Winning With Mobile App User Acquisition In A UAC-Only World

By Sharon Zimlichman

The app marketing space is currently undergoing a fundamental shift, with all app campaigns running through Google’s ecosystem are set to be Universal App Campaign (UAC) from now on.

While change can be disconcerting, a UAC-only world may well prove to be a better world for app marketers. After following the shift closely in recent months, we see Google’s wholehearted embrace of UAC as a tremendous opportunity for mobile app marketers in their user acquisition efforts. This article explains why, and more importantly how UAC could be beneficial for you. 

Mobile app promotion on Google: What’s changed?

As you know, until recently you had four options for marketing your app: search ad campaigns, YouTube campaigns, display campaigns through AdMob and Universal App Campaigns. Last August, Google announced that the shift to a UAC-only model would be mandatory.

Rather than configuring the parameters for each type of campaign like previous options, for UAC campaigns you simply supply ad copy, a starting bid and budget, and specify your targeting (locations and languages).

From there, Google’s systems take the ad creative from your app store listing and creates series of ads based on your inputs. It tests different combinations of ads, analyzes their effectiveness and optimizes for top performing ads. It is essentially a metaphorical “black box” that accepts input from marketers and outputs ads. The analysis and optimizations occur inside that black box.

Five ways to succeed with UAC

According to Google, around half of all app downloads across its networks are being driven by UAC. This certainly indicates that the model works, and Google is now pushing the industry forward. Meanwhile, our clients have started seeing impressive results from their UAC campaigns. For example, we worked with Pixelberry Studios to drive a 250% increase in their ROAS with a UAC for Actions campaign.

Successfully navigating this transition and thriving in this brave, new UAC only world depends, to a degree, on your approach. We’ve prepared a few tips to help you through this process based on our experience working with AI-driven ad campaign optimization.

1. Optimize your creative more effectively

In a world where all of the ad optimization is managed by efficient AI “black boxes” like Google UAC and Bidalgo AI, your competitive advantage will come from the assets you feed into the AI. Good ad creative can have a dramatic impact on your campaigns’ success so it’s critical that you pay adequate attention to this aspect of your UAC too.

You have various ad formats to choose from: video, static images, animated gifs, and playable ads. Make sure you test each format in different contexts to determine which formats will work best in each context.

Each ad format has different specifications that include orientation (landscape or vertical), proportions, and media types. Where possible, create variations of each format for likely placements. This gives Google more options to choose from and test.

With more creative platforms and content than ever, it’s increasingly difficult to know what makes“good creative.” This is where our Creative AI solution comes in..

Creative AI can help you understand what “good creative” is, and uses your data to inspire your best creative work. Combined with our creative studio, we can help you produce highly optimized creative that enhances the effectiveness of your UAC campaigns. It can also allow you to also see how your creative performs across multiple other channels like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and more. If you’re reviewing just Google creative, you can also create a UAC Asset Report to receive valuable insights into how your creative performs on Google properties. Your creative is ranked based on its effectiveness.

In a sense, we can help you shorten the UAC learning curve, and reach the point where you see improved returns from better creative, sooner.

2. Find your ideal bid/budget ratio

One of Google’s minimum bid to budget ratio requirement is 1:10. In other words, your budget should be ten times your bid. The challenge is finding the right ratio that strikes a balance between bidding enough to reach higher quality auctions, and not burning through your budget too quickly.

Ultimately, you’re aiming for good results that scale over a longer period of time. If you don’t have enough budget, you don’t have enough volume to produce adequate results, and you have less chance of achieving your goals.

Know your industry benchmarks, your goals, and experiment on an informed basis. If you’re not familiar with these benchmarks, we can guide you.

3. Provide Google with better signals using smarter targeting choices

Bundle countries with similar CPA rates

In UAC campaigns, you bid based on your conversion goals. Because of this, it’s important to group your target geos based on similar CPAs. For example, you may want to group Tier 1 countries for one campaign because your CPAs for those countries tend to be similar.

Doing this gives Google’s systems better signals that, in turn, better inform how they optimize your campaigns. This is because they don’t have to cater for substantive variations in CPAs, in addition to other optimization criteria. This likely makes for a “cleaner” analysis and better quality results.

Ensure there is enough event data to inform UAC analysis

Like most marketers, you are probably focused on purchase events as your ultimate goal. The challenge with this focus is that it necessarily limits the number of conversion events that inform Google’s analysis of your campaign’s effectiveness.

The solution here is to optimize against a wider range of events that correlate with higher LTVs and/or higher ROAS. By doing so, you are sending higher quality signals that also align with your ultimate objectives.

Of course, this is an area where Bidalgo can add tremendous value too. We have substantial quantities of data that we have aggregated across multiple campaigns, and that can inform meaningful LTV analyses.

A related recommendation is to create a balanced blend of UACs that optimize towards both in-app events and installs in order to more effectively influence overall CPIs.

For example, Google recommends that when you optimize for in-app actions, that you “pick ones that happen more than 10 times a day per campaign and set a budget that’s at least 10 times your target CPA”.

Optimizing for different events can be a helpful way to better manage your CPIs. Again, this requires some experimentation over time.

4. Understanding the user experience is crucial

Much of what determines the success of your creative is how well you understand the user experience impact. Our wealth of experience with user experience testing and optimization certainly attests to this.

What we’ve learned is just how crucial it is to understand how differently audiences respond to different ad formats on different placements. For example, a consumer’s response to a video ad on YouTube can be very different to how another consumer responds to an in-app ad.

On YouTube, you already have your viewer’s attention so your ad needs to be more informative. On the other hand, an ad in an app first needs to capture the user’s attention and persuade her to step out of the app to learn more about your offering.

These nuances often influence your campaigns’ success, including UAC-driven campaigns, so it’s important to pay careful attention to these dynamics.

5. Patience is a virtue

It’s tempting to think that results will be immediate given that this is Google. The reality is that even Google’s advanced systems need time to learn which ad combinations and formats will be effective.

Similar to Bidalgo AI, UAC is based on Google’s machine learning algorithms. It takes time (typically a few days to a week or two) for Google to collect enough data to reach that sweet spot when it’s driving higher conversions while hitting your targets.

Like any smart system, it takes some time to train Google’s systems to recognize which campaigns will be more effective based on your requirements. Once you’ve passed that initial learning curve, you’ll start seeing results from your UAC.

Thrive in a UAC-only world

Google’s bold march into a UAC-only world translates into a substantial change for the industry. That said, the initial challenge is to better understand how to help the system understand your audiences and optimize your campaigns accordingly.

A new paradigm awaits you on the other side of that learning curve and, with it, the promise of improved conversions and campaign performance. With our experience in various aspects of AI-driven campaigns, Bidalgo can successfully guide you through this process.


Published on November 14, 2017
Written by
Sharon Zimlichman

Product Manager @ Bidalgo.

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