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Monday 16 March 2015

Advertising is not a Dirty Word (Part 1)

As originally published in the Canadian Developer Connection

An Ad is a Terrible Thing to Waste

I’m constantly thinking about what Windows 10 can do for me.  One of the things that keeps coming to my mind is volume of customers.  Currently I have a number of apps in the store in which I publish advertising for monetization.  I’ve been doing it for a while.  The real benefits of advertising comes with volume.   Let me start off by saying that there are plenty of existing customers with Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 already.  There are millions of users out there already and if you can get the attention of those users then you can make some serious money.  There are those that already do.  You hear about the big winners that are making lots of money in the store but for every one of those there are lots that are quietly running a business of writing, updating and profiting from apps.  And it IS a business.  At least if you want to make money at it!  And that “small” number of Windows Phones and Windows Devices is going to explode with Windows 10.  Be ready by understanding how to do business and the great thing about it is everything you do now applies to the coming Windows 10!

My primary ad provider is Microsoft Advertising pubCenter.

It’s all in the Numbers

I recently hosted a presentation by Atley Hunter on the Psychology of the In-App Purchase done at my local Windows Platform Developer Group in Vancouver.  We had a great room and lots of people learned about monetizing apps. One of the questions that Atley asked the group was “How many of you have checked your advertising stats in the last 2 week? 4 weeks? 6 months?”  and sadly the answer was that almost none had.  You need to know your numbers otherwise how can you possible hope to correct them or improve them?  How many requests are you getting?  What percentage of those request are actually getting ads?  Did you know that just because your App requests an ad it doesn’t mean it will get one?  Do you know what rate is being paid for space in your app?  Here are the things you need to know then we’ll talk about things you can do to modify them.

  • eCPM: effective cost per thousand impressions.  That means that for every 1000 times an add appears in your app you would make this much.  Higher is better.  If you had an add appear just 10 times you would see actual revenue of 1/100th of your eCPM.
  • Requests: The number of times your App requested an Ad for display.
  • Impressions: The number of actual ads that displayed in your app (the length of time that it must be displayed varies)
  • Fill Rate:  Basically the percentage of requests that got ads.

All these numbers are important and if any one of them is low then the return on your ads will likely be pretty low also.  A low eCPM means that even with lots of ad impressions you won’t make much while a high eCPM won’t help you much without many impressions.  You need to find the balance of all the numbers to see real gains.  But take heart, there are things you can do to help get the numbers up.

Pick the Right App

It’s very difficult to pump up all the numbers at the same time so lets take them one at a time.  First is requests and impressions.  Consider your ad’s usage parameters.  Lots of downloads does not mean lots of ad requests.  Do your users re-use your app a lot?  An app that has lots of downloads but users rarely open it again will not do all that well.  So when choosing your app that you plan on advertising in, your best choice is probably not one where the user will use it once or where they will open it often but never for more than a second or two.  One or two seconds is not going to be sufficient to get an ad impression.  The perfect app is one where customers download it and then open it over and over again and leave it open for a considerable period of time.  Some examples are addictive games where the player will play for minutes at a time or a business app that they want to leave open on their phones.

The other consideration for your app is the category you put it in.  When you build your Ad profile for your app you have to identify the category that the app is under.  Some categories will receive more of the pool of available impressions than others.  For example when public trends (news articles, discussions, social media) tend towards health and fitness then it’s a pretty good bet that Health and Fitness will get more advertising impressions where something like Government + Politics + Legal Issues may have a narrower appeal and be less popular.  On the other hand if your app is the only one in a particular category you might get more impressions from a smaller pool.

Remember to build using Universal Apps.  You want your app available to both Windows Phone and Windows.  A Universal App works great today and will tomorrow.   You will increase your downloads and therefore impressions by creating apps for both platforms.  I have found that while I do not currently gather as many impressions in Windows 8.1 as in Phone (been doing phone longer) the eCPM is almost always considerably higher…  something to think about.

What’s Next

Next time we’ll discuss how to get your Fill Rate up and your eCPM to increase.  Remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  You have treat your apps like a business.  You have to plan and create a strategy and then spend the time to execute it.  With hard work, a little luck and some good quality apps you can make some nice money from your apps!

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