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Mobile App Attribution 101: A Quick Start Guide For Site Owners

Mobile App Attribution 101 - A Quick Start Guide For Site Owners

Data is the name of the game. There’s a reason why so many of the world’s top tech companies are essentially data companies.

From Facebook to Google to Amazon, these businesses continue to be incredibly successful because they have found ways to capture increasingly specific, actionable, and personalized data about their users.

The more information you have about any given user, the better able you are to present just the right offer or information at just the right time in just the right place.

Mobile app attribution works in much the same way…

Focus on what works

When a user decides to respond to an offer and install a mobile app, you don’t want to be left in the dark as it relates to how that user came to find your app in the first place. While you will certainly have a higher-level goal of increasing the total number of app installs, it is critically important to know what campaigns are driving those installs. Why waste resources on campaigns that aren’t working, when you can divert those resources toward campaigns that are working?

This is remarkably useful on both an aggregate and individual basis. On an aggregate or global level, you can zero in on the segments of your campaign that are generating the best results. Perhaps one network is performing better than another, or one ad group is driving many more installs than another ad group. This helps you decide on where you should further focus your efforts.

On an individual level, if you know that a user responded to a particular ad on a particular device, then you can cater future messages and offers to suit that type of user. By gaining these sorts of insights, you access tremendous opportunities for further success with in-app purchases, for instance.

But, how can you put this into practice?

Mobile app attribution made easy

The good news is that unlike developing the mobile app itself, mobile app attribution is a relatively straightforward affair from the publisher’s perspective. All you have to do is utilize a tool like AppsFlyer. Once you do, you’ll be able to attribute every app install to the specific marketing campaign or media source that drove that installation. This zeroes in on the network, channel, ad type, ad creative and other pertinent information, all accessible through a granular dashboard where you can deep dive into the specifics.

Appsflyer for Mobile App Attribution

Now, you might think that you already have adequate tracking in place to gain such insights. However, mobile apps and devices don’t function the way that a traditional web browser works on a typical computer. You don’t have the same kind of access to pixels and cookies that you do on a desktop. As a result, reliable and effective mobile app attribution requires other technologies and partnerships, and that’s why you need to have the right tool for the job.

These include being able to recognize and attribute app installs from integrated partners, accessing certified network integrations (like those from Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook), view-through attribution which looks at whether an ad was viewed (even if it was never clicked), and universal deep linking from owned and earned media (like social media and SMS campaigns) and – in the case of AppsFlyer – a technology they call NativeTrack.

This looks to fingerprinting as a means of identifying a user, leveraging a set of heuristic algorithms with machine learning, while ignoring invalid parameters like a public IP address.

AppsFrlyer fingerprinting for Mobile App Attribution

If one mobile user clicks on an ad (but doesn’t install the app), and then a different user installs the app (but didn’t see or click on the ad), some systems may falsely attribute that app install to the first user because of the shared IP address. NativeTrack works to reduce such false attributions, looking instead to other data points to offer much higher accuracy.

Mobile comes first

Marketers understand that giants like Google are taking much more of not only a mobile-friendly or mobile-optimized approach, but more of a mobile-first approach to how users view and use the Internet. And having much more of a direct relationship with your users by way of mobile apps is decidedly more powerful than simply have a mobile-first design on your website.

The beginning of that relationship is founded on accurate, reliable mobile attribution. If you know where and how the users are coming your way, you can serve them better.

If you aren’t already utilizing mobile app attribution as part of your overall marketing efforts, it is of paramount importance that you prioritize this right away. It’s already the case that people are accessing the Internet more often on their mobile devices than on desktop computers, and it won’t be long before mobile will surpass television as the preferred medium of entertainment in the United States.

Mobile represents nearly half of total media spending too.

Where attribution is headed

To stay ahead of the curve, there are several trends in mobile attribution that you should keep on your radar.

For example, people-based attribution is something that has become increasingly important as any given person may interact with your app, website, and other marketing efforts across multiple platforms and devices. They may read your email campaign on a work computer, scroll through your website on a personal laptop, and install your mobile app on a personal smartphone.

While these are all the same person, under more conventional tracking methods, they’d be treated as separate data points. With people-based attribution, the focus shifts to the individual, linking together these multiple touch-points in your funnel into unified cross-channel data. Similarly, you’ll need to look out for platform consolidation to address more complex analytics, gaining more complex insights into more complex use cases.

Again, it comes down to a better understanding of user behavior, and this means having better access to deep integrations across platforms.

Just as you wouldn’t run a more traditional SEM campaign without having access to the deep insights of keywords, user devices, and other pertinent data, it would be foolish to promote your mobile app without knowing precisely what campaigns under what circumstances are driving those installs. That’s why you need mobile attribution.

Guest author: Zac Johnson is a world-renowned blogger and entrepreneur with nearly 20 years of experience in the online marketing space and has helped his readers generate millions of dollars online. He shares his story and guidance at ZacJohnson.com