One of the biggest differences between marketing campaigns across browser websites versus campaigns across mobile apps is the tracking methodology.

The standard tracking methods used in the online advertising world – URL parameters, cookies, and pixels – unfortunately do not translate to the mobile world. When it comes to mobile advertising, there is always a question regarding attribution methodology. In the mobile space, attribution refers to the measurement of user events – an app install, repeat app launch, level completion, in app purchase, etc. – that are a result of marketing activity.

The Evolution of Mobile App Attribution

As the methodologies of attribution has evolved, marketers have had to stay up to date with the changes. Previously, mobile app marketers ran into an issue of tracking the performance of their app campaigns. Mobile app marketers had to install multiple SDKs – one from every marketing partner – to be able to attribute installs and in-app events from their campaigns across each advertising partner. Due to the multiple SDKs, marketers were incurring 10% – 20% higher user acquisition costs, paying for the same install credited to different networks.

After analyzing reports and identifying duplicate installs and conversion events, many marketers scaled back to only run a few campaigns with advertising partners for less overlap. Working with fewer partners meant a reduction of duplicate payouts, however it’s not a viable solution for scaling marketing campaigns.

Today, mobile app marketers work with mobile analytics partners to handle the attribution – at scale – across their organic and paid marketing campaigns.

The Importance of Proper Attribution

There are many issues that can come up without proper attribution. The two biggest issues are inaccurate metrics and duplicate install data.

To help prevent inaccurate metrics, marketers should send postback data to their advertising partners to optimize campaigns based on app installs. Without this postback data, networks only know top line metrics, not revenue from marketing campaigns. Additionally, networks use different click-to-install look back periods which may vary the installs that are attributed. If one network has a look back period of 24 hours and another has a lookback period of 7 days, it’s likely that the latter network is taking credit for more installs.

When there are concurrent tracking methods in place, one user could be attributed to different marketing channels, depending on who you ask and when! If a user is interacting with ads from multiple networks, each network may take credit for the same install since there is no reconciliation for that install.

When advertisers work with only one advertising publisher, the problem of attributing the install event of your mobile app to the rightful promotion source isn’t a problem – if only one publisher is promoting your mobile app, then they are the only publisher that can be responsible for the install events of your app. The tracking works because when your mobile app is installed, the SDK the publisher has implemented within your app notifies them of the install.

However, now as advertisers start to diversify their campaigns and work with multiple publishers – potentially more than 200 – it isn’t so clear which one of those publishers is responsible for the install event of your mobile app. In this situation, the issue of duplicate attribution for installs arises. Since multiple publishers are promoting your mobile app, multiple SDKs (a different SDK for each publisher) will be notifying the respective publishers of the install event and therefore each one of those publishers will assume responsibility for being the promotion source. If you’re running campaigns, working with multiple publishers at the same time to promote your mobile app, how do you know who is truly responsible for the install event and subsequently which publisher should receive payment for generating that install?

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