7 Things You Must Know Before Running Your First App Install Campaign

So, you‘ve built an awesome app and you‘re eager to start scaling with paid user acquisition campaigns. But before you dive in head-first, there are a few crucial things you need to know to make your app install campaigns a success.

In this post, I‘ll share seven hard-earned lessons from years of experience running app install campaigns for top mobile brands. These insights will help you avoid costly mistakes and get the most bang for your UA buck. Let‘s get started!

Why Paid App Install Campaigns Matter

First, let‘s talk about why app install campaigns are so critical for mobile growth. With millions of apps competing for attention in the App Store and Google Play, relying solely on organic discovery is a losing battle. Paid acquisition allows you to "buy" a top spot in front of your ideal users.

Check out these stats on the power of app install ads:

Metric Value
Global app install ad spend, 2022 $118.4 billion
Average revenue per user (ARPU) for apps with install ads vs. no ads 2.3X higher
Average user retention for apps with install ads vs. no ads 31% higher

Sources: Data.ai, AppsFlyer

Impressive, right? But paid campaigns aren‘t just about driving a volume of installs. They can also help you:

  • Boost organic rankings and downloads (more on this later)
  • Generate buzz and awareness around a new app launch or feature update
  • Re-engage dormant users and reduce churn
  • Attract high-value users that will drive long-term revenue
  • Gain a competitive edge in key markets or verticals

Of course, paid acquisition isn‘t a silver bullet. It works best in conjunction with ASO, lifecycle marketing, and other mobile growth strategies. But it‘s an essential part of the toolkit for any app looking to scale sustainably.

Now, on to the seven things you must know before launching your app install campaigns!

1. Paid installs drive organic growth

One of the biggest misconceptions about app install campaigns is that they only drive "paid" growth. In reality, there‘s a powerful organic multiplier effect at play.

Here‘s how it works: The app stores‘ ranking algorithms heavily favor apps with high install velocity and engagement. By driving a burst of installs with paid ads, you can quickly climb the charts and gain more visibility in top charts, categories, and search results. That leads to a virtuous cycle of more organic downloads.

According to AppsFlyer data, the average organic multiplier for app install campaigns is 1.5X. That means for every paid install, you can expect to gain 1.5 additional organic installs. Some categories like casual games and social apps see even higher organic multiples.

![[Pasted image 20230518120509.png]]

Source: AppsFlyer

To maximize this organic uplift, be strategic with your campaign timing and targeting:

  • Launch bursts of activity around key seasonal events or app updates
  • Target high-value lookalike audiences to attract users likely to spread word-of-mouth
  • Focus spend on geos with strong organic trends for your app category
  • Optimize for down-funnel engagement events to boost user retention rates

2. Multi-touch attribution is a must

One of the biggest challenges of app install campaigns is accurately measuring performance. Last-click attribution, which only gives credit to the final ad clicked before an install, provides an incomplete and often misleading picture.

Users interact with multiple ads across different platforms and devices before converting. According to AppsFlyer, the average user is exposed to 4.1 marketing touchpoints before installing an app. Without multi-touch attribution, you‘re missing out on crucial insights about which channels and creatives are driving awareness and installs higher in the funnel.

![[Pasted image 20230518120732.png]]

Source: AppsFlyer

To solve this, implement an MMP (mobile measurement partner) solution that supports view-through and multi-touch attribution models. This will allow you to:

  • Track impressions and clicks across channels and devices
  • Apply custom attribution windows and conversion rules
  • See the full user conversion path from first ad exposure to download
  • Optimize budget allocation across the entire marketing mix
  • Uncover opportunities to drive efficiency with retargeting and re-engagement

3. Fraud is rampant – and costly

Mobile ad fraud is a multi-billion dollar problem, and app install campaigns are a prime target. Scammers use bots, click farms, malware, and other shady tactics to generate fake installs and steal your ad budget.

How bad is the problem? AppsFlyer estimates that up to 30-40% of app installs across paid channels like social, ad networks, and incentivized networks are fraudulent. In some cases, fraud rates can climb as high as 90%. The annual cost of app install fraud reached $2.8 billion in 2022.

To protect your campaigns from fraud, work with a trusted MMP that offers robust real-time fraud detection and prevention tools. Look for solutions that use machine learning to identify patterns and anomalies associated with fraud, such as:

  • High install rates combined with low engagement rates
  • Installs claimed outside attribution windows
  • Installs with mismatched device IDs, IP addresses, or TTI (time to install) distribution
  • Large volumes of installs from jailbroken or rooted devices

It‘s also important to continuously monitor your traffic sources and blacklist any sub-publishers or entities driving suspicious activity. Don‘t be afraid to pause campaigns if fraud rates spike.

4. Creative is king

When it comes to app install ads, creative is hands down the most important lever you can pull to boost performance. According to Facebook, 75% of an ad‘s impact comes down to creative.

