5 ways to wring more revenue out of your mobile apps

As the number of mobile apps continues to explode, so do the challenges of developing and monetizing a successful app. This week the mobile landscape hit a significant milestone: one million apps have been published (not to be confused with live or active apps. We still have a while until we hit one million there).

As a result of the extreme competition that the mobile app landscape brings, developers find it increasingly difficult to create an app that supports multiple platforms, distribute that app and — the hardest part of all — monetize it.

One of the most popular ways to monetize an app is mobile advertising. Everyone is doing it. So let’s assume you are, too. You chose an ad network or some other company to serve your ads. But how do you integrate ads into an app so that you achieve maximum results, meaning maximum clicks, maximum return per click, and maximum overall revenue?

Just as with its big brother web advertising, you could write an entire book on advertising on a mobile device. Where do you place an ad within an app? When should the app appear? What type of ad generates the most clicks? How often should an ad appear? What should you advertise for? These are just some of the many questions that arise when trying to maximize the developer’s bottom line revenue.

The following five tips are ones that I have learned to implement over time, and they have proven super effective in generating the maximum results for developers. (Take a look at the infographic below for more information)

Choose the most visible, least annoying spots for ads

There have been many studies conducted about a person’s attention on the Web. Where does a person look first on a website? Of course the answer to that question affects the pricing of different banners on the Web. The more attention a spot will get, the more expensive the banner.

The mobile phone is no different, and with a smaller screen, mobile real estate is even more valuable. As a developer, you want to place your ads in the optimal locations to generate maximum clicks. But while you don’t want your ad to be missed, you also don’t want to damage the user experience by placing the ads in annoying and spammy locations. So, practically speaking, where should the ad appear?

Let the user play the game in peace. They passed the level? Now display the ad. The last thing you want to do is disrupt their use and run the risk of them deleting your app. So you display the ad between levels, but where? On its own screen, that’s where. Every ad should live on another screen between the levels , the ad should be displayed on the entire display.

I know what you’re thinking. “Full screen ad within an app? That will annoy the heck out of users!” Not true. If you offer an app for free (one of the perks of incorporating ads in an app), and you serve ads in a unobtrusive way, users will understand your decision to include ads. Not only that, but if they are targeted appropriately, users will actually click on them and think of the ads as added value.

Keep your ads relevant and your users happy

As I mentioned, one of the main conflicts in mobile advertising is, on the one hand, maximizing clicks and, on the other, retaining your uses. The best way to kill both these birds is by using a stone otherwise known as precise targeting.

Gary Vaynerchuk said it perfectly in a presentation he gave last month. When you stop at a red light and take a look to your left, you will notice that nine out of 10 people are paying no attention to billboards. They are looking at their mobile phone. As an advertiser, why spend your budget on billboards that can’t be targeted for your audience when you can reach your consumers directly via their mobile phone, which is in their pocket all the time anyway?
Today’s targeting capabilities are endless. A fashion company can advertise their brand to consumers who are using fashion apps. The same goes for games, sports, entertainment, etc. You can also target by location, which means a person in the vicinity of your location will see an ad promoting your brand. How much more relevant does it get?

So what can a developer do in order to effectively utilize such targeting abilities? First and foremost, it is about the company you choose for your mobile advertising campaigns (see disclosure in my bio). You need to ensure that the company supports targeting based on content and location. The next step is to enable geo-targeting in your app. Once you target your audience correctly, you can expect to see a serious boost in clicks and overall revenue.

Utilize rich media to excite users

This one is somewhat of a no brainer. While static display ads are still very effective, rich media ads — HTML 5, 3D, even video — can drastically multiply your CPM. Static display ads generate a maximum of $3-4 eCPM, while it isn’t unheard of for rich media ads to generate $20 eCPM. You do the math.

Your involvement as a developer is choosing a provider that supports these technologies. Rich media mobile advertising is still somewhat cutting-edge, so making that choice should be somewhat easier than choosing one of hundreds of mobile ad networks.

In addition, the inclusion of interactive ads within your app will have most users excited and engaging with the ad as opposed to annoyed and skipping it.

Make the user your partner

Apple has made it very clear that, as a policy, incentivized downloads are a no-no. Still, the line between encouraging a user to click and incentivizing them is very fine.

Given the fact that users get access to premium mobile apps for free as a result of incorporated ads, it is in the user’s best interest to keep clicking on the ads to keep the app free. So sometimes users need a reminder. You can include a sentence above your ad reminding the user that they are your partner in the ultimate goal of keeping this app free, and that they can help by clicking on relevant ads. Who wouldn’t want to help you deliver a product they love for free?
Not only does this work, it actually gives users a feeling of loyalty and cooperation with the developer.

Delay the Skip button

This last point might appear to be the most problematic for some developers, but hear me out. What I am suggesting here is that you add a countdown button to the bottom of your ad and delay the Skip button by a few seconds. Presented with the option of clicking a skip button, the majority of users will. Now obviously, you as a developer need to provide the user with a way to bypass the ad if they choose to, but no one says you have to do it immediately. A user could actually benefit from an ad they might otherwise never have looked at.

To summarize, ad placement strategy is a fundamental and necessary part of implementing a successful mobile advertising campaign. If you look at some of the companies that take their ad placement strategy seriously, you will see that even if their app is getting millions of downloads, they are generating more revenue from in-app advertising then they might ever dream of making from downloads alone.

Hillel Fuld is Head of Marketing at inneractive, a company that works with mobile developers to generate more revenue from their apps. He can be found on Twitter at @hilzfuld and @Inneractive.

Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo.