What is Mobile App Attribution & Why is it Important?

Mobile app attribution is vital for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. While there isn't a standard method of tracking iOS apps, two methodologies are most used: unique identifier matching and device fingerprinting.

Date published
May 16, 2013 Categories


When it comes to mobile advertising, there is always a question regarding attribution. Attribution is the measurement of user events in result of marketing activity. An event can be an app install, repeat app launch, level completion, in app purchase, etc.

Every mobile marketer wants to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaign, especially if it involves spending money on advertising. However, attribution is a pretty unique problem for mobile because there is no standard tracking methodology.

This problem doesn’t really exist in the online advertising world because there is already a solution: cookie-based tracking. It’s fairly easy to set up integrated marketing campaigns to figure out which visitor came from which source.

For example, you can run a Promoted Tweets on Twitter, Sponsored Stories on Facebook, and an AdWords campaign on Google all with the goal of driving visitors to download a new whitepaper guide on your website. To figure out which visitors came from which source, you would simply append parameters on each URL to track the performance of each channel.

To track users from Twitter you could send visitors to http://www.example.com/resources/?source=twitter, visitors from Facebook to http://www.example.com/resources/?source=facebook, and visitors from Google to http://www.example.com/resources/?source=google.

In this analytics system you’ll be able to see how many visitors were attributed to each source and also what their additional engagement is with my entire website.

The accessibility and ease of use for tracking online marketing activities makes attribution a necessary standard for online marketers. Marketers can attribute every dollar spent to specific return on investment for that dollar.

Imagine not having a standard solution for tracking the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. That’s the problem many mobile marketers face.

If you’re advertising an iOS mobile app on premium networks and several publishing partners to drive app installs, you can’t just append a tracking parameter to a URL to track and attribute the app performance across several sources. The URL you would need to track conversion on is the app store URL. You can’t just append a tracking parameter to that URL to attribute installs to sources.

Once a user clicks into any app store environment, their actions enter a black hole and we can no longer determine who was responsible for generating an install of a free app or a purchase of a paid app. This tracking problem is specific to iOS apps. Google provides a referral tracking system to let marketers see which marketing sources are driving visitors to the Android Market and downloading your app.

Although there isn’t a standard method of tracking iOS apps, there are two methodologies that are most used:

Using one technology that has the ability to track and attribute all sources of your paid media – and also supporting several types of tracking methods – is vital to being able to see what your spend is most effective.

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