Posted by George Nader | 2 comments

Mobile app install ads: Where should you invest?

App Install Ads - User AcquisitionRealizing your first app can be a daunting experience. You start with an idea, choose your content, adjust the endless design combinations, and finally publish your app on the store in the hopes of it becoming an overnight success. But then what? If you’re only relying on ASO and word of mouth for promotion, it may not be enough to get you the downloads you need to turn a profit.

Standing out in the stores is a challenge many app marketers face. But what is there to gain from making some additional investment in your promotional strategy? Of course the obvious answer is users, but the truth is that acquisition affects your bottom line. According to estimations from Gartner and TechCrunch, worldwide mobile app revenues are set to increase to 76.52 billion US dollars by 2017

mobile app revenues Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s start thinking about how your app can make it to the top of the charts and get more downloads. With App Store Optimization (ASO), you’re able to drive more organic traffic to your app, but if you’re still looking for a boost, you’ll want to invest in some form of paid advertisements.

Mobile App Install Ads

So what exactly are mobile app install ads? How much budget should you allocate? What criteria is needed? Which channel is better? We’ll get to answering all those questions in this post, but first, let’s start by describing what is a mobile app install ad.

The main purpose of using these ads is to get qualified traffic from sources outside the stores, such as social media, to download your app. Ads usually appear on a users’ feed and consist of the app name, description, image and a call to action button. Ad units differ depending on the channel and may have some added features that help show the popularity of your app, like including the overall store ratings.

If you have both an iOS and Android app, you’ll need to setup separate campaigns as each will link to the specific store. Why still bother promoting and publishing apps on both stores? According to Vice President of Product Management of Google AdWords, Jerry Dischler, apps witness a 9% increase in downloads if found on both Google Play and Apple Store.

Now, let’s dive into the different channels offering mobile app install ads and go through the pros and cons of each. We’ve also created this handy cheat sheet summarizing the key takeaways, helping you decide where to place your ad spend.

Facebook App Install Ads

facebook app install ads


Since Facebook launched the Suggested App ad format late last year, it has become THE app install driver, according to IAB UK. Half of the top grossing apps on the App and Play Store use Facebook App Install ads, and developers say these ads reduce acquisition costs by 15% to 60%. So why is Facebook advertising so powerful? Simple – targeted reach!

facebook user data

With Facebook Custom Audience targeting, it’s possible to target users based on specific demographics, profiles or actions they may have taken on your brand’s desktop or mobile website. It’s also possible to create Lookalike Audiences of your highest value users, based on Facebook’s wealth of data. In addition to acquiring new users, Facebook’s ad products support re-engagement campaigns to help improve app user retention and boost lifetime value. Campaigns can be set up to re-target users based on actions they take inside your app, like viewing a specific product, with the goal of bringing users back into the app for conversion.

Twitter App Install Cards

twitter app install ads

Source: Twitter

While Twitter’s mobile app ad product is relatively new, it is already one of the largest ad exchanges in the world with over 227 million mobile users and is proving to be a strong opportunity for marketers to reach Twitter’s “real-time” audience.

Much like Facebook, Twitter App Install Cards can be targeted to specific demographics as well as look-a-like and tailored audience for advanced acquisition campaigns. Also, Twitter’s mobile app campaigns can be used to re-engage lapsed users, helping advertisers increase the lifetime value of app users. While this landscape is relatively new, a quick peak at your feed will and you’ll see rich, mobile-first ad units designed for compelling an attention-grabbing user experiences. Twitter’s ad ecosystem presents marketers with brand new terrain — and the earlier your brand can start testing, the better.

Google Ad Words Mobile App Installs

As the largest search engine in the world, Google has 1.17 billion monthly unique users – proving to be one of the biggest channels to reach potential app users. Advertisers can place app install ads within Google’s Search Network, Display Network or Video Network (ie. YouTube), which we’ll discuss later.


Source: Google

On the Search Network, you can show app install ads to people while they’re searching for keywords you bid on. Keywords for “Mobile app installs” campaigns are optimized for targeting app-specific searches. Search Network campaigns are a great way to drive downloads from people who are actively searching for a solution your app provides. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, app install ads on the search network cannot be targeted according to user demographics, so researching keywords in fundamental to the success of your ads. Also, when it comes to app engagement campaigns on the Search Network, re-targeting is only available for Android apps.

google search mobile app install ads

Source: Google

On the Display Network, you can reach people while they’re using other apps that are similar to yours with app install ads. These campaigns often get large volumes of impressions, which can increase awareness of your app and attract new app users who may not be actively searching for you. Because these campaigns include default targeting, you’ll need to specify the devices, device models, and operating system version for the apps where your ad can appear. A big benefit with Google’s Display Network is that you can let the AdWords platform monitor which ads work better than other and allocate the right budget to ad with the highest clicks. Furthermore, you can also use re-targeting within display ads, and if your app in on the Google Play store, you can link your AdWords Account to your GooglePlay account to view all the statistics and ROI without the need to setup any SDK.

