How To Efficiently Buy Mobile Traffic Using CPI Networks


Alexey Pisarevsky has more than 6 years experience in the mobile industry. A marketer with a mathematical education, Alexy graduated from the faculty of applied mathematics in MIPT, Russia. From the beginning of 2013 he became the CEO of Mobio, a full-service mobile app marketing platform. In this interview he talks about efficiently buying mobile traffic, how to analyse its quality and more.  You can download the ebook here. 

This is the second part of the article about mobile traffic buying and optimization based on the eBook of the same name. In this part we talk about the right way to use CPI networks and efficiently buy traffic.

  1. Set up your  tracker to register each source’s ID separately.

It is important to understand that a CPI network is an aggregator of a multitude of sources, each of them works differently and delivers different results. So you want to make sure your stats show each source’s ID so you can assess the quality of traffic by source and not by the whole network.

  1. Popular trackers have the following variables available for registering sub_id:
  • Appsflyer — «c» or «af_siteid»
  • MobileAppTracking — sub1
  • Adjust — campaign
  • ADXtracking — subid
  1. Have a daily cap for each source

Set a daily cap when launching a CPI campaign. This way you’ll be able to control the traffic and abandon inefficient sources. Important: set a limit for each affiliate and not the network in general. It’s a common practice for advertisers to set a cap for a network, like 200 installs a day. This is not the best approach, it allows the network to enable just 1-2 sources and deprives you of the opportunity to optimize traffic.

A better solution is to set a daily cap for each affiliate, say, 50-100 installs a day, and make the overall daily limit greater, some 1,000 installs a day. This way the network can spread your campaign over 10-20 sources and eventually leave only those that are working.

  1. Optimize the traffic step-by-step

Here is the general routine covering your network-powered CPI campaign:

  • Enable a number of sources simultaneously.
  • At the outset, set a daily cap for each of them, something like 100 installs a day.
  • On the second day you will already see the conversion rate for the first event of your funnel. For example, you have a healthy percentage of those who got through the tutorial, say, 70%. This is the picture you get:

1 — keep it in the campaign, the conversion is healthy

2 — the conversion rate is slightly below the desired level but still ok, it is too early to disable this source

3 — the rate is significantly below the desired level, it would be wise to disable this source. In due time, however, you should revisit it and check its performance in view of other conversion funnel events. If it’s good enough, you might want to try the source again.

4, 5 and 6 — the rates are significantly below the threshold, but there is little data yet so it is best to go on with them. On second thought, source 4 is on the brink, it is most likely hopeless.

  • This analysis should be a part of your daily routine, its results will show you which sources can be cut off.
  • After 7 days you will have enough data to measure sources against the next event, for example, 7th day deposit. Again, you can disable the most ineffective sources at this stage, but remember that any conclusion now requires more installs. If you see, say, only a hundred installs and no payments, it would be wise to continue until you have more data.

Thus, you can cut off sources of traffic that bear no fruit at all at the outset, spending almost no money on them. As for the sources that make no particular impression, you can keep them on the condition of paying them a close attention.

The sources that achieve your KPI’s can be scaled and their caps raised. Those delivering the traffic of outstanding quality can have their CPI payouts increased.

  1. How many networks should I use?

Advertisers often work with a number of networks. Include only as many networks as you can control, that is the rule of thumb. Remember, to have a network delivering the results you need to analyze the traffic it brings. If you load up about twenty network contracts onto the shoulders of one specialist consider the campaign out of control.

Many networks offer analytical and optimization tools that can be set automatically or adjusted manually. Use those tools! Transfer the event data to the network via postback or send over the Excel spreadsheets, help the network serve you better.

You can also choose one network and work with it exclusively. This approach has some clear advantages:

  • With an exclusive contract, the network can open up you its sources.
  • You’re saving your marketers’ time and labour since there is only one network to work with
  • With an exclusive contract, the precise targeting for your campaign is the network’s top priority

However, picking an exclusive partner should be a balanced and thought-out decision. If you are just starting to buy traffic, there is little point in signing exclusive contracts with anyone.

  1. It is important to understand how the networks work

The majority of traffic sources overlap to a considerable extent, contact the same audience from different points. Even if the network offers its own exclusive traffic, the trick is to master the skill of buying it, optimizing and getting positive ROI as a result.

The networks have a huge number of sources (partners, affiliates, webmasters) that supply them with traffic. Those sources vary from website and mobile application owners that offer ad placement in their products and get paid for installs to media buyers (arbitrage) who buy clicks from public networks and convert them into installs. The network’s job is to properly manage and optimize those sources.

