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Navigating the World of App Install Campaigns

Written by Mike Matta, Production Specialist and Shannon Glass, Account Manager

Since 2015, mobile search has been king on search engines. Overall, time spent on mobile devices has increased every year but the percentage of time that users spend in a search browser is decreasing as the overall percentage of time users spend in-app is increasing. As Wi-Fi becomes more readily available and apps become more powerful, they’re being used more and more by the end user.



Source:  eMarketer Unveils New Estimates for Mobile App Usage


If you’re an eCommerce business with a mobile app, it may be time to put some weight behind it and encourage your shoppers to use the app more often than a regular browser. Not only will it place your brand right on a user’s device but it will allow you interact with users on a more personal level than before. Brands like Urban Outfitters have gotten creative by using in-app notifications and push notifications to boost revenue 146%. That’s not just one store either. Overall, revenue generated from apps has increased substantially. With titans such as Amazon and Wal-Mart putting real money and promotion behind their apps, you don’t want to be left behind.




Figure 2: Mobile App Install Ads




Platforms: Setup, Similarities, & Differences


With a variety of platforms that support app promotion, it can be a daunting task to determine the right platform to launch your first app campaign or where to expand if you are already running app campaigns. At the end of the day, many similarities span across each platform in terms of set-up, optimizing, and targeting. Here we have focused on AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.




For many in the PPC industry, AdWords might be your first thought as many users are familiar with the platform, making set-up and navigation easy. In AdWords, there are two options in terms of mobile app install campaigns; Mobile App Install campaigns and Universal App Campaigns.


Mobile App Install Campaigns

Mobile App Install campaigns within AdWords give you the ability to promote iOS and Android apps across the Display Network, Search Network and YouTube. Campaigns are created around a single network and as advertisers, we have complete control over bidding, ad copy, devices, ad schedule and so forth.


In terms of set-up, after selecting the appropriate network, you will need to select the marketing objective “install your mobile app”. This will then prompt you with the appropriate settings to link the campaign to your mobile app. From that point, depending on your network selection you will set-up your ad group(s), targeting, and ad copy. Google provides step-by-step instructions on set-up for each; Search, Display, YouTube.


In the example below, you can see how Jet.com is using the Google search network to not only promote their app but to highlight an incentive for downloading the app. Taking it a step further, they are making a push to generate lifetime value by offering the incentive on three orders rather than just one.




Universal App Campaigns

UAC campaigns give you the ability to promote iOS and Android apps without doing any heavy lifting. After setting up the UAC campaign, including setting location and target CPI, Google takes over and begins optimizing based on performance while showing ads across Search, Display and YouTube.


Difference in Mobile App Install and UAC: Mobile app install campaigns give advertisers full control, while the UAC campaigns put Google in the driver’s seat to optimize.





App Extensions


Aside from app campaigns, AdWords also gives you the ability to utilize app extensions to promote your app within search ads that prompt users to “download app”.


The below example shows how Booking.com utilized an app extension to get in from of users who are actively searching.




Social Platforms


Facebook & Instagram:


App Install campaigns can take a variety of forms on Facebook and Instagram. From a single image, to carousel, to Instagram stories, an advertiser has a lot to work with. Users are directed to the app store to download the app or can be deep-linked to start re-engaging with your app. The real advantage for Facebook comes in having access to a massive group of users and being able to target demographics, interests or pages liked much more effectively than Google & Bing can. One can also make some very eye-catching ads.






When to Choose Facebook or Instagram


At the end of the day, testing is how you’ll find what works and what doesn’t between each platform. As a general rule of advice, Instagram is going to be much more focused on the images of the ads rather than the text. Make sure you have eye catching images and that your app fits with the demographic that is on Instagram.




Setting up an app install ad is very similar to any other type of campaign on Facebook or Instagram ad. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re app is linked and registered with Facebook. For a step by step process, you’ll want to head here.


When creating the campaign, you’ll want to select app installs as your consideration and then design your ad groups how you want to segment out your targeting. From there, you’ll design a Facebook ad as you normally would. If you’re targeting new users, be sure to exclude people who already have the app downloaded!


Below you can see how Blinklist is using a Facebook carousel ad to promote their app by including an eye catching article.











According to Twitter, 83% of their users are on mobile and looking for apps to download. Twitter’s app card is a powerful format that allows users to preview an image, read reviews, see ratings and open the app directly on their timeline if they’re re-engaging.


