engage with the app and allows making assumptions about the monetization opportunities.
For measuring and understanding the user engagement, use the average session length metric. It stands for the time that the users spend in the app, between launch and exit, and it is crucial for analyzing the user experience. Marketers should track the average time needed for the user to complete all the basic actions in the app and compare the average session length to it. Any kind of anomaly signifies issues with the app (bugs, bad user experience), or problems with traffic quality (wrong targeting). If the app is working smoothly and the quality of traffic is good, marketers are likely to observe high retention rates (RR), a metric that shows how often users return to the app. However, in case there are problems, advertisers can spot high churn rate — users abandoning and uninstalling the app.
One of the most important metrics for marketers is ROI (return on investment), which helps calculate the profitability of marketing channels. It is closely connected to the CAC metric, the cost of acquiring a customer. A viable business model should anticipate CAC lower, than the LTV of a user, or the total amount of revenue a user generates in an app, during the whole time of using it.
Measuring the success of the monetization strategy is possible with the ARPU metric — the average revenue per user for a period of time, which is a ratio of revenue for a period of time to the number of users for the same period. It offers insights into the approximate value of one user for app monetization. ARPPU, the average revenue per paying user, helps to determine the specific profitability of your chosen audience segment.
Tracking these metrics is possible with analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Firebase, Localytics, Devtodev, Flurry, Mixpanel. They gather a broad spectrum of data and generate reports.