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There are numerous articles and guides which are helpful for the right approach regarding app development. After the app was successfully launched in the App Store, however, often follows the disillusionment. Only the own friends and acquaintances downloaded the app and the dream of an own Unicorn bursts like a soap bubble (or BitCoin bubble). Developer teams nowadays still proceed very naive regarding the marketing of their own app. For this reason, I would like to share some ideas and starting points for the structured and performance-oriented marketing of mobile apps in this article. Each app has its own characteristics, which should be considered in the marketing. For this reason, this article is not a copy-paste strategy, but only gives a general presentation of the different marketing possibilities.

I'll start by presenting the marketing opportunities via Google AdWords.

App-install campaigns via Google AdWords

Universal App Campaigns (UAC) is the performance marketing solution for running app-install campaigns on the Google Network (IOS and Android apps). Since November 15, 2017, UAC is also the only way to reach app installs through Google AdWords. The previous standard solutions were app-install campaigns, which could be placed through either the Search Network or the Display Network. Google's UAC decides, based on machine learning, which ads are displayed where (ad places) and to whom (target group). This decision was justified by the fact that UAC led to up to 140% more conversion than traditional app-install campaigns.

Experience report: my experiences with running app-install campaigns vs. UAC has always shown that the separate placement of Search Network and Display Network campaigns delivered significantly better results than placing UAC.

Where and how are UAC displayed?

With UAC, the promoted app is displayed on all major Google platforms, such as Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, Search Network (including partner search networks, such as T-Mobile), and the Display Network.

There is no need to create your own ads when running UAC. Multiple UAC ads are displayed and tested by reference to the dentoted ad texts (4 ad texts á 25 characters) and the Google Play Store listing. This is how the most effective ad design is determined and primarily displayed. In addition to the different ad texts, the placement of UAC requires information on the standard bid and budget and a language and region must be chosen. Afterwards, the UAC placement can be completed.

An advantage of the UAC is that it can not only be optimized exclusively on app installs, but also further events can be defined. This leads to UAC ads to be displayed to those who are most likely to perform that move.

Example: instead of optimizing for app installs, it can be optimized regarding the event "registration" to increase the number of actual app users.

Bid strategy for UCA:

When placing UCA there is only the option to bid on the target cost-per-install (CPI). Therefore, one tells Google the target CPI and then Google independently optimizes the placement of the ads.

Analysis and reporting options for UCA:

The possible analysis and reporting options are also much more limited for UCA than for traditional mobile app install campaigns. The segmentation levels are as follows:

Campaign level (there are no ad groups)

Terminal device


Time (day, month etc.)



Facebook app installation campaigns (Mobile App Install Ads)

The Facebook performance marketing solution to increase the number of app downloads is "Mobile App Install Ads". When using Mobile App Install Ads, it can be selected out of all target groups and ad options known by Facebook. From lookalike campaigns to Mobile App Install Ads in the Instagram feed, all Facebook tools can be chosen.

In order to run successful Facebook campaigns, the integration of the Facebook pixel is basically necessary. However, it's not the Facebook pixel that is used for the Mobile App Install Ads, but the Facebook SDK. To do this, you first have to create a Facebook Developer account and register the respective app there. Without integrating the Facebook SDK, no Mobile App Install Ads can be activated. For this reason, there should be considered some time before placing Mobile App Install Ads, so the mobile SDK can be implemented and the app can be sufficiently tested.

Attention: If the application to be advertised is based on React, it will not be possible to build in the SDK and possible events conventionally. This should definitely be included in the time plan, because a campaign start can be delayed by one week.

Optimize Facebook Mobile App Install Ads for events

In addition to optimizing for the lowest possible CPI values, the optimization can also be applied to other events. In total, Facebook offers 14 standard events that can be optimized for:

  • App launch
  • View content
  • Search
  • Payment information added
  • Added to wishlist
  • Added to cart
  • Completed registration
  • Tutorial completed
  • Initial checkout
  • Achieved level
  • Unlocked achievement
  • Rated
  • Spent credits

It's a good idea to include the required default events through the SDK, as these events will also be visible in Facebook Analytics and, once enough people reached the goal, it will also be possible to run a Custom Audience and finally a Lookalike campaign.

Setting options for Mobile App Install Ads

Mobile app install ads have the same campaign structure as traditional Facebook campaigns:

- campaign
- ad group
- ad

Likewise, the known placements, such as
Facebook Newsfeed
Instagram feed
Audience Network
Facebook Messenger

can be chosen.

Instead of just giving CPI bids, as for Google AdWords UAC, for MAI the following bid strategies can be used:

Cost-per-click (CPC)
Cost-per-mille (CPM)
Optimization on conversion (oCPM)

Ad Design for MAI:

In addition to the free selection of the respective ad placement, also the ad design can be influenced as usual. In addition to video, single-image or carousel ads, advertisers have a variety of design options, which are no longer offered on Google.

The following ad characteristics can be customized with Mobile App Install Ads:

  • Image or video ad
  • Single image/video vs. carousel ad
  • Title
  • Text
  • Call-to-action

For Mobile App Install Ads, the traditional option of link description expires.

Ad placements for Mobile App Install Ads

Basically, for Mobile App Install Ads the traditional platforms (Facebook News Feed, Instagram Feed & Story, Audience Network & Facebook Messenger) can be selected to display the ads. The different performance values should be segmented regarding the ad placement to remove unprofitable placements.

Practical Tip for running Mobile App Install Ads:

Since most mobile apps have a file size of +20 MB, the probability that users will download an app while having a Wi-Fi connection, is significantly higher than when browsing with mobile data volume.

In the setting options of the ad groups, it can be selected the option that people are only addressed if they have a Wi-Fi connection. This should always be selected when running Mobile App Install Ads.

Market the app

Twitter Mobile App Install Ads:

Twitter also offers the possibility to increase the number of app downloads via Mobile App Install Ads. These Mobile App Install Ads work similar to Facebook Ads, except that Twitter does not have as much data as Facebook, which usually leads to worse results than with Facebook campaigns.

An interesting feature offered by Twitter is the placement of ads to users watching a particular TV series and tweeting about it.

To make it possible to analyze the success of Twitter Mobile App Install Ads, a mobile SDK needs to be installed, as well as for Facebook.

Additional performance marketing channels for app marketing:

In addition to the three known platforms to increase the number of app downloads, there are also platforms such as Amazon, Snapchat or Lovoo, which can lead to an increase of app users. However, before these platforms are used, the full potential of Facebook and Google AdWords app campaigns should be exploited.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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