Mobile Attribution: 10 Things Every App Publisher Needs To Know

Soon after a mobile app gets out into the world, it is time to start measuring its installs and identifying their sources. This process is called mobile attribution and plays a vital role in any marketing campaign. It helps you measure your marketing effectiveness, giving you an opportunity to make necessary adjustments and improvements in your marketing strategies, ultimately leading to more profit.
Now let’s go through the 10 most important things every app publisher should be aware of for a successful mobile attribution tracking process.

1) Web vs. mobile attribution

Mobile attribution is not as simple as the attribution used by desktop web platforms. While web attribution is covered by tried and tested methods for tracking user interaction, mobile users, on the other hand, move between the app store and the actual conversion, making mobile attribution a much more daunting task.


2) How mobile attribution works

When a user sees an ad for an app and taps the CTA in it, the link briefly takes them through the attribution provider’s platform before landing them to the app store. This is where the provider records the engagement with the ad, i.e. the first data point.

When the user downloads the app and opens it for the first time, the attribution provider records additional data points: advertising ID (a line of letters and numbers identifying every individual device); IP address; user agent (a code identifying the browser and operating system used); timestamp (when the user clicked/tapped on the link); and first install. If the user is new, then the attribution provider will try to connect the user’s install with the engagement with the app.

3) Importance of mobile attribution tracking

With a mission to help mobile businesses grow, App Radar provides software for mobile user acquisition and app store optimization. At the same time, it holds an entire library of materials focused on these matters and more. On the company’s regularly updated blog, you will find UA-related topics ranging from Apple Search Ads, over influencer marketing, to top marketing trends. On top of that, App Radar has the entire section dedicated to mastering organic UA called the ASO Academy and often gives out free ebooks that can help you shape your UA strategies.

Mobile attribution tracking saves you money as it allows you to make better spending decisions, providing insights into all your campaigns, ad networks, creatives, etc. which can, consequently, help you increase your LTV (for more information about ad LTV and its importance in your marketing strategy, check out our latest report). Mobile attribution also prevents ad networks from taking credit for the installs they had nothing to do with, so they can’t charge you for them.

Third, it simplifies your advertising structure through the deployment of a single, all-encompassing SDK (that most attribution providers have). Finally, all data can be monitored in an organized manner through one dashboard.


4) Attribution window

Also called a conversion window, attribution window refers to the period of time in which a publisher can claim that a click or a view resulted in an installation. So if a window of 15 days has been agreed upon by the advertiser and publisher and it is clear that the user engaging with the publisher’s ad installed the app within that period, the installation is attributed to the publisher. If the installation happened outside the window, then it is considered organic.

5) Mobile attribution models

AppAgent puts mobile attribution models into two groups – single-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution.

The single-touch attribution model covers two models – last click and first click. The last click attributes conversion to the user’s last click on an ad. The first click model takes into consideration only the first click and it mostly focuses on measuring brand awareness.

The multi-touch attribution model includes linear, position-based, and time decay models. The linear model assigns attribution to each click. The position-based model counts only the first and the last click, while the time decay model operates on the principle of assigning various attribution percentage depending on the proximity to the last click – the closer to conversion, the higher the percentage.

6) Methods for measuring mobile app attribution

Different attribution platforms use various methods but there are four common types:

  • Unique identifier matching – real-time matching of clicks to installs based on Google Advertising ID (GAID) and Apple’s Identifier For Advertising (IDFA).
  • Fingerprinting – collecting basic data on a mobile device used to connect a user from click to app install by redirecting the user through a tracking link and collecting the publicly available HTTP headers about the device;
  • Open URL with Click ID – creating a unique tracking ID the moment a user clicks on an ad which is then translated into a conversion request for an install. Thanks to this, the conversion is credited to the ad source associated with the click;
  • Unified attribution solution – integrating multiple methods of a mobile app download tracking, resulting in a unified solution for attributing app-to-app installs and mobile web-to-app installs

7) Mobile attribution and analytics SDKs

Websites have their cookies, but for tracking the sources of your mobile app paid installs, an attribution provider needs to incorporate an SDK into the app which then facilitates communication between the app and the provider’s servers. This allows the attribution platform to provide accurate attribution data real-time.

8) Choosing the right attribution tool

But which attribution partner to choose from when there are so many? To begin with, Appsflyer, Branch, Kochava, Localytics, and Adjust are among the most popular such platforms. That said, choosing the right attribution tool should depend on these criteria – the number of native integrations they have and how many devices and platforms they cover, so we recommend checking this out before deciding.

The most popular attribution platforms | Source:Segment

9) Mobile attribution fraud

Sadly, fraud can be encountered in any business, and mobile attribution is no exception. The above-mentioned last-click attribution model can sometimes become vulnerable to fraudsters who manipulate attribution platforms to make it look like they were the provider of that last click.

Consequently, they gain profit for driving the install according to the CPC, CPI, or CPA program they take part in. App marketers are on the losing side here, as this results in a rise of CPI costs as time goes on. Interceptd lists four types of attribution fraud: click spamming, click injection, click hijacking, and SDK spoofing.

10) What’s next in mobile attribution

The focus of most popular mobile attribution companies has recently turned to fraud. Adjust has released a new standard for combating mobile attribution fraud called Click Validation Through Proof of Impression whose basic principle is that every mobile ad click should be directly connected to the impression of a specific ad. This comes not long after the Coalition Against Ad Fraud (CAAF), founded by Adjust, released its Definitions of Mobile Fraud Schemes.

Mobile attribution platforms save the day

Mobile attribution cannot rely on the default principles of web attribution as they take advantage of a web browser exclusively. In the mobile business, the user decision-making process happens in app stores which sometimes don’t share user information with app publishers (e.g. Apple). So in order to attribute ads, publishers have to rely on whatever data they can get and combine it with data from other sources.

That said, mobile attribution platforms can help publishers consolidate their data in one place thanks to their SDKs, allowing them to see the entire user journey, automate the attribution process, resolve cross-platform discrepancies, as well as optimize their marketing strategies. One such solution is SOOMLA, whose mobile attribution platform is the only one that includes the identification of ad whales, so make sure to contact us and give it a try.

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