Users are bombarded with thousands of ads every day. If you want to cut through the noise, you need eye-catching, thumb-stopping creatives that clearly showcase your app‘s value proposition and drive action.

Some creative best practices to keep in mind:

  • Incorporate your branding and key messaging in the first few seconds
  • Design for sound-off views, but delight with sound-on
  • Use bold colors, movement, and striking visuals to grab attention
  • Include a clear, prominent CTA
  • Localize creative (language, imagery, etc.) for different geos
  • Optimize for each placement (feed, Stories, etc.)
  • Follow ever-changing ad specs and policies for each network

Most importantly, always be testing! Creative fatigue sets in fast, so you should aim to refresh your ad creative every 4-6 weeks. Use creative testing tools to quickly identify winning elements and generate new asset combinations at scale.

5. Deep linking is essential for engagement

Getting a user to install your app is only half the battle. You also need to deliver a seamless, personalized onboarding experience to encourage key conversion events and long-term retention.

That‘s where deep linking comes in. Deep links allow you to send users to specific in-app screens that match the context of the ad they clicked on. For example:

  • A travel app ad promoting a discount on NYC hotels can link to a list of NYC properties
  • A gaming app ad showcasing a limited-time event can link to that event‘s splash screen
  • An ecommerce app ad featuring a specific product can link directly to that item‘s details page

![[Pasted image 20230518121302.png]]

Example of deep linking from Branch.io

By creating continuity between your ad and your app, deep linking boosts post-install engagement and conversions. Branch.io data shows that deep linked installs drive 2X higher user retention and 6X higher purchase rates on average.

To get the most out of deep linking, work with an MMP or deep linking platform that allows you to create and measure custom deep link experiences across all your ad networks and platforms. You should also append tracking parameters like device IDs to your deep links to enable granular attribution and campaign optimization.

6. Burst campaigns lose effectiveness quickly

Many app marketers make the mistake of "setting and forgetting" their app install campaigns. But campaign performance tends to decline rapidly after the initial launch due to audience saturation and creative fatigue.

Instead of running campaigns continuously at a fixed budget, consider a "burst" strategy. Essentially, you pour a large budget into a short 1-3 week period to drive a spike in installs and visibility. Then, you pause or dramatically reduce spend for 2-4 weeks while the campaign "cools off" before launching a new burst.

According to ConsumerAcquisition, the ideal burst campaign structure looks something like this:

  • Week 1-2: Heavy spend targeting top countries. Set bids 20-30% higher to gain impression share.
  • Week 3-4: Reduce bids back to original levels. Analyze initial cohort data. Allow time for algorithmic optimization.
  • Week 5: Scale proven creative and audiences. Introduce fresh creative concepts in a new burst.
  • Week 6-8: "Cooling off" period. Analyze ROAS and LTV of first burst. Plan next round of creative and targeting.

This approach allows you to maintain the "freshness factor" that drives surges in installs and organic uplift. It also gives you clear testing cycles to gather data and double down on winners.

7. Incrementality measurement is the future

Finally, as app install campaigns become more competitive and complex, measuring the true incremental impact of your paid efforts is more critical than ever. Incrementality testing removes the "noise" of organic installs and identifies which campaigns are driving net new users.

Here‘s how it works: You split your target audience into two randomized segments. The test group is exposed to your paid campaign, while the control group is unexposed. You then measure the difference in conversion rates between the two groups to calculate incremental lift.

![[Pasted image 20230518121653.png]]

Incrementality visualization from Branch.io

Running an incremental test requires careful design to maintain validity:

  • Clearly define experiment goals, target audience, and success metrics
  • Choose a geographic area with sufficient scale and similarity to your broader audience
  • Determine required sample size for statistical significance
  • Decide on observation period to capture delayed view-through conversions
  • Ensure test and control groups are large enough and properly randomized
  • Measure conversions across exposed and unexposed audiences
  • Analyze results and apply learnings to future campaigns

Incrementality not only demonstrates the real value of your app install campaigns, but also helps you identify which channels, ad formats, and audience segments are most effective. Leading app advertisers are using incrementality insights to optimize budget allocation, reduce cannibalization of organic installs, and drive more profitable growth.

Putting It All Together

App install campaigns can be a game-changer for driving sustained, scalable growth. But to get the most out of your investment, you need a data-driven, holistic approach.

Before you launch your next campaign, make sure you have the right measurement foundation in place. Work with a trusted MMP to track post-install events, combat fraud, and attribute installs across channels and devices. Implement deep linking to create seamless user experiences.

Next, develop a test-and-learn mindset. Creative is the most powerful driver of performance, so commit to ongoing innovation and iteration with your ad assets. Experiment with new channels and ad formats to expand your reach.

As you scale, focus on quality over quantity. Optimize for down-funnel engagement and LTV, not just install volume. Use tools like cohort analysis and incrementality testing to uncover deeper insights into campaign efficacy and user value.

With these seven tips in your toolkit, you‘ll be well on your way to app install success. Here‘s to unlocking the next phase of growth for your mobile app!