App Monetization: Choosing the Right Ad Placements
Once you have decided which types of ad to integrate into your app for monetization, the work then begins to figure out where in your app to place them. Here, publishers can fall into two major traps: 1) overloading the placement of ads in hopes of raising revenue; or 2) presenting the same ad strategy to every user. Both tactics can negatively impact the overall user experience as well as depress revenue potential.
Too many ads, too little time:
To increase revenues, many developers mistakenly integrate too many ads into their app. This could mean adding too many ads per screen or showing too many ads per user session. Indeed, the idea of removing ads from the app to increase revenue may seem counterintuitive, but oversaturation of ads is recognized as one of the leading causes of a poor user experience (think: less is more!). Beyond affecting user experience, ad oversaturation also reduces the impact and effectiveness of advertisements, increases ad-skipping, and can even negatively impact the user’s opinion of the advertiser.
On the other end of the spectrum, reducing the number of ads per user session increases the value of the ads in your app. This can help build positive relationships with advertisers, as no advertiser wants to fight to have their ad seen by relevant users. Limiting ad placements can also help retain users in the long-term – and maximize engagement – by cutting down on so-called “banner blindness”.
Though the ideal balance will differ from app to app, it is suggested that publishers cap the frequency of ads per user session at 3 to 4 for a maximum of around 10 per day per user.
The right place, the right time:
The final step of implementing any in-app monetization strategy is ad placement optimization. Placement optimization is a combination of both 1) using ad units in the correct way; and 2) identifying the different user flows within an app.
Optimization by App Activity:
One of the most basic ways to optimize ad placements for monetization in an app is to identify natural breaks points and note where users spend the most time within the app. For example, interstitial ads and video ads are best used in natural app break points, such as after a game level is completed or a user has completed a task. This way, these specific ad units don’t disrupt the user’s flow; the ads even can serve as space filler on loading screens to keep users engaged with the overall experience.
It can also be beneficial to take the context of the user’s actions into account when triggering interstitial or video ads. For example, if a user has just failed to complete a game level after a few tries, it may not be the best time to show an ad. Following a negative experience with an advertisement will only amplify the negative experience, and the user is much less likely to engage and may even associate the negative experience with the advertiser. The best time to show an ad like this would be after the user has “accomplished” something in the app, tapping into their positive emotions to create an overall positive ad experience.
Banner ads, however, can be inserted into almost any app screen. Of course, this can tempt many publishers into putting them on every screen. In reality, however, banner ads work best when placed on the screens where users spend most of their time, like on menu screens, results screens, and settings screens for multi-screen apps or on the main screen for apps like live wallpapers or stock tickers. If an app’s main menu or settings menu has multiple screens, publishers should consider keeping the banner on each screen without reloading to increase ad awareness and reduce load time.
When it comes to the physical ad placement, in most cases, publishers won’t see a major increase or decrease in engagement when deciding whether to place a banner on the bottom or the top of the screen; the most important consideration when it comes to banner ad placement is keeping the ad away from any major app controls.
Case Study: Pre-Activity Ads
For some applications, particularly non-gaming apps, publishers can have a difficult time finding the right place to show an ad – especially interstitial ads, which are more likely to engage users. This was the case with Mercy Apps*, a StartApp publisher with conservative users who aren’t receptive to aggressive advertising. Looking to increase revenue without breaking up the user experience, Mercy Apps opted to add pre-activity interstitial ads.
Shown before the user evens begins engaging with the app experience, pre-activity interstitials are an easy way for non-gaming publishers to add more engaging rich media to their ad strategies than simple banner ads allow. Below, Mercy Apps added the pre-activity ad at the end of March:
After 3 months, at the end of May, Mercy App’s revenue on StartApp’s platform had increased by almost 50%, outpacing the growth in impressions, and continued to remain steady over the following months.
*Publisher name changed
The Bottom Line
Timing, placement, and ad type must all work together – within the context of an app’s specific content capability and audience profile.
For more on choosing the right ad units for your monetization strategy and how to engage different user segments, check out our whitepaper: In-App Advertising & the User Experience