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10 great ways to maximize app eCPMs and revenue.

Apr 17,2013 by Richard O'Connell


App developers often ask us, "How can I make more money from my app"?

There was once a time when you would need literally millions of impressions of mobile ads before you would make anything near enough to support an app development business. Times are changing though and app advertising is maturing to the point that you don't need to have an app the size of Angry Birds to make a good money from advertising alone.

Here we explain 10 methods you can implement right now to boost mobile eCPMs, increase app advertising revenue and deliver better ROI for your android and iOS apps. 

1. Think recommendations. Not ads.

Game Recomendation

In-game ads are a sacrifice players are willing to put up with to play a game or use an app for free. But does it always need to be a sacrifice? We continuously improve on our recommendation engine to ensure we pair up apps that perform well together and produce the highest conversion rates. Users are served ads for games they'll more likely take interest in which ends up giving publishers higher eCPMs and app revenues.

If the system is built to show ads that users are more likely to install, then it makes sense to let the user know this is a form of recommendation. This is a trick that advertisers use to increase their conversion rates (see above image for example), but it's something publishers can build into their app for increasing eCPMs too. To do this, use ad formats that feel part of the discovery process and suggest them in ways that make sense for users at the points in the game they'll be most receptive to a suggestion.

Instead of just popping out a full screen interstitial when your player decides to exit the app, why not also give the player the options for looking at new apps at traditional game exit points?


  • "Game Over? Why don't you try a new game?"
  • "You just reached level 34. Isn't that enough for today? Check out one of these new games." 
  • "You've been playing for over 30 minutes! Why don't you have a rest give one of these free games a try?"

2. Everyone's a loser with banner ads. Ditch them.

AppFlood banner performance: March 21st - March 28th 2013


Everyone hates banners. They take up screen real estate limiting what you can actually see in your game. They're distracting, annoying and more often than not they'll get in the way of whatever you're actually trying to do. They're almost never clicked on and will never gain your app publicity. App users become frustrated and in the end you barely make any money from them. Us fat thumbed gamers that do click on then have usually done so by accident.

With AppFlood, we provided banners as an option because some of our app developers still insist they need them but we're thinking of removing them entirely from AppFlood and this is why: eCPMs of just 2 cents.

To put this figure into perspective, it would take 50,000 impressions before you made $1.

1,000,000 impressions to make $20.

Banners - your time is up. It's time to die. Avoid them like the plague.

3. We love app lists. Average eCPMs over $4.50 

AppFlood App List Performance: March 21st - March 28th 2013

App List

The best performing ad format on AppFlood has to be the App List with a network average eCPM of around $4.50 in recent weeks.

With App Lists, a simple list of apps is presented in a view familiar to anyone who's ever downloaded an app from an App Store (ie. just about anyone). All the apps presented to users are recommended using AppFlood's App Match™ engine and there are a whole bunch of apps to choose from so users are more likely to find something that meets their tastes. This leads to some rather nice average CTRs between 15 to 20%.

On top of that, the increased confidence in selecting an app from a list of many means there's a higher chance of an install once users choose which app they want to check out. In the case of this particular ad format installs averaged 1 for every 3.5 clicks.

50,000 impressions for this ad format will net you $225 at $4.50 eCPM. 

1,000,000 impressions will get you $4500.

4. Choose networks that make realistic claims 


Everyone hates the Marketing guy don't they? By the way some of my industry colleagues make claims about eCPMs, I don't blame them. Everyone's under pressure to make an impression and you'll see plenty of sites out their promising eCPMs over $30, in some cases even over $100! Until recently I'll even admit that we've been focussing on the higher end of AppFlood publisher performance at around $10. While eCPMs over $30 is certainly possible in some cases, the volume of impressions is usually so low that it's not even worth mentioning. $100 eCPM you say? That's great, It's a shame you only had 100 impressions that day...

100$ ecpmAt AppFlood we're not going to make ridiculous claims. Some of our ad formats average almost $5.00 eCPM. In rare cases we've seen some rare apps get over $10 eCPM. If you see a claim of over $10, take it with a huge pinch of salt. The reality is right now you can expect $2-4 eCPM for an average game using some of the better performing ad formats. For an app that has mastered the art of recommendation with clever integrations of the right ad formats then $10e eCPM is difficult to achieve but possible.

