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Hey you! App marketer, don’t leave ad revenue money on the table! – Part III


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In the third part of our ad monetization and revenue maximization training will deep dive very specifically into a variety of ad formats and how they can be optimized. It’s all about squeezing the lemon people, so prepare your arm muscles and let’s start!

Back to squeezing the lemon – optimizing different ad formats


Banners are the most common ad format, very easy to support and maintain within mobile apps. However, eCPMs for banners are considered relatively low (due to low conversion rates). Since banners are not considered intrusive, I would include them wherever possible, assuming there’s no overlap with other optional ad formats which can be more beneficial. Just make sure you are not putting banners in a prime location, where users may click on them by mistake. It annoys both your users and the advertisers. Banners are usually located at the bottom of the screen, but if you out them in unusual places, you might increase the conversion rate. Also, as in all other ad formats – the better your targeting is (information such as gender, age, device, platform, location and more) the higher your conversion rate and eCPM will be. Also, ads that are more relevant will lead to more satisfied users. I assume most of you are familiar with banners and are using them already, so I will move on. I will just say this: When banner ads are poorly designed, not suitable to screen size and are not well targeted, we may end up with angry users, advertisers who are frustrated by wasted budgets, and no revenue for you, the app publisher. I am not against banners at all, especially as there are locations in the app where it’s banners or nothing. But I do urge you to insist that banners are well presented in your app, otherwise you won’t see any money but you will see huge flocks of deserting users.

Mobile Interstitials

Interstitials usually present a much higher CTR (click through rate) compared to other ad formats, but they can be perceived as intrusive and annoying. If you have a content / news apps you can consider presenting several interstitials between content items / articles. Here are some important tips:

  • Use X button (closing option) as it makes a better user experience and allows you to present the interstitial for a little bit longer, which may increase the CTR.
  • I’ve seen cases of interstitials presented when you are closing the app, or getting back in. I can understand the logic but, I personally find this a bit annoying. This tactic generates more ad requests, but it may come on the expense of user satisfaction (delicate balance, remember?), so I am not sure how effective this tactic is.
  • Brainstorm on which in-app events you should or shouldn’t present an interstitial. Use your common sense. If you are monetizing a GPS navigation app, the beginning of a route is probably not the place to present an interstitial. The user is anxious to get going. Presenting it upon reaching the destination, is probably a better idea.
  • If you are presenting more than one interstitial in a given session, make sure enough time passes between interstitials, or you’re risking bringing on your users some serious aggravation.

Here’s an example I like because there is a clear exit button and a nicely-designed call for action An example of a mobile interstitial Let’s talk about a different type of interstitial; the half screen pop up style interstitial. While it holds all the benefits of interstitials, they are perceived as less aggressive as they are floating on top of the app screen (not covering all of it). You can use while the app is loading (on top of your opening screen). If you are doing it, consider adding your app’s logo (top) and add some text along these lines: “While you are waiting for the app to load..” and add a progress bar on the bottom part of the screen. You could delay the uploading of your app for just a tiny bit, to make sure the ad is presented long enough for the users to read/see the message. Here’s an example of this type of interstitial: half screen mobile interstital Interstitial ads should be placed in a way that strives for minimal intrusion. For gaming apps for example, it’s great to place interstitials after each game level. For other types of apps, for example news/content apps, they can be placed after every 2 or 3 pages. An interstitial can also be placed when the app is just opened – just before the user begins interacting with the app’s core content/functionality. While it may be tempting to use interstitials frequently to maximize revenues, we have noticed that developers see maximum eCPMs when interstitials are used every 2-3 minutes, no more. Too many interstitial ads, especially at critical junctures within the game/app will lead to a negative user experience. Choosing the right kind of interstitials is also important. There are different types of interstitials, ranging from static interstitials to rich media and video interstitials. For apps which typically engage users in shorter sessions, static interstitials manage to get the point across immediately and are usually more effective in driving engagement. Numbers indicate that they typically drive CTRs as high as 20%. On the other hand, for apps engaging users in longer sessions, video interstitials deliver higher eCPMs. To summarize this part, Interstitials are one of the most interesting ad formats, so make sure to include them as part of your ad inventory. They present a much higher CTR than other formats, therefor a higher eCPM. As successful as interstitials are, use the tips above and look into additional ad formats as you can’t use interstitials everywhere, all the time. Here are some interstitials best practices from Inmobi.

