• In-App Monetization

How to Choose the Best App Monetization Platform for In-App Advertising

Matt Kaplan
Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
5 min read
Posted on April 09, 2019
How to Choose the Best App Monetization Platform for In-App Advertising

In order to maximize in-app ad revenues, it pays to have the best app monetization platform in place.

But with lots of options out there, how do you choose the best one for your app? How do you make sure a chosen platform will bring in the best advertisers and most optimal revenue?

Before choosing an advertising solution, be sure to ask these 15 crucial questions.

1) Who Do Their Monetization Solutions Prioritize?

There are a lot of different players within the mobile app advertising ecosystem, from agency trading desks and demand-side platforms to third-party verification providers, supply-side platforms and everyone else in between. When it comes to priorities and core areas of focus, each one will have slightly different wants and needs.

Ideally, an app monetization platform is primarily focused on your revenue and retention goals, but isn’t adversarial with the myriad other supply chain players.

2) Do They Specialize in Mobile Devices and Apps, or Are They Device Agnostic?

Some monetization platforms aim to be a catch-all solution, encompassing websites, apps and even digital billboards and connected television sets. But as the old saying goes, “a jack of all trades is a master of none.”

In the digital advertising space, there are significant differences between websites and apps - and even between mobile web and mobile apps. Often, it can be beneficial to choose a partner with deep expertise in your chosen realm.

3) Do They Work with All Kinds of Mobile Apps, or Just Specific Categories Like Mobile Games?

Again, it’s beneficial to work with a monetization platform with expertise and experience that’s directly related to your app and what you’re trying to accomplish. Different types of apps are used very differently, and your selected monetization partner should know how to optimize advertising for your particular wants and needs.

For example, consider the differences between mobile games and utility apps (like apps for checking the weather or traffic). Someone will likely play a mobile game for at least a few minutes, whether on the couch or during their train or bus ride. In contrast, someone uses a utility app just to accomplish a particular task, and likely is only in the app for a few seconds.

Your chosen monetization platform should be able to help your app run and profit from only the best ads for you and users’ app experience.

4) What Mobile Advertisers Do They Work With?

Before you work with a monetization platform, make sure you know which advertisers they work with and what types of ads will likely be showing up in your app. Will you be getting only ads from major brands, or from new and emerging companies? A good monetization solution should be able to provide you with this level of oversight, control and transparency.

It can also help to determine what these advertisers think about your app and its users. Are advertisers willing to spend more than normal to reach your audience, or do they worry about their ads appearing next to questionable or objectionable content on your app?

5) What Ad Exchanges and Networks Do They Work With?

To truly access advertising demand at scale, you’ll likely need an ad exchange or ad network within your advertising supply chain. But not all exchanges and networks are alike. Some are very open and work on scale, while others are more selective about who they work with and how they buy placements. Make sure you know precisely which networks and exchanges your monetization platform is connected with before you begin working with them.

And, to be sure the platform is true to their word and not allowing any unauthorized reselling to occur at any point in the supply chain, be sure to implement an app-ads.txt file. By serving as a pre-ordained list, app-ads.txt specifies precisely who is allowed to buy and place ads on your app, helping to keep nefarious activity at bay.

6) What Ad Formats Do They Support?

While certain formats like banner ads and display ads are both among the easiest to insert into an in-app experience and among the most popular among advertisers, they also have some of the lowest per-impression costs. This means less potential revenue per ad placed.

In contrast, more immersive and interactive ad formats like native ads, rewarded video ads and 360-degree video ads with end cards provide a much better user experience alongside higher ad rates. But, not every app monetization platform works well with these more immersive ad formats.

Be sure to choose a partner that can support all of the ad formats you’re using now and the ones you may be interested in leveraging in the future. It can help to work with a platform that is constantly innovating, helping to push forward new, interesting and immersive formats as they become available.

7) How Do You Integrate With their Ad Servers?

Do they offer server-to-server connections for more effective testing and tracking? Does the ad server sit on their side, or do they only offer client-side hosting? Or do they provide hybrid options? Each one has its pluses and minuses, so be sure their integration options suit your needs.

And, be sure you know how the integration is occurring. API integrations are lighter and easier to integrate, but SDK integrations can be easier and more robust.

8) Do They Offer a Mediation Platform or Solution?

Depending on the scale you’re looking at and the amount of revenue you’d like to bring in, you may need to work with dozens of different ad sources - and associated SDKs. Many apps will have between 15 and 18 ad network/exchange SDKs in place.

If you’re looking at this kind of scale, then it can be helpful to have a mediation solution in place. A mediation platform consolidates all of these different SDKs and sources of demand into one single SDK. Not only will this make your app lighter and faster, but it will also save you time; instead of logging into dozens of different systems each day to track progress, you’ll only need one dashboard to see all of your key advertising and ad revenue information.

9) How Long Have They Been in Business? Are They Profitable?

While the mobile advertising and app monetization space is overall quite nascent, it can still be helpful to see how long they’ve been in business and if they are on stable financial ground. While a startup or new business can bring a lot to the table, the last you want is to be left high and dry should your core monetization platform go out of business.