So whatever networks you choose, don't fall for bullshit or you might be in for a nasty shock!

5. Cut out any middleman fees

middle man

One no-brainer is to simply avoid paying commissions altogether. Ad networks generally take a cut of your transactions, but some have features that let you get around sharing your revenue. 

A few options to avoid commissions:

Direct deals. These have been popular in the past year and can be quite effective. Make sure you compare the direct deal offering of different networks. Some popular cross-promotion networks will limit the number of ads displayed in an app to just 1 a day, forcing excess inventory to be taken from their own commission based network. On AppFlood the only limit is the one you set when you create the deal

Cluster Deals. Similar in concept to direct deals except you trade within a specific agreed cluster of similar apps who have agreed to exclusively trade with one another. The benefit is there'll be more apps to serve to each other and so in theory there should be more mileage before the steam runs out. The downside is these can be very complicated to negotiate with multiple partners. This form of cluster cross-promotion is something to setup up quickly and simply with AppFlood.

6. Reduce the number of redirects ads go through before they're served in your app

Sometimes ad networks buy traffic from other sources and resell onto another network. This means there might be 2 or sometimes 3 middle men taking their cut between the advertiser and you. With so many networks taking a slice of your revenue pie, there might not be much left for you. In our own research, we've found that sometimes an ad goes through up to 4 sources before being served, leaving you with a whole lot less than you should be earning.

Not only might there be multiple middlemen taking a cut, you might also find that ads load cripplingly slow because of the number of redirects from network to network. If this is the case, most users will not tolerate waiting and simply hit the back button. This leads to a lower install rate, lower eCPM and even more lost revenue for your app.

In a recent test, we looked at one popular licensed fantasy game on AppFlood and compared the performance between different networks with varying redirect numbers.

  • No redirects (direct using AppFlood)
  • Two redirects
  • Three redirects


Clearly those extra layers of networks had a direct impact on average eCPM:

  • No redirects - $6.11 eCPM
  • Two redirects - $2.49 eCPM
  • Three redirects - $1.34 eCPM

With no redirects on AppFlood, the average eCPM was over 4 times higher than the eCPMs with three redirects.

7. Mix and match the right ad formats for your App

ad formats

While some ad formats generally perform badly all round, some ad formats lend themselves for particular app types. Let's take a browser as an example. Here's an app that may be opened only once every few days and when it is opened, users are often trying to find some kind of information fast. 

While an interstitial ad can snugly fit into exit points on an arcade style game to tempt users into their next dosage of time wasting fun, it might not be well suited for a web browser. One popular web browser app on AppFlood uses a rather unique method for integrating ads. Every app browser home screen has a shortcut leading direct to an app list page to try out some recommended apps. This app list is optimized to feel part of the browsers own. They also integrated notification ads which, although they didn't produce impressively high eCPMs, it almost doubled the amount of installs it produced, effectively doubling the app's earnings.

8. Connect to multiple networks and focus on best performers

multiple ad networksNot all networks are the same and you could find eCPMs vary greatly from network to network. Connecting to one network means you'll only ever be tied to the best performance of that network.

By connecting to multiple ad networks, you'll be able to see which ones perform best. You might also simply have incredibly high amounts of traffic flowing through your app and you just aren't able to supply enough of your ad inventory with one network. Unfortunately there are many mobile ad networks out there and integrating all the SDKs is not only near impossible but would also bloat the app's package size unnecessarily.

Luckily there are a number of publisher mediation platforms out there solving this issue by requiring just one SDK to monitor multiple networks. MoPub offers this this feature as does our cross-promotion network AppFlood. MoPub does come with a cost though and they'll eat into your revenues, taking a bigger cut the higher your impressions are. In addition they only employ archaic CPC and CPM models which we've continually seen outperformed by the cost per install model you'll find on AppFlood.

9. Block poorly performing apps

If the ad network you go through is transparent and lets you see which apps are providing you traffic plus the performance on those individual apps, you'll find some apps perform better than others. This makes sense if you think about it. Some apps might have poorly created ad creative, perhaps your users aren't really a good match for particular apps and in some cases the app just might not be very interesting at all.

AppFlood has some pretty brainy technology that tries to figure this out for itself and match up apps that generate higher eCPMs for each other. In some cases though you might want to go through and just block certain apps yourself.

ecpm blockOn the AppFlood dashboard you can currently do this. Just go in, click on the tab and you'll be able to see all the apps buying installs from yours. You'll notice some will perform way better than others. Block those that have the highest volume of traffic but the lowest eCPMs. Keep doing this until you reach a comfortable balance between eCPM and fill rate. Be careful not to let your fill rate drop - if it does just go back and unblock some of the better apps.

By doing this your eCPM should creep up as you'll be serving more ads from those apps that perform better in yours.

10. Simply ask for better terms

Filter out poor performing apps

It sounds too simple to work but it does. If you use an ad network that clearly lets you see exactly which apps are displaying in yours, you could just go direct to the app developer and ask them to increase their bid in exchange for some kind of commitment from your side such as an agreed percentage of traffic. 

Now this would be almost impossible to achieve on most ad networks since advertisers will have little control over how much they pay per install for a particular app but it's something that can easily be achieved using a direct deal or cluster deals. We'll also soon be releasing new AppFlood features that give complete transparency on performance between your app and every other app that provides you traffic through the network and then lets you communicate directly with all your advertisers and set individual terms on a per app basis. Watch this space!  

Bonus tip: It's not always about eCPMs

Ok, so this one isn't really about boosting your eCPMs but it's an important concept to understand. While high eCPMs are one good indication that you're performing well, it's not guaranteed. If you have high eCPMs but low impression volume then the high eCPM is pretty much pointless. The reverse can also be said but a low eCPM.  

Are low eCPMs always bad? Not necessarily.

If your eCPMs are low for a particular ad format, but your overall impressions are higher, then you may actually make just as much money from that ad format as a "high eCPM" ad format. Here's the thing. While ad formats like the interstitials and app lists convert a higher rate of impressions into installs, the impressions are likely to be lower than another ad format such as banners.

So does this mean our earlier banner bashing was pointless? Not in this case.

The eCPM for app lists was 76 times more than a banner in March this year. This means a banner would need 76 times as many impressions (!) as the app lists to have the same revenue (Assuming CPI remains the same). In the case of banners, this is just too tall an order, but for other ad formats a lower eCPM could still result in comparable or even greater revenue.

In a particular board game app on AppFlood, notification eCPMs were a third lower than interstitials but the total impressions were about three times greater meaning the revenue generated by each ad format was about the same. And since both of these ad formats were integrated it had a net result of doubling the app's revenue.

For a detailed look at this example, our CEO Shen Si has a detailed write up on this push notification example on her personal blog.

What next:

At PapayaMobile we build apps. We monetize them and we promote them. We're app developers ourselves and we understand the struggles in an ever increasingly competitive app market. We've used, tested, monetized from and spent budgets on most of the ad networks and cross-promotion platforms out there but they all lacked one thing or another.

So we built one ourselves.

AppFlood is our gift to the mobile development community, the only commission-free cross-promotion network that is upfront, honest and completely transparent. We benefit from AppFlood just like you guys do. The more that discover the benefits of transparent, commission-free cross-promotion then the more success we will find together.

If you want to check out some of the other players, you should see who we feel are the best 50 mobile ad networks currently... aside from AppFlood of course ;)

Or you can learn out how to calculate eCPMs on your own.

Read this in Chinese. 提高应用收入和eCPM的10个有效途径


TAGGED IN: research ecpm

Richard O'Connell

Richard is the Global Marketing Director for PapayaMobile, a cross platform social gaming network for Android and iOS. He has six years’ experience successfully marketing global digital and mobile brands in the Europe, Asia and the US. He now leads PapayaMobile’s global marketing efforts including strategy, branding, mobile marketing, digital, PR and community management with a team of 9 spanning both the US and China. Google +