YouTube TrueView Mobile App Install Ads

It’s the first place we go to watch a music video, how-to video or just about anything with cats and dogs. The largest video sharing website has 1 billion monthly active users, of which 550 million are on mobile. What makes YouTube ads different from Facebook and Twitter? It’s all about video! Your YouTube mobile app install ad is a video combined with a CTA linking to your app store listing. TrueView ads play as pre-roll before a user can view a video they selected. This translates into a much more engaged viewer for advertisers. In order to find out how to make your own promotional video for your mobile app, read our blog post on app marketing hacks.


Source: YouTube

A real-life example of a YouTube ad campaign was explained by AppLift in the great presentation on YouTube App Install Ads demonstrated below. The image is a screen grab showing the result by investing a relatively high budget of $10,000 and $20,000. At the bottom of both photos you will the eCPM which is effective cost per thousand impressions. It is calculated by dividing total earnings by total number of impressions in thousands.

Much like other social platforms, targeting can be based on user demographics, interests, categories and device/OS. In addition, since YouTube goes under the category of AdWords, you get the same privilege of connecting your account with Google Play to get all the stats.

Tumblr Mobile App Install Ads

With 129.4 million monthly mobile active users, Tumblr entered the mobile app install ad game in late 2014, stating: “This is an opportunity for brands with apps to tap into one of the youngest and fastest growing audiences out there, specifically the 65% of our users who access Tumblr from our native iOS and Android apps. Our mobile users are also some of our most engaged, averaging seven sessions per day”.

Still being rolled out, at the moments brands looking to trial app install ads need to contact Tumblr directly.

tumblr app install ads

The first ads to use this service where game publishers such as GREE with League of War and Knights & Dragons. Other publishers who had the privilege where Big Fish with Gummy Drop and Betaworks with TwoDots(seen in the picture above).  Max Sebela, Tumblr’s creative strategy manager, expressed that ad units will feature photo-sets and GIFs, but” the sky is the limit in terms of creative”. And because the ads are actually posts, they can be liked and re-shared on Tumblr’s network through its re-blogging mechanism. To be clear, the ads themselves only initially appear on mobile users’ dashboards, but the content they contain, when re-shared, can be viewed by any Tumblr user, including those accessing the service from the desktop.

The ads themselves will include an install app button in the sponsored post that, when clicked, will direct users to the App Store or Play Store to download, or will read “Open” if the user already has the app installed. Although parent company Yahoo has been running app install ads itself for some time in its own mobile properties, for now, this new unit is exclusive to Tumblr and not sold as part alongside other Yahoo ad units as a part of a larger sponsored ad deal. However, the ad program is powered by Yahoo’s own ad targeting technologyTumblr declined to reveal what these new ads will cost, saying that it’s testing a variety of pricing models. Currently, it’s testing a competitively priced actualized cost per install (a flat cost per install).

Which channel is best for your app?

In the end, the different platforms all have their benefits and choosing which will drive the best ROI really depends on your budget and expectations. If you want to target a specific user persona via demographics and interest, while keeping the reigns on your budget, Facebook and Twitter are a great place to start. Here you can set up short campaigns on a fixed budget, monitor and optimize. Adwords app install campaigns are a great place for keeping a small running budget with a focus on your keywords, and invest more when you’ve gotten the hang of keyword optimization. If you have a bit more budget (and once you have an app preview video made) YouTube TrueView ads should be your next option. In our opinion, there’s still not enough information out there on Tumblr mobile app install ads, but it could certainly prove a good investment for app marketers who identify Tumbr users as a target audience.

Download the App Install Ads Cheat Sheet

App Install Ads Cheat Sheet

At the end of the day, with more options available to app marketers, it’s still important to stand out from the crowd and catch a user’s attention – a simple screenshot of your app is no longer enough. To get the most out of social ads, brands need to engage in storytelling: capturing images of products or people enjoying a service, fun and captivating claims, and explicit calls to action.


2 thoughts on “Mobile app install ads: Where should you invest?

  1. Pingback: How to boost your app ranking with quality ratings & reviews

  2. Pingback: How to create the ultimate app promotional video

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Paperlit S.r.l. | P.iva 03297020921 | © 2015 All rights reserved