10) How Do They Determine What Ads to Serve?

These are very critical questions that you need to have thorough and complete answers to before working with any monetization platform. Without this insight, you could find the app hosting poor quality ads or failing to provide full value to advertiser partners.

In the vast majority of instances, the ad network or exchange will determine who among the advertisers they work with is interested in running ads to particular types of users. But, in the choosing of the particular winner among many potential suitors, things can get a little tricky.

In situations in which multiple brands want to advertise to your app users, the logical choice would be to have all of them compete in a real-time auction and then the highest bidder wins. But, it’s not always as simple as that.

Many solutions and platforms use what’s known as a waterfall. Under such a system, different sources of advertising demand are placed in sequential order. The first source gets initial dibs on all potential advertising opportunities. Anything they can’t or won’t claim is presented to the next option in the predetermined chain. This daisy chain continues until the opportunity passes or until all options are claimed.

While waterfalls are still quite common, they are not optimal for app publishers and developers since they frequently lead to latency, suboptimal ad fill rates and lower per-impression prices for ads.

A mobile ad auction, however, ideally functions just like one on eBay or at Sotheby’s. Everyone gets the same chance to compete all at the same time, and the highest bidder wins.

11) What Auction Mechanics Do They Use?

While auctions are becoming more common in the world of in-app advertising, not all auctions operate under the same rules. The classic auction is what’s known as a First Price Auction, but not all auctions work that way.

For a long time, Second Price Auctions were common in digital advertising. Under such a scenario, the highest bidder only pays one cent more than the second-highest bidder. So if one advertiser bids $10 and another bids $7, then the winning bidder would only end up paying $7.01 for the opportunity to advertise within your app.

This isn’t the only option out there either. Some monetization platforms will use Bid Shading, which attempts to split the difference between the outcome of a First Price Auction and a Second Price Auction.

The type of auction mechanic used can dramatically affect the overall price an advertiser will pay to run ads on your app. Considering how this can dramatically impact revenue, it behooves you to know precisely the mechanics and systems in place in a potential monetization platform.

12) Do They Use Historical or Real-Time Ad Pricing?

Not all monetization platforms are able to use real-time, in-the-moment prices in their ad serving mechanisms, leaving them reliant on historical prices. Historic pricing is easier to figure out, but just because an advertiser was willing to pay one price for an advertising opportunity yesterday doesn’t mean they’re willing to pay the same price today.

13) Do They Offer Any Cross Promotion Opportunities for User Acquisition? Can They Help Expand Your Audience Network?

In the mobile app world, user acquisition is a never-ending uphill struggle. The best apps never sit on their laurels, and they are always striving to both grow their audience and better please their existing users.

Sometimes, the same platform that helps you monetize your app through advertising can also help you acquire more users through advertising. While such synergy is certainly not the main thing to look out for, it can prove enormously useful down the road nonetheless.

14) Do They Offer Any Dedicated Customer Support?

Chances are good that at some point during the lifespan of your app, an issue will arise or a significant conundrum will emerge. During this proverbial fork in the road, where will you turn for help?

Many monetization platforms are just that: a platform, and nothing else besides that. Unless you have significant in-house expertise and technical acumen on in-app advertising and app monetization, it’s likely you’ll benefit from dedicated support from a chosen solutions provider.

But how do you determine just how effective their customer support teams will be once the contract is signed? Including uptime and support into the details of the deal can be beneficial. Be sure also to check out peer reviews to see what other app publishers and developers have to say.

15) Do They Offer In-App Header Bidding?

By allowing multiple sources of demand to immediately and quickly compete against each other for the privilege of running ads against your users, you can make more money and provide a more seamless user experience. According to our 2018 in-app header bidding survey, the technology is proven to both increase revenue and decrease ad load times.

When reviewing a monetization, be sure to do your due diligence as it relates to in-app header bidding. Do they have their own header bidding wrapper, or are they participating in the unified auctions facilitated by others? How many demand-side partners are part of the header bidding solution, and at what point in the waterfall are these auctions occurring? Make sure the header bidding solution can be seamlessly implemented within your app, that it’s aggregating demand from major advertisers and that auctions occur as early on as possible.

16) What Are Their Plans for the Future? How Are They Pushing the Industry Forward?

The mobile advertising space moves quickly. Trends come and go, and new technologies emerge at breakneck speed and disrupt business as usual.

During the consideration phase of the platform search, try to glean as much information as possible about both how they see the industry evolving and what they in particular are doing to push the ecosystem in a direction they think is more beneficial and productive.

Are you in alignment with them on their proposed direction and push? Ideally, you’re not working with a monetization platform for just a few months, so make sure you’re on the same page as them for the future as well as the present.

About The Author

In addition to being a tech enthusiast and avid user of over 40 iPhone apps, Matt Kaplan is a savvy digital marketer and writer with over a decade of experience working to support the content goals of some of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices.

Additional posts by Matt:

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