Mobile App Advertising: How To Kickstart Your App With Paid Ads

So you have thought about launching a mobile app. Or you already have one, up and running. You’ve been waiting so much for this moment to happen. Your baby to be born. An outstanding idea that will revolutionize how people live their lives. It’s ready. And now what?

Nobody knows about it, right?

All great ideas need a little push. And when you consider the thousands of apps getting out on the market every day, you need tools to stand out from the crowd.

In the beginning you will probably need to spend a bigger ratio of your budget to market your app so you can get going. Word of mouth is a valuable source of traffic, but in the online scene, you should really focus on capturing the attention where people are: on their phones.

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Let’s dive in how you can kickstart your project with mobile app advertising!

App Store Optimization (ASO) – Your Ground Zero

Although it’s “free” (if you don’t consider your working hours money), but a crucial step to get more customers for your app. The App Store (Google Play, iTunes, Windows Store) is your home base, basically a mini website for your app.

Make sure your app is attractive to users and for the App Store Engine itself:

  1. Choose a descriptive name, title and URL for your app

  2. Do a proper keyword research and provide a description that includes the most important terms

  3. Take time to optimize the pictures that you display of your app – appealing, expressive pictures of what you are selling is crucial as it has a big impact on the click-through and download rate

  4. Constantly monitor your reviews and pay attention to your users – fixing your bugs and replying to your negative reviews does matter

Search Engine Land wrote a massive blog post on App Store Optimization, worth reading.

Our Favorite Paid Mobile App Advertising Platforms

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As a PPC (PayPerClick) agency, clients often propose us the Big Question: where should they advertise their app to generate thousands of downloads at the best cost?

There is no easy answer to that. We recommend starting with Facebook and Google Ads, and optimize which platform delivers better performance for your own app.

Let’s dig in our favorite mobile app ads!

Google Ads – App Campaigns

Google is like a many-faced god: appears in a variety of forms and sees and knows everything about you.

Benefits of advertising apps on Google

The Universal App Campaign is a great tool to generate brand awareness and get your much-needed downloads on Google’s several platforms – in the Search Engine, within Google Play, YouTube or the Display Network.

The biggest advantage of these ads is that they are easy to set up and get them running.

You don’t need to spend hours on hunting for keywords and brainstorming on the right audiences that you can target – Google will take care of finding the right users who are most likely to download your app. It is especially true for Android apps, as Google can gather the install data of it own platform, the Google Play. (Note: you can help Google by doing the App Store Optimization right, so it will understand what you product or service is all about.)

In case of iOS apps, it’s a bit more complex process to get your campaigns up and running. But don’t worry, once you set up app tracking and import your app event data (such as first-open), Google Ads can start its optimization magic.

How to optimize your mobile app ads

Google gives you two options to optimize your campaigns:

  1. Get more installs:

Google will optimize for driving as much installs (or first-opens for iOS) as possible within your given daily budget and within your Target Cost Per Action (also known as Target Cost Per Install).

We advise you to set higher bids in the beginning so Google can start serving and testing your ads. According to Google’s best practice: “campaign budget should be at least 50 times greater than your target CPI.” Probably the campaigns won’t spend the entire budget, but pay close attention to the spending. Once campaigns have enough data (2-3 weeks), you can slowly start lowering bids and budgets.

2. Drive in-app actions:

With this objective you are asking Google to find those people who are most likely to perform an action within your app (e.g. registration, in-app purchase, upgrading to a new level, etc). These actions should be set up as events in the app analytics system of your choice so Google can optimize for them.

Please note that Cost Per Install will vary based on the country, region you are targeting, and the potential audience size your app might have.

Universal App Campaign Creation Checklist

This is what you need in order to launch a Universal App Campaign:

  1. Google Ads account

  2. App published in App Store (i.e. Google Play, iTunes, Windows Store)

  3. App conversion actions imported (only for iOS app versions)

  4. Creative assets + ad texts

If you want to learn the whole process of campaign creation, find our tutorials here for iOS & Android.

Facebook Ads – App Installs Campaigns

We don’t have to throw you stats and data – you know the reality of Facebook already. Basically everybody’s on Facebook where it’s allowed.

Although Facebook does not have such a colorful network of ad placements as Google does, it is a powerful tool to advertise your mobile app.

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Benefits of advertising apps on Facebook

On the contrary to Google Ads, Facebook app install campaigns let you freely define the targeting for you ads – age groups, genders, interest and behavior and other custom audiences.

With Facebook you can segment and test your audiences so you can control the outcome better meanwhile also learning about which audience work and which don’t.

You can also test platforms, creatives adjusted to your audience – e.g. advertising selectively on Instagram for younger groups, or use Marketplace placement for stay-at-home moms/dads.

Surprise: we created a tutorial on creating Facebook App Install Ads as well.

How to optimize your mobile app ads

Facebook lets you run campaigns without having tracking implemented in the background. However, we strongly advise to implement the Facebook Ads SDK (Facebook Analytics) in order to run proper campaigns.

There are 3 ways to optimize your ads:

  • Link Clicks:

You can choose to optimize for people clicking on the ads that will land them to the App Store. If tracking is not implemented yet, the system will optimize for link clicks automatically.

Note that if you don’t have any app installs within a 28-day period, app campaigns will be optimized for link clicks until somebody installs your app.

  • App Installs:

In the launch phase, you’ll probably need install volume the most. Facebook’s clever algorithm will try and find people who are most likely to install your app, if you choose this optimization.

  • App Events:

Later in the product cycle you might want to drive people to take specific actions within your app. If so, app events optimisation is the right way to go. Events should be set up in your Facebook SDK tracking system, so the system can optimize for the desirable action.

Facebook App Installs Campaign Creation Checklist

This is your checklist you need in order to launch a Facebook App Installs Campaign::

  1. Facebook Page

  2. Facebook Ads account

  3. Facebook App registration

  4. App tracking (Facebook SDK) implemented (Optional)

  5. Creative assets + ad texts

And of course, we have a tutorial as well for creating Facebook App Installs campaign.

Why You Need App Tracking

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You might be able to advertise your app here and there without proper tracking, but you will be flushing money down the toilet. Not being able to see what strategies, audiences, creatives work for your app will cause you losing money – therefore opportunity to grow and beat your competitors.

(Experienced developers helping tracking set up will become your best friends.)

Moreover, having app analytics in hand will help you:

  • Understand the customer journey and lifetime value:

Having “hunches”, “feelings” of your business is a nice thing, but in the online world, we work with data. By having stats on different events in your app, you can understand how users use our app, what features they prefer and how often they open your app.

  • Sort out usability issues, bugs:

By looking at granular data you might find people not reaching point B from point A. There might be some issues worth investigating there. Also, some app analytics platforms provide data on crashes of your apps (in Firebase, they call it “Crashlytics”).

If you haven’t implemented app tracking yet, we advise Firebase SDK and Facebook SDK, or other third party apps – check this great compilation of mobile app analytics platforms.


Paid mobile app advertising is an exciting opportunity for your app to grow. With proper tracking and analytics you can make your business even more profitable.

But don’t forget – your app is supposed to make your users’ life happier and easier. Listen to their reviews, go get your bugs fixed and nurture those who already “voted” on you.

If you ever get stuck with you application marketing, we are happy to help you out!

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