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Are You Overpaying Your Advertising Partners for Mobile App Installs?

Since mobile apps and app usage has seen tremendous growth in the last year, you've probably read up on all the tips and tricks for getting an app discovered and realized that getting your apps in front of the right target audience is a lot like approaching marketing for websites.

There are several available user acquisition channels, such as social mobile advertising, mobile paid search, SMS, press, app store optimization, and cross-promotion. One common channel to promote your app through advertising networks like TapJoy or HitFox.

How Mobile App Install Tracking Works

One of the biggest differences between tracking campaigns on websites versus tracking campaigns on mobile is the tracking methodology.

When advertisers work with only one advertising publisher, the problem of attributing the install event of your mobile app to the rightful promotion source isn't a problem – if only one publisher is promoting your mobile app, then they are the only publisher that can be responsible for the install events of your app. The tracking works because when your mobile app is installed, the SDK the publisher has implemented within your app notifies them of the install.

How mobile app install works

Tracking Matters – A Lot

However, now as advertisers start to diversify their campaigns and work with multiple publishers – potentially more than 200 – it isn't so clear which one of those publishers is responsible for the install event of your mobile app.

In this situation, the issue of duplicate attribution for installs arises. Since multiple publishers are promoting your mobile app, multiple SDKs (a different SDK for each publisher) will be notifying the respective publishers of the install event and therefore each one of those publishers will assume responsibility for being the promotion source.

Tracking multiple publishers
If you're running campaigns, working with multiple publishers at the same time to promote your mobile app, how do you know who is truly responsible for the install event and subsequently which publisher should receive payment for generating that install?

Put the Right Attribution Technology in Place

One way to solve duplicate mobile app installs in your reporting is to follow a “last click attribution” methodology.

With last click attribution you follow the click stream data for a user and correlate the last click of the ad that generated the install with the publisher promoting that advertisement. Only one publisher will ever be accredited with the install event for your mobile app.

Last click attribution method
If marketers aren't attributing the install to the last publisher before the conversion event, then:
  • Marketers can be potentially be paying 2x (or more!) for a single install if campaigns are on a CPI basis.
  • If the publisher is charging on CPC or CPM, they still generally use install attribution for optimization; so their optimization would be based off inaccurate information.

Note: When a marketer is working with several publishers, the install rate diminishes once a new attribution technology is implemented since it doesn't give credit to publishers for installs they are actually not responsible for.

Because the install rate can drop, publishers assume that there are tracking issues. In actuality, it's related to the attribution platform not allowing them to take credit for an install they were not the last click for.


With the growing number of advertising networks and other user acquisition providers and the fragmentation in the mobile ecosystem, evaluating and choosing the best options for tracking, measuring, and reporting on app performance is still an ongoing challenge for mobile marketers.

Article Post @ Search Engine Watch
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