Monetizing free applications is a critical but confusing topic for many developers. Over the years of developing free applications, I have been experimenting with various factors to see how I can maximize my revenue. In this article, I am sharing some of my key findings and hope you can use some of what I learned to optimize your mobile ad networks.
Colors- Color combination on text ads
Colors play a huge role in everything we do, and it obviously plays a large role in ad colors when it comes to click through rates.
I could go on and on about color but there are already lots of interesting information about role of colors in marketing and our life in general out there. One of my all time favorite article about role of color in marketing is one by Leo Widrich at the Buffer blog. Leo does an amazing job going in depth about effect color has in our life and how it relates to marketing. I actually have this article bookmarked and refer to it often as I am working on new things.
Flow of colors is key in increasing user experience. Pay special attention to how the colors in your ads fit in with your application color theme.
I was vary wary of interstitial ads until couple years ago. I thought it ruined user experience and portrayed a cheap feeling. I thought they were too much on your face and made you look like a push over. I still have mixed feelings about them, but I feel like at moderation and proper placement they are justified and are extremely productive. This is true either you are using house ads or displaying ads for networks like Google’s Admob, Revmob, etc.
I have seen unto 4x the CTR and 10x eCPM. Of course, you have to use this sparingly, and ensure that the ads are relevant. I like to make it very easy for users to exit out of these ads, and make sure not to show interstitial ads very frequently. The rule I like to focus is, not more than 1 impression per user every 45 minutes. Of course, you have to find out what works best for your application type and audience.
Timing and placement of these ads are also critical. For example, if you have a full screen/interstitial ad pop up as soon as the application opens or on the first action, you might get a good click through rate but user retention is sure to hurt. You have to make sure the timing of the ad display is not too intrusive. For example, if it is an application that has average use time of 10 minutes/session, a full screen ad 4-6 minutes is more justified. By this time the user has felt like he has got something out of the application and is more accepting to an advertisement. They key is providing value first, before throwing something at your users.
Video/interactive interstitial/full screen ads perform amazing when used properly. If the above technique is used to decide the placement of these ads, a satisfied user who has interacted with the application for a good five minutes, a user who feels like he/she has got something of value out of the application, is 25x more likely to listen to the video or perform the action asked in the application versus a user who is presented with a video ad/interactive ad immediately after the app opens up.
Ad network optimization
Almost every ad network provides optimization tools these days. This makes it easy to optimize your ad allocation by network and also helps ensure the highest fill rate, both helping in increasing your ad revenue. Take advantage of the ad mediation features available through your ad network or use tools like burstly(skyrocket app) or Mobclix to set up tiers of ads.
Based on the tools, you might have an option to optimizie manually or let the ad networks do the job for you. You can take advantage of features like eCPM floor on Admob combined with tiered ad network setup to ensure maximum revenue and maximum fill rate.
Yes, refresh rates matter. Well, at least if you are interested in optimizing your ad earning for your application and since you are still reading this application I am guessing that is of interest to you. I have spent months experimenting with refresh ads in a number of my ads. One ad refresh rates do not work for all applications/placements. Most ad networks suggest ad refresh rates of 30-180 seconds, or no refresh. That is a huge range. You need to find out what works for your application or you could be losing a significant portion of your ad revenue.
If you are thinking, I will just refresh the ad as often as I can, and that will bring in additional revenue, it might actually have a negative effect. When you refresh your ad too often, your users might not even get a chance to see the ad before its refreshed or it might be refreshed by the time they get over to clicking the ad. Leave your ad on too long, and people are tired of seeing the same ad. Especially if you have an application that has users staying in a same page for extended periods of time. There is no one magic number that works for everyone or every application. You have to experiment to find out what works
The overall message is experiment, and experiment with everything that you can including but not limited to things mentioned in this article. There are however few things you have to keep in mind while experimenting. Being a scientist, I try to follow my teachings of traditional science even when I am experimenting with applications or ad networks.
Here are my 5 principles of ad network experimentation.
Change one thing at a time
Have a hypothesis you’d like to test, for example a lower refresh rate will increase my CTR and thus the revenue.
Keep a good note of the changes or effects. Use freely available analytics tools to weed out noise from the actual effect.
Don't change too often, give your change enough time so you can collect quality information.
What is true for one ad network or one application is not always true for another, so test again and again.
Most ad networks will let you choose the categories that you want to allow the advertisers display ads for or filters that allow you to block certain categories or keywords. If your users see ads that is similar to or relevant to the application then they re more likely to click on those ads. I know this sounds plain and simple, but it does have a strong influence on the user experience . For example if I am using an application that provides financial tips, I am more likely to click on an ad for a savings account or ho to start an IRA instead of an ad that is annoyingly flashing "Meet hot singles in your are". Context matters, and since there are tools that help you decide what kind of ads that your users see, why not take advantage of that and give your users a better app experience while increasing your revenue at the same time?
If there is something else that has worked wonders for you and would like to share it with the rest of the community, please let us know in the comments section.
By- Bikul Koirala