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Mobile Ad Placement Strategies To Maximize In-App Monetization

Mobile ad placement alone can have a far-reaching influence on the success or failure of your app business. In the United States for instance, close to 60% of in-app revenue is contributed by in-app advertising – which clearly means that is extremely important to get this aspect right for the overall success. Many popular success metrics related to in-app advertising that developers talk very often about are Fill Rate & eCPM. However, one aspect that very often gets overlooked is the actual placement strategy of apps within the app. Where within the app’s user flow would you place ads for maximum ROI? How often should you show ads? How do you balance in-app monetization within the fantastic user experience. To answer these questions, first, we look at the 3 guiding principles of mobile ad placement.


Mobile Ad Placement – Guiding Principles

When in doubt regarding mobile ad placement use these principles to kick-start and implement your in-app advertising model.
1) Visibility: Does the point I choose to display ads give me maximum visibility? Could the visibility for each of the ad units be any better? Can I choose a better ad unit to improve visibility? Ideally, the user needs to take note of the ad unit for its value proposition without getting irritated or being overwhelmed. Each type or category of app has a different user flow and ‘ ideal visibility’ points within the flow will be different.
2) Timing: The frequency with which the user is getting hit with promotional messages is an important factor. It shouldn’t be too many and too less. (Again it depends on the kind of app we are talking about). Also, note that I mentioned promotional messages which is a total of any ‘out-of-content- message like a pitch for in-app purchase, app recommendations, house ads and ads from ad networks. There is also a good ad refresh rate that should be maintained for those static banners.
3) Non-Intrusive: Ads should not make users hate your app. Ads should be relevant, presented well, non-deceiving, with acceptable content & placed in such a way that it doesn’t completely hamper the user experience. Advertising can be visible and well timed without being user obtrusive.


Keeping these principles in mind, here are some effective tips that gives you a good blend of visibility, optimum frequency & timing without being intrusive.

  • Banners: Placing banners on the top end or bottom end will NOT make it visible, especially when the user is in the midst of a live session. If you are trying to get maximum clicks on your ad unit, such a placement is not what can get the attention of the user. As the game proceeds, the user is completely focussed on the middle of the screen and banner blindness sets in. A better approach would be to display banners between game sessions or at the end of a session, or the ‘High Scores’ or ‘Game Over’ screens.
  • Start Late: It is NOT a good idea to welcome a player/user with ads. Let the user get a good feel of your app. Let him/her know what you have to offer. Users will appreciate an ad or 2 once they have had a good taste of the app. They do understand that a FREE app can only be FREE if the developer is allowed to make money through advertising. But play it slow and play it well!
  • Frequency: While there is one answer to the ‘best frequency’ to display ads, let it be consistent with the overall session-length of the user. For strategy games, that could take many minutes or hours to finish – show ads late and show ads less often. (Because you have more time overall and your objective is to maximize Average Revenue Per Active User). However, for short session length games or utilities (Like say Scanner apps), it wouldn’t hurt to show 1 ad unit every minute. This applies to refresh rate too if you have a static banner.
  • Native Ads/InFeed: If you are looking to fight banner blindness and a low CTR try Native ads within your feed, especially if you have a utility app or news/content app. You can have a carousel ad unit (Like Facebook app install ads) or a prominent recommendation within the feeds – contextually relevant. These ad units have payouts overall and a higher CTR.
  • Innovative Placements: Like most things within digital, it is important to keep testing and make sure you rotate your ad placements. There are plenty of new placements that might make sense to your particular situation. Some examples are the ‘Pull-To-Refresh’ Native format provided by AppFire, or the mobile slider ad unit.

If CTR is your success metric do A/B/C tests with multiple formats after identifying those ‘sweet spots’ within your app’s user cycle. Keep CTR as the constant and 1) Ad Format 2) Placement 3) Ad Network as the variants and find for yourself the best combination from all of the above. Even if you can raise your CTR by a few points there will be a domino effect in revenue as your traffic increases and you being able to replicate the knowledge onto multiple apps.
The important thing is to analyze placement related effects on overall monetization and keep improving and optimizing. If you have more tips or have best practices to share regarding in-app monetization or mobile ad placement strategies do share them with us.

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