What Sets Twitter Apart


Since Twitter is such a mobile-heavy focus, you’ll be delivering ads straight to people on their mobile device. Twitter also provides ratings and star information which is a big plus if you have had great feedback on the Android or iTunes stores.



How To Set Up


Once you’ve navigated to your Twitter ads account, you’ll simply select to create a new campaign and navigate to app installs or engagements as your objective. Next, you’ll enter your app ID and then begin work on your creative. You’ll have two options for your app card.


  • Basic Image: Auto populates your logo from the app store and shows your app rating.
  • Image App Card: It’s more customizable and lets you select your own image.


Twitter doesn’t have any restrictions on text overlay so you can add more useful information if you’re limited in the 140 characters allowed by the tweet itself. From there, you’ll have a wide selection of various targeting from mobile device, network, if the user is on Wi-Fi, etc. Testing different targeting to see what works best will be in your best interest here.





Promoted App Pins allow Pinners to discover and download iOS and Android apps directly from a Promoted Pin. One can optimize their app campaign around completed app installs (CPM or CPC Bidding) or traffic to the download page (CPC Bidding). Right now, Pinterest is somewhat limited in tracking and you would need to use a third party such as Adjust, Tune and a few others.


What sets Pinterest Apart


Pinterest has a very specific demographic base which can be advantageous to certain advertisers. 81% of the 150 million Pinterest users is female with the majority of those being millennial aged. With some of the most pinned topics including fashion, fitness, travel, if you’re in one of those markets, Pinterest is a platform you should be on.


A large volume of pinners are also planning for a life event, be it a wedding or vacation. Getting yourself in front of the consumer during that research phase can pay dividends when they go to buy and your app is already installed on their phone.


How To Setup:

To get started, you’ll need a pin that leads a user to the Android or iTunes app store. Create a promoted pin campaign, select your budget and proceed to your Mobile App Measurement Partner specific instructions.


From there, you’ll select your bidding strategy and follow some Pinterest best practices for ad design. Below, you’ll see an example of Acorns promoting their investment app.








Growing Your App Campaigns


With older generations utilizing apps more and the time spent on mobile increasing every day, the world of apps is growing at an exponential rate. Advertisers have the obligation to focus their attention on areas that will allow clients to grow their app interaction after the download. Most apps are free but when used to their full potential can be a key part in your sales and finding your ideal consumer. This leaves us wanting more and looking for ways to scale what we already have working.




Much like any other campaign type, you want to segment when it makes sense especially if you have specific goals that you are required to reach. Performance can vary greatly by audience, region, or device and by segmenting accordingly, you will have the opportunity to increase spend in areas that are setup for success and are essentially top performers. This allows for ad copy to be created based on the targeted audience.


For example, if you are a credit card distributor, your app is valuable to a wide variety of users of all ages across the US and world. However, by segmenting by region you can focus on highly populated regions, younger demographics, etc.


Pay Attention to Users and Their Behavior


When it comes to scaling your campaigns you don’t want to take any audience for granted. This goes for app campaigns or any other campaign you are running. Discounting an audience before testing it can prevent your app from reaching an entire group of users.


For example, below you will see the audience insights of a business whose products would ideally fall into the category of those who are willing to spend a little more. However, when looking at audience insights, you see that 90% of purchasers fall into the category of “Bargain Hunters”. This is a category that would most likely have been excluded when presented with the opportunity yet it drives the overall purchases.





This also goes along with taking current audiences (i.e., All Converters) and generating similar lists off of those users and really paying attention to their behavior. Use the information given and create audiences solely around the characteristics of those who have downloaded the app to push new users but to also bring in users who are most likely to stay active. Some audiences to consider include:


  • Similar (lookalike) to all converters – Drives new users and those likely to download
  • Similar (lookalike) to those who have completed an in app action – Drives new users who are most likely to be active users.
  • Similar (lookalike) to those who are active users and have been active for x amount of time – Drives new users who are most likely to become lifetime users.



Invest In Creative


Creative is the backbone to any campaign. Without creative that is appealing and in-line with the audience, you will never truly capture the attention of those who matter most. You aren’t going to purchase a t-shirt that is folded up and stuffed in a bag where you can’t see the style, size, etc., just like you aren’t going to download an app that you don’t know anything about. Ensure that you have a clear call-to-action, the objective of the app is showcased in the imagery and it’s something that catches a user’s attention that they can relate to.


All of these investments and efforts in your app installs can help you take advantage of your mobile users and target them where they’re spending most of their time. Take these steps and implement them, and watch your mobile results skyrocket.