Native Ads

Native ads are the current hype, and for a good reason. You are probably familiar with Facebook install ads. They are known to deliver great conversion rates. The mobile ad industry, as expected (such a smart industry) quickly learned the “install ads principles” and generalized them to create a whole new ad principle (which can translate to several new ad formats). The native ads concept is all about the ads presented in a way that’s fully contextual and consistent with the user experience within the app. Therefore, the ad feels less intrusive and is more likely to be clicked. Native ad formats can include promoted videos, images and more. Anything goes as long as it is not intrusive, supported by the ad platform/network and is consistent with the app’s context and experience. Looking to maximizing ad revenues from apps? That means that you should be investing in native ads as well. Why? Native ads are more effective, more relevant and perform better than more traditional ad formats. Hence, advertisers are willing to pay higher prices for native ads, as they can expect higher ROI. To better understand the concept of native ads, think of your app’s main events. Every app engages users in its own set of popular behaviors – either search, share, reach some goal, play, jump between levels and so forth. Each “event/milestone” creates a great opportunity to offer some value added content, through an ad. Either a recommendation to download something else, refine search with referencing better results, etc. Craft your messages, add in a lovely image or rich media and you got yourself an ad with great monetization potential. Since native ads offer quite a lot of flexibility around copy and creative, brand marketers are happy to join the game, and give it a try. The cake grows. Everybody’s happy. How high are your revenues expected to grow after you’ve implemented native ads in your game app? As high as $30k, which is the sum Nativex guarantees to pay developers if their revenues do not increase by 30% (at least)… Testimonials from ad publishers talk about even higher scales, higher than 50% increase. Now that’s maximizing app ad revenues!

What do you need to get started with native ads?

  • Choose the right advertising platform to work with: You can’t invest in them all and you can’t implement SDKs all day. Even if you could, your app most likely can’t deal with all of them. So start with investigating some relevant platforms like inmobi, tapsense, nativex (games only) or Mopub. These are only a few and there are more platforms out there of course. As native ads are expected to grow, competition could get intense, quickly. Look for and give priority to those who offer multiple ad and media formats in one SDK, to simplify things.
  • Select where in your app to present ads: You should map the optimal locations to present native ads in your app. Be creative. You could use some of these options:
    • While users are waiting for new levels, screens or any content to load
    • Between levels, or specific actions
    • Merged as part of lists (news, contacts, activity streams and so forth)
    • Presented as an additional icon between your native app icons
    • As part of search results
    • Following/within an in-app completed action message

To simplify, there 3 main types of mobile native ads:

  • In-stream ads (appear in a feed,  just like Facebook sponsored ads)
  • Triggered – ads that are triggered by actions taken by the use
  •  Sponsored Content – sponsored posts, recommendations and so forth
  • Some more useful tips for native ads:
    • Do not present too many ads in the same session. Monitor and control repetitions, formats and creative per session.
    • Make sure users can differentiate between ads and your actual content. You can use: “brought to you by”, “powered by”, “sponsored by”, or just write “ad”. Otherwise, you risk losing your credibility or damage user engagement.
    • Don’t mix between native ads and advertorials. Advertorials are positioned as regular content but their actual intent is to influence user behavior. This style is considered problematic today, as transparency is now a must.
    • Native ads are not yet standardized, hence they are not as scalable as traditional media.  Therefore, expect to have some difficulties on the way.  It’s not as easy as banners, it’s probably not even close. Still, if you are here for the money, it’s probably worth it. The time and money needed for both investigating what’s right for your app, and the actual development (depending on user volume as well of course).

