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Should you use Google Install Ads for your mobile app promotion?


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Facebook and Twitter are after app marketing budgets, offering paid promotion through install ad formats. Until recently, Google hasn’t jumped on the wagon, but… It has now. Coming next are sponsored results in Google play (Google already changed the UX of the Play store, preparing for this). Google install ads are tempting, as they offer all the magic of intent (results following search, what can be better targeted?!), but how effective are they really? 

The install ads story

App install ads are ads with a call for action that leads to an instant installation of an app on your mobile device or that’s taking you to the app’s download page in the app store.

Long story short, the friendly button, plus the fact that most apps are free, makes these ads a huge success.

Mobile app marketers love install ads; Results (meaning installs) are fast to come, reporting is advanced and targeting is fun. 

The past

App stores offer limited discovery abilities.

Mobile ad networks like AdMob, Jumptap, InMobi and Millennial Media started the app promotion business with paid ads on mobile websites and other apps. Later on, Giants like Apple, Facebook and Twitter joined the party, and started offering new targeting capabilities and native ad formats which were seriously lacking in other ad platforms. The standard has changed, forever. Today we have so many advanced formats – video ads, carousel ads,  cinemagraphs and more, not to say anything about the amazing new targeting capabilities. Things can get confusing!

If you, beloved potential user, visited a website that’s relevant for a specific offering, trust marketers to find you and make sure you will see and engage with their ads.



Marketing your mobile app? Meet Google install ads 

Google knows a lot (I dare say almost everything) on our online behavior and beyond. That’s huge. They know what we are after, our state of mind, location and god knows what else.

All this data is analyzed so marketers can use it to offer us all relevant goodies, virtual or physical. Apps included.

Sounds good, right?  

On the Google ‘Search’ network, app install ads will likely appear once a user searched on his / her chrome browser for a keyword that was pre-defined to trigger the ad.

Ideal, isn’t it?

The thing is (and that’s a major “thing”), most mobile traffic today is app-based and not mobile browser-based. But apps don’t usually offer search based results. You can find banners, interstitials or video ads presented in apps, but the big search trigger advantage, that made Google the giant it is in the online world, is almost completely gone.

So to start with, we assumed the reach of the Google install ads may be limited, expensive and less effective. We assumed as much, and it seems as if we had a point.

google_adsSource: Google

I can use Google Display Network (GDN), right?

Well, you can. But then again, the intent is gone. Yes, there are amazing targeting options offered by GDN and admob, some are based on general searches done by the (identified) potential user. You can even target users based on other apps that are installed on their device… Clash of clans, Candycrush, 2048, Subway Surfers… yeah, this one may be a mobile gamer. Bingo!

But that’s not the point. What if I wanted to offer my dining-out app just to users from California who search for restaurants?

Yes, I hear you. But they are just not there yet. We’ve done some trials and it looks like, for now, we may need to lower our expectations. Optimization is slow, prices are relatively high, and results are in small scales.

And it’s not just Google that doesn’t manage to meet expectations. Check out this AdWeek engagement metrics that compares between Facebook and Twitter ads:

Twitter_vs_FacebookSource: WorldStream

The good news are that it looks like the big boys are moving in the right direction. Using deep linking capabilities, they have started offering results of in-app content in return to search queries. This means that mobile browsing may become a lot more fun, linking you directly to results that appear in a specific app that’s already installed on your device, or inviting you to install new apps that have content that’s relevant to what you were searching for.

This type of mobile search means more traffic. This also means more relevant results and higher incentive to install new apps via mobile browsing. You see where I am going with this, right?

And the Google Play sponsored results!!! Already in beta and launching widely soon. Boy I think this will change everything. Why? Because that’s a format that really brings Google unique advantages to mobile. Instead of fighting the trend and trying to educate users to use browser more often (in the expense of apps, naturally), why not get with the program and place search based ads where people are actually searching for apps, Google play.

Think about it. Google didn’t invent neither the internet nor search. They just dominate the starting point. Ha, so how come Google Play sponsored ads are only now coming our way, you ask? Great question. Google? Are you there? We have a question…

So, where should I spend my app promotion budget?

Short answer: Everywhere. Don’t give up the various options and the pilot phases, if you have enough budget to play with. Consider the fact that optimization takes time, and learning each ad platform takes time as welll. So, yes, you will need at least a couple of hundred $ for each pilot, just to figure out what’s going on.

But, set expectations: I don’t know what your app is about. There may be a chance that Google is the optimal platform for your needs, but for me, in most cases, it’s not the case just yet.

I wish I could get the scale and prices of my Google install ads to look like my Facebook install ads. I know search based installs have the potential of generating a superior user quality (in terms of retention), but currently, as of July 2015, we’re still holding our breath.

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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