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Beginners Guide to Paid User Acquisition (UA) for Mobile Apps & Games

When it comes to acquiring users for mobile apps, there are two traffic channels: organic (users who found your application in the store) and advertising (paid) traffic. This post will guide you through all sticking points of paid user acquisition for beginners.

User acquisition is essential if you expect to earn money from the app or game because only when the application has a loyal audience, the monetization goes in. There are two ways of monetizing the application: in-app purchases (PRO-account, add-ons, etc.) or advertising (usually in free-to-play games). One way or another, advertising remains a crucial thing.

Table of Contents

How to buy traffic for an application?

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1. Choosing Ad Network

The network serves as a mediator between the advertiser and the traffic source. Mobile Ad Networks can be divided into 2 categories: classic networks (Applovin, AdMob, Ironsource, etc.) and social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). According to the latest data, the most popular Ad Networks are Facebook, Applovin, and AdMob. In 2019, these networks accounted for more than 60% of advertising. Facebook shows an accurate targeting that allows an advertiser to target users not only by gender or location but also by user interests. For this, Facebook is certainly loved by many advertisers, although the pricing remains far from the cheapest. For interactive or playable ad refer to Applovin. AdColony and Ironsource focus on video ads. Among less expensive mobile ad networks, we highlight InMobi, StartApp, and Mopub.

When choosing an Advertising Network, we advise you to carefully study the features of each network and choose the one (or some) that will bring you more relevant traffic at the lower price.

2. Define your audience

Who is your target user? What device is he using? Where is he located? What games does he usually play? The more you answer these questions, the easier it will be for an ad to find the right person.

Usually, publishers target not only one country but a group of countries (we call it Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 countries, where countries are distributed by purchasing power). The Tier 1-country, US, makes more than 60% of all in-app purchases in the world. The Tier 1 list also includes most European countries. It is not surprising that there is a correlation between the country’s paying capacity and the cost of advertising. To run a good advertising campaign in the US, you better have big budgets. For example, according to TechCrunch, for an application to get into the Top 10 free games in the US, it needs about 70 thousand daily downloads. Depending on the advertising network, such a number of downloads can cost the publisher about $500 thousand. However, there still is a list of countries that remains a good source of traffic for publishers with a tight budget.

Tip for beginner publisher: Apple devices are more common in Tier 1 countries, so you should focus on promoting the iOS version of the application. While, for example, in India, the Android app will bring you more installs.

3. Prepare your ad creatives

This can be a banner ad, a video, an interactive video, or a playable ad -an ad format that the user can interact with (for example, play a short game)-. Creatives’ conversion rate always depends on their quality and complexity. Banners show a low conversion rate, but they are easy to create. Vice versa, the playable ad has the highest conversions but requires a lot of effort. According to Tim Shepherd, creative director of playable ads at Wooga, creating one playable ad may take 2-3 weeks and the work of one or two developers.

4. Choose your paying option and set up a daily budget

Traditionally, networks offer several paying models: CPM (Cost-Per-Thousand impressions), CPC (Cost-Per-Click), and CPI (Cost-Per-Install). Choose the advertising model, depending on the Ad Network and the goals you’ve set. Define your daily budget and test, test, test…

When choosing the CPC option, it is essential to wisely set the campaign and not waste the entire budget at a time. Advertisers bid on ad impression: you choose the keywords that you want to show your creatives for and then compete with other advertisers. The one who pays more wins, the ad will be shown to the user.

The advertising market in numbers

Here is a brief overview of the in-app advertising market in 2019. In 2019, the market saw 61500 unique advertisers which is 9% more than the previous year. The US is a top country by ad distribution in both stores as well as the best country by advertiser’s HQ Location. AdMob is the best mobile ad network by ad distribution and Facebook remains the best social channel. As for the advertising format, video is definitely the most popular ad type – mora than half of all advertising on the market falls on the video creatives.

When adjusting your user acquisition campaign, pay attention to current market trends as a source of inspiration and insightful data. Knowing the market and competitors will let you make the right decisions and boost your mobile business.

Tip for beginner publisher

If you thought that setting up an advertising campaign, testing creatives, choosing Ad Network is a long and challenging process, you’re right! However, there is a tip to facilitate UA manager’s job.

Instead of randomly testing different traffic channels and wasting budgets for an ad that doesn’t convert, better pay attention to how successful publishers advertise apps similar to yours. With the help of analytics tools, you can see which specific advertising campaign has brought competitors to the Top Charts, and adjust your own user acquisition.

In Apptica, you can check the UA campaign of your rivals: target countries, Networks, apps where the ad was displayed, the most converted ad creatives, and more valuable information that will help you to succeed in paid user acquisition.

What do you think of this beginners guide to paid User Acquisition (UA) for mobile apps & games? Just let us know in the comments.

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