7 Do’s and Don’ts for Testing New Networks to Drive UA
A shift in UA strategy
What’s the best way to drive UA for your apps? For many years, the answer was social media. It was simple math: Millions of people spend time on sites like Facebook and Instagram, and with affordable rates and good uptake, it made sense.
But over time, acquiring users on social media became far more costly and competitive—while effectiveness dropped. For some of these platforms, the numbers stopped adding up.
So what’s the best way to find new users today? Don’t abandon social media altogether, but do test other networks to find new opportunities for growth.
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for testing new networks to drive UA. (Note: the exact steps you’ll take will vary slightly depending upon the kind of app you’re marketing.)
DO enter testing with an open mind. Every network and every partner is different. All of them want you to succeed and to continue to invest your budget with them. Listen to their recommendations, especially the timeline for testing and campaign essentials to fuel test success, even if their approach to testing is very different from what you’re used to (or what you were expecting). Everything from CPIs to ROAS to number of installs can vary dramatically from network to network, but you won’t know what works or doesn’t until you test. Create a testing budget, and enter each test without prejudice.
DO be transparent and reasonable about expectations with networks. If, for instance, you’re looking for a 30% return on ad spend (ROAS) over seven days with a partner, let them know this upfront. Keeping your UA goals front and center are important to making and meeting campaign plans. If their network is small, they may never be able to meet that kind of return, and they’ll tell you so. Similarly, don’t exaggerate your expectations – let your network partners know what top 3 networks have been able to drive for you. If other networks are achieving your ROAS goals, it’s most likely possible for them too. By the same token, keep your CPI targets reasonable as well.
DO allow enough budget to test adequately. Every network optimizes differently. Some algorithms require 500 users to convert to a certain event before they’re optimized, others may need 2,000. While 2,000 conversions may take longer and cost more, it’s likely to result in even better optimization. This means that you’ll need to allocate different budgets and different time periods for the networks you’re testing. Additionally, a ROAS-optimized UA model becomes particularly important when gearing campaigns towards acquiring paid users.
DO be patient with testing—because different apps require different tests. Conversions for different types of apps take different lengths of time. For example, if you’re promoting a chat app, conversions occur higher in the funnel, and you’ll collect data very quickly—you’ll know right away whether your test is a success.
If the new ad network isn’t optimizing within six weeks or so, then there’s a problem. The ad network has the data, so optimization should quickly follow.
But many apps have more complex goals. For instance, the goal of a banking app might be a first deposit. That conversion will take longer to achieve and to collect the necessary data. It may be that only two percent of users actually make a deposit, which could take days or even weeks. So not only will conversion take longer, you’ll have a smaller set of users to optimize against.
It’s not necessarily about monitoring a test for a particular length of time, it’s really about reaching critical mass on your conversions so the network can optimize and work at its best.
DO test different creatives and formats. If you have ads in various formats and styles, upload them all for testing. Most networks use AI and algorithms, and these will help determine which creatives perform best — and show them more frequently than lower-performing options. You can also research what types of ad units have been working well (video, banner, playable, etc) for other apps and incorporate those formats into your test with greater confidence.
DON’T continue tests that aren’t successful. Once you’ve defined a reasonable time period for your test—a few weeks or months, depending on your goals—assess your results. If you’re not able to scale, it’s time to take a careful look at the network. If they have provided transparent information and a competitive rate, and your campaign still hasn’t grown, then the network may not be a fit. Speak to your Account Manager, if you’ve been assigned one, to get details and find out if this outcome is expected with the type of app you’re promoting. A lot of times early on you can tell if your offer will be competitive with a network or not.
In some situations, you may achieve scale, but you’re not hitting your performance goals. Let’s assume you’ve allocated an appropriate test budget and gotten to the optimized campaign stage, and you’ve allowed the optimized campaign to run for the period of time recommended by the network. But you’re still not hitting your targets. In this situation, you need to have a frank and open conversation with your new partners.
DON’T expect your tests to be ROI-positive. When you are testing new networks for UA, make sure you set clear goals with your partners and go in with the understanding that your tests will not be ROI-positive. It’s not that they won’t ever be ROI-positive, it’s just that it takes more time to achieve that goal, and this should be looked at more as a learning phase. So don’t panic if your initial tests don’t get there—there are other important metrics to consider early on. Profit shouldn’t be one of them yet. At this stage, the primary goal is to observe, report, and distill insights for the future.
Again, the app you’re marketing will determine the tests you run and how you run them, but these rules apply in most scenarios. Stay completely open, honest, and transparent with your new partners, and enter every test without prejudice. Think like a scientist: Keep your mind open as you monitor your results. You may be surprised by which networks perform best for you.
Hopefully, you’ll continue to test and grow your marketing programs across new networks and channels, and find plenty of new users along the way.
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