How to Run a Successful App Install Ad Campaign

A successful mobile growth strategy requires a holistic approach to both paid and organic app user acquisition. Organic acquisition lays the groundwork for longterm mobile growth, while paid acquisition offers a continuous and predictable stream of app users – both crucial components of app success and scalability. This post focuses on the paid piece of the puzzle, and showcases the ways successful app install ad campaigns take both paid and organic strategies into account.

Despite the rising costs of acquiring users through paid advertising, paid acquisition remains an integral piece of the marketing mix for many brands. A breakdown of mobile growth efforts shows companies of all sizes continue to see the value app install ad campaigns bring to their overall mobile strategies.

How to Run a Successful App Install Ad Campaign - Allocation of Team Efforts by Company Size


A successful mobile growth strategy recognizes how all of these elements work together. If you plan your app install ad campaigns with your larger strategy in mind, these paid campaigns can (and should) also boost your organic acquisition performance.

For example, running Apple Search Ads campaigns can contribute to your overall brand authority – which leads to increased organic performance and rankings in addition to the immediate results from the paid ads.

So before you launch your paid campaign, here are some key considerations to run a successful app install ad campaign that maximizes the ROI of your entire mobile growth strategy.


Click-to-Install Rates for Paid Links Vary Across Industries
How to Run a Successful App Install Ad Campaign - Click-to-Install Rates by Industry


First, you should decide how much budget to allocate to a paid app install ad campaign based on the click-to-install rate you can expect for your app, as well as the projected value of each user.

The click-to-install rate for paid links varies widely based on industry. If you have an entertainment app, the data shown in the chart above suggests paid campaigns aren’t as effective as the click-to-install rate is just .94% – but if the value of each user is high, it may still be worth the investment. Otherwise, you might look into an incentivized referral campaign as a more effective strategy.

On the other hand, if you have a utilities app, a paid campaign might be worth a larger chunk of your user acquisition budget – as you can expect click-to-install rates around 4.22%.

Once you decide what amount of resources you will allocate to a paid app install ad campaign, you need to select what channels you’re going to leverage.


Top Paid Channels for Mobile User Acquisition

There are many paid channels you can use to acquire new app users – so which ones are the most effective?

For Branch’s 2018 Mobile Growth Industry Report, we surveyed mobile experts from enterprise brands such as A&E, Bukalapak, Discover, Discovery, Expedia, Grindr, NBC, Netflix, NPR, Slack, and Office Depot. A majority of respondents reported top paid channels to be Facebook App Installs, Google UACs, and routing users from other channels to in-app content.

Let’s quickly cover these top three paid acquisition channels.

How to Run a Successful App Install Ad Campaign - Top Paid Acquisition Channels
1. Facebook Ads for Mobile App Installs

Facebook Ads are popular for good reason – we found them to be one of the top sources of mobile app installs with a click-to-install conversion rate of 13.08%, second only to Instagram.

For tips and tricks to help you optimize your Facebook and Instagram ads for mobile app installs, read How to Build Effective Facebook Ads for Mobile App Installs.

2. Google Universal App Campaigns (UAC)

With Universal App Campaigns, you can promote your app across Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, Gmail, and within other apps and mobile websites on the Display Network.

A key benefit of running Universal App Campaigns is it requires relatively little effort from the advertiser. Unlike most Google Ads campaigns, you don’t design individual ads for UAC. Instead, Google Ads use your ad text ideas and assets from your app’s store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks. (For more information, visit our Docs site.)

3. Sending Users to the App From Other Properties

Routing users to your app from other properties, like mobile web, is a highly effective and efficient acquisition channel.

For example, The Knot doubled the conversion rate of pageview to app install in just two months through personalized web-to-app experiences using Branch Journeys.

Hook new users on the web first, where acquisition is simpler and more cost-effective, and then seamlessly convert them to high-value app users later.

Learn how to supercharge your web-to-app conversion with Branch’s Journeys.


What Distinguishes a Successful App Install Ad Campaign from a Waste of Money?

You can bet your app install ad campaign will squander valuable resources if either/both of two things is happening:

  1. Your paid acquisition strategy ends at install
  2. You take a “set it and forget it” approach to campaigns

What distinguishes a successful app install ad campaign is an approach that aims to keep acquired users engaged post-install, and a strategy that incorporates accurate attribution data to continually improve and optimize paid campaigns.


Increase User Engagement and Retention through Effective Onboarding

App users acquired through paid channels have historically lower retention rates than other channels like smart banners or referrals. After four weeks, users referred by a friend are 2.5x more likely to remain engaged than those acquired via paid ads – and users acquired via smart banners are 6x more likely to remain engaged.

But before you shift all of your user acquisition efforts toward these channels with higher retention rates, you can significantly increase the user retention of your paid campaigns by improving the onboarding experience in your app.

Here are five key tactics for effective app onboarding that keeps users engaged and will help your install campaign generate positive ROI:

  1. Make sure onboarding is frictionless
  2. Save in-depth content for another channel
  3. Progressive onboarding can do the heavy lifting
  4. Try a trailer to showcase key features
  5. Lead with benefits, not features

For a detailed look at how to improve user retention rates through effective onboarding, read 5 Keys to Effective App Onboarding for Product Managers.


Optimize Your Paid Efforts with Complete Attribution Analytics

The final piece of a successful app install ad campaign is continual optimization through accurate, cross-channel data analytics. In order to optimize your paid ads – and all app user acquisition efforts – it’s critical to find the right attribution partner.

With Branch’s Attribution Solution , deep linking and attribution are contained in a single link to provide unified, cross-channel visibility into user behavior. The result is a dashboard that offers a clear view of the results of your campaigns across paid and organic. Armed with this knowledge, you can make quick, data-driven decisions to shift budget to the paid ad campaigns – and other acquisition campaigns – that generate the greatest results.

Ready to optimize the performance of your app install ad campaigns and maximize the ROI of your mobile growth strategy? Learn more about Branch’s Universal Ads solution or contact sales today.