Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Measuring the success of your app ad campaign using Firebase

We recently launched an iOS version of an app that was fairly popular on Android due to organic growth (that app being the first of its kind a few years ago). Now - better late than never - we figured it's worth a try on iOS too.

Problem is that there are a few similar apps available on iOS by now, so organic growth - while still working - is too slow for us to see if the app is worth spending more effort on. That's where we started looking at paid ads.

For starters, there are two main providers for promoting your app: Google (AdSense) and Apple Search Ads. Not having done this before we simply started throwing money at the problem and started getting conversions at 30 cent each (that's Euro). Of course, those users were mostly based in countries like India, Brazil, etc. Targeting countries like US or Germany would cost much more. However, our app is not location-dependent so whatever kind of user we get is fine for us :)

So users started to trickle in - at least Google and Apple told us so and happily requested more and more money from us. However, we had no clue what those users were doing in our app, i.e. did they use the core functionality? And more importantly, did they generate revenue via In-App purchases or clicking ads displayed inside the app?

Please welcome our next guest, Firebase Analytics: by default, you do not see how a user was acquired in Firebase for an iOS app (you do on Android). For some reason this is nowhere promoted as prominently as it should, but in order to attribute the source of your users properly on iOS you have to add the iAd framework to your app. The documentation mentions it here shortly among a bunch of other text: "You must add the iAd framework to the Xcode project file for your app in order to track Apple Search Ads." Doing so also changes the answers you have to provide during app submission in the App Store in regards to user privacy.

But that leads us to our next problem: Firebase can do so much, but some things it only does *after* you specifically told it to do so. By now you might have the information available how each user was acquired, however, you are not able to see analytics specifically for that group of users. Usually you would use an "audience" in Firebase to show statistics only for a specific group of users, but audiences only grow after creating them. Meaning: although you might see in the Firebase dashboard that you acquired 1000 users via Google ads, you have no clue what these users did after getting acquired. So go ahead and make sure you create a few audiences: I created one for users acquired via Apple and Google specifically, and another one for all paid acquisitions. That way you can quickly drill down if one of those two providers generates more active or "useful" users for you.

For us it turned out that for every thousand dollar or so spent on ads we earn 10 dollars back via ads shown in our app - oh well!

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