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The numbers on mobile app install ads are so strong (check out this revenue trend) that you might rush to run your first such ad campaign, fold your arms smugly across your chest, and wait for the installs to flood in.

And if they don’t? Well, then you do what digital advertisers have been doing with ads for well over a decade: optimize, beginning with the creative itself.

In this post, I’ll walk you through some fundamental best practices for mobile app install creatives, including formats, copy/messaging, images vs. text, and more. (Big hat tip to Facebook’s primer on the same subject.)

 

Rule #1: ABT (Always Be Testing)

Again, this is a maxim that’s been proven true over and over again with any digital ads. With app ads, there are a lot of variables to test (though remember to test one variable at a time, not multiple variables at once):

-The features of the creative itself: layout, design, call to action, colors, etc.

-Format type

-How can you incorporate video? It’s the fastest-growing channel in mobile, after all, with tons of potential influence in driving specific user actions

-What types of banners, display ads, and native units can you develop?

-Are you incorporating search ads in your portfolio?

 

While you’re testing, be sure to include targeting in the mix. Create isolated and relative testing scenarios (e.g. target only iPhone users, then only iPad users, then only Android users, etc.).

Eventually, you’ll begin to understand user behavior more intimately and can optimize not only your creative but the supporting spend to different audience segments. And once you get your testing cycles in place, be prepared to adjust quickly; one of the joys of mobile is that you can often get real-time results, and those may call out for real-time optimizations.

 

Rule #2: Simplicity Reigns

Never make the user guess what he/she is supposed to do or why he/she should do it.

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Use simple, big, bold CTAs (always say “Install”) and incentives early in the description of your app to help your app stand out. And make sure to cite your app’s USP (unique selling proposition), e.g. “Get 2x the coins when you install today.”

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Rule #3: Images Beat Text

Less text = more engagement. But before you writer types out there despair, remember that it takes greater skill to pack a punch in a sentence than it does in a paragraph.

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The mobile screen is small, and the mobile user’s attention span is short. Most networks force you to respect users’ time with strict policies that limit text to just 20-30% of any image you use in an ad. This best practice serves a dual purpose that will increase your engagement and keep your ads compliant.

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Use your text to call out key features of the app. And remember to include App store info (ratings and stars) to legitimize your offering to the user.

As for the image, always include either a screenshot of what the app looks like in use OR clear visuals relating to the app’s USP.

 

Links/Resources

Of course, this is just dipping a toe into the big world of app install ad optimization. More of my favorite links:

-Great primer on the types of creative/network placements/formats, complete with an awesome, bookmark-me-now cheat sheet of top ad platforms and their requirements

-Some great gaming-related examples

5 common mistakes to avoid at all costs

Good luck!