  1. What’s a good CPI?

A common mistake made by advertisers: they approach networks and ask them what their CPI is. The networks provide some estimates, then advertisers compare them and eventually decide that this network offers lower install price than the other.

In fact, all networks utilize the auction principle: the higher the CPI, the greater the volume of traffic. Therefore, you can start a campaign with any cost. But of course, if you set a too low install price you will not get any traffic at all. Indirectly, CPI also affects the quality of traffic: the higher the cost, the more expensive sources you can buy, the better the traffic.

Rule of thumb here is to start with a competitive but not high CPI and then monitor the results. If you don’t get sufficient volumes of traffic, you can gradually increase the cost. But keep in mind that no network can pour traffic on your mill the next day, they all need time to warm up.

From country to country, CPI differs greatly. For example, in the US or UK the install price can be five times higher than in the developing regions such as Brazil or India.

It is also important to understand that different types of applications have different CPI, and that difference can be multifold. If you do not know the competitive install price on a particular market, ask a number of networks to share an adequate estimate with you and start with the one that is closer to the lower limit.

After you decide upon the cost, offer equal conditions to all networks you plan to work with. Otherwise you will not be able to compare their performance.

  1.  Can I pick CPA and pay only for actions performed in the app and not the installs?

It is important to understand that it is not just networks that have to compete. Advertisers also need to win the network’s business, compete with each other for high-quality traffic. Network’s partners can get numerous offers from various advertisers, and they choose those that are profitable to them. If you pay only for in-app actions, the majority of partners will be cautious about your offer since they don’t know what to expect of it.

However, if the action takes place fairly quickly and you offer competitive payments, you can successfully launch CPA campaigns. Experienced advertisers that know their conversions rates well and have been buying traffic for a long time can practice this approach.

If you are a beginner, stick with the CPI model. Later on you’ll be able to measure the performance and switch to CPA.

  1. Dealing with fraud and incentivized installs

The most common type of fraud is bringing incentivized traffic to your app and disguising it as unincentivized. The best you can do to combat such fraud is to correctly configure analytics and continuously analyze traffic. The indicators will give the fraud away quickly and efficiently, and you’ll simply cut off the source.

It is important to understand that the network itself is interested in supplying traffic of highest quality and does its share of fraud combat. Detecting a partner that supplies fraudulent traffic is a shared responsibility of the advertiser and the network. Of course, sometimes the network might intensionally add some incentivized traffic to a campaign, but such actions never stay hidden for long, and you may simply refuse to work with such networks once you have found it out.

Some partners can even fraudulently increase the number of actions performed in the app, but this is quite a complicated process, the labour is manual and consequently unscalable.

An outstanding conversion into installations is another reason to scrutinize the source. Incentivized traffic typically shows the conversion rate of 50% and more. Smarter partners deliberately decrease the conversion rate by adding a lot of cheap clicks, but only few webmasters can manage that properly. Get an hourly click and install report and check it: if the clicks peak sharply every now and then, you should check the source.

Also, it won’t hurt to check the IP addresses associated with installs every now and then. If you see a lot of installs with identical or nearly identical IPs, you probably have software fraud on your hands, it can be done with Android apps. You can leave this kind of traffic unpaid.

  1. Making your offer attractive for the affiliates

Competitive price of an install is important, but it’s not everything. There are other things you need to remember to make an offer appealing to the partners:

  • You cannot start and stop traffic instantly, it takes time. Typical period allocated for such operations is 48 hours, that is enough to inform all the partners and shut off sources without any problems.
  • Keep tracking in your app functional all the time. If something goes wrong and the system stops registering conversions, the partners start loosing money and switch to other offers.
  • It is better to detail rules applicable to an offer in advance (prohibited sources, unallowed creatives etc). It will make your position safer and eliminate the possibility of unpleasant surprises for the partners (e.g. when they don’t get the money for traffic from a prohibited source).
  • A good move is to let the network know the KPIs you have for the traffic. The network can relay the info to the partners and they will understand how the traffic they supply is assessed.
  • In most cases, you should not outlaw using a source that you have been using on your own. For example, you can work with Google Adwords and get a lot of cheap installs from there, and it is unlikely that the partners would get better results from that source. But if you have little luck with Google Adwords, the partners just might bring you high-quality users at a reasonable price from there.

Visit the Mobio website here for more or you can download the ebook here.