Check out this example of an ad appearing as part of the news stream Native ad as part of news stream And here below, an ad within the contact list @ Tango app Native ad as part of contact list And below, an ad following a user achievement… Native ad following user achievementI recently ran into an interesting company called Appnext that has an API solution called DO-IT-YOURSELF for native ads implementation. Using their solution, publishers can fully control the Look & Feel and design of native ads in their apps. Here are some details from the Appnext blog

Rich Media Ads

These can be perceived as “anything goes”. They are highly customizable, with the look & feel fully controlled by the advertiser (sky is the limit). Therefore, they are highly appealing to big brands and present relatively high conversion rates. Rich media ads commonly use video, audio, animations, advanced touch functionalities, call for action beyond tap to a landing page, you get the idea. App publishers who enable rich media ads are more appealing to large, quality advertisers. Such apps also demonstrate higher user engagement with the ads. One of the platforms that you can look into for rich media ads is Appflood. Also, to better understand the process and requirements for rich-media, visit the Interactive Advertising Bureau website.

Here are some interesting numbers around conversion rates you can expect from rich media

mobile rich media and video ad CTR compared to standard banner

Click to enlarge

Additional ad formats include push notification, icon ads, panel ads, lists etc. some of these are rather intrusive so I would be very careful when considering them.

Hunt for additional and innovative formats to increase your inventory 

You need to stay in the know.. all the time.. there are always some innovations that can help you get a head of your game and help maximize advertising revenues.

I recently attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I had a meeting with a very interesting startup called Pollfish, and was really impressed by their offering. Now that’s ad format innovation! They are providing app developers with a monetization layer that comes on top of their existing inventory. This layer prompts users to fill in surveys. Now, their UX (requires an SDK implementation, as expected) is one of the things that captured my attention. A seamless, non-intrusive, small icon that floats on top of the app screen, and doesn’t interfere with the app’s UX. Once the user clicks on this icon they are requested to fill in a survey. In order to encourage users to participate, publishers can choose to offer a certain incentive for users who fill in surveys, but Pollfish said that you could certainly gain nice conversion rates even without offering incentives. After all, it’s just a few questions, and we all take surveys every now and then.

The app publisher (that’s you I believe!) gets a certain $ amount for each survey filled. Pollfish told me it could start at $0.30 per completed survey and go up from there.  Those of you how already monetize on ads will probably agree with me that this sounds like a pretty good deal. Especially since it doesn’t interfere with the ad inventory you are already monetizing, just adds to it, increasing your potential ad requests.

Now, I immediately had some user experience and intrusiveness concerns, although the icon is very small and seamless, I still wouldn’t want to see it every time I am using the app. When I shared these concerns with Pollfish they said that they limit the frequency to 1 survey per day per user.

Overall, I think this is a great example of innovation around ad formats for mobile apps. It offers a fresh interaction with users who are usually used to passive ads, and can now fill in surveys through a mobile, applicative infrastructure.

Here is how it looks visually in Quizzoid Android app. The middle screen shows pollfish’s red icon on the top left. Once clicked the third screen appears and the actual survey starts.

Quizoid and Pollfish

Click to enlarge

If you are familiar with any other innovative monetization formats, please share it as a comment at the bottom of this training. I will be make sure to investigate and add it here. We are here to share and learn from each other!


This training assumes you are already using ads for monetization and seeing some revenues. It offers ways to maximize your revenues based on ad inventory optimization (generating additional ad requests from your existing volume of users and engagement levels) and by using advanced ad formats.

The easiest way is to start with analyzing your popular app events and identify “unused ad locations” that can be leveraged for creating additional ad request, using ad formats you already support (banners, interstitials).

Then you should investigate which advanced ad formats are right for you to support, such as native ads or rich media. Supporting these formats may require some time and money investment and can be a bit complicated to implement. But recent projections indicate that it’s totally worth the investment and you are likely to increase your ad revenues, big time!

Finally (and my favorite), stay in the know and constantly look for innovative platforms and tools that offer additional monetization overlays, such as Pollfish, who let you to significantly increase your ad inventory based on your existing user base.

After all, you are here (also) for the money…

P.S. If you have any specific questions after reading this training, please feel free to reach out to me in our consulting zone where I am available to answer specific questions. I will also expand this training with additional relevant topics, if you let me know through the consulting zone if you are missing anything.

Elli is one of Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Having years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry promoting popular mobile apps and B2B related services. Presenting specific expertise on users' acquisition strategies, PR, social media, product marketing, BizDev integrations and more
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