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What is Mobile App Attribution & Why is it Important?

Jennifer Wong
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mobile-app-attribution

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.

mobile-app-tracking

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

  • Unique Identifier Matching: Attribution using unique identifiers is done by matching the unique identifiers from the install to a click. Unique identifier matching is an automated and real-time way of comparing clicks to installs instead of manually conducting the matching at the end of a week or month using Excel spreadsheets. Unique identifier matching enables 1:1 matching of click to install where identifiers can be passed app to app.
  • Device Fingerprinting: Device fingerprinting pulls basic and not 100 percent unique information from a user's device headers, including IP address, to connect a user from click to app install. Device fingerprinting works by redirecting a user through a tracking link and collects the publicly available HTTP headers about the device. This information is used to create a fingerprint about the click of the tracking link. When a user installs the mobile app, the SDK collects the same data points from within the mobile app and sends it to the platform. The platform generates the fingerprint of the install and then searches for clicks with the matching fingerprint. The last click with a matching fingerprint is then used to attributed the install.

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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