Apple’s SkADNetwork & iOS 15 | A helpful guide for Publishers

Apple’s SkADNetwork & iOS 15 | A helpful guide for Publishers

Post the IDFA Apocalypse, Apple’s upcoming launch for iOS 15 and SkAdNetwork updates will be bringing in a monetization option for publishers.

Every September, with the launch of the new iPhone series, Apple’s SKAdNetwork comes into focus for publishers, advertisers, and mobile marketers to test and see if it’s a lucrative ad-revenue generating stream.

In their current proposal regarding SKAdNetwork, Apple assumes the role of iOS’s app-install measurement provider, promoting marketing attribution safely and transparently.

What is SKAdNetwork and How SKAdNetwork works?

Apple’s SKAdNetwork has anonymized user-level data and eliminated app attribution since the iOS 14 launch.

It’s what keeps track of your CPI conversion rates and app-install campaign IDs; this is done by keeping user identity a secret.

The mystery lies in Apple’s ways of preserving your details sans user identifiers. App Store takes care of the attribution process and is later validated via Apple’s servers.

Finally, it is extracted and secluded from anything that may reveal user identity and any temporary details that the ad networks get after the postback ping.

SkAdNetwork Conversion Value Metrics | Working Explained

  1. User clicks on an ad that takes him/her to the app store
  2. The publishing app and the ad network pass the campaign id details and attribution parameters.
  3. If the click turns into a conversion i.e. an app download; App Store will notify the same to the advertising network with a post-back ping.
  4. All campaign details (publisher, ad network, campaign IDs, creatives, ad placement, etc.) are reported by Apple without sharing user information via postbacks
  5. Within the user’s privacy limits, the ad network is notified about all installs taking place.

Why should Publishers care about SKAdNetwork?

To plan ahead of time, you need to utilize the power of the SKAdNetwork especially if your ad revenue has been suffering from programmatic sources. It’s crucial to stay up to date with IOS programmed ad updates to always keep the ad revenue flowing in.

When it comes to SKAdNetwork, Apple does a lot of heavy lifting and tracking thereby saving time for advertisers who are regular buyers of the SKAdNetwork Inventory.

As iOS 15 adoptions will hit the mainstream soon, Android will spike their mobile app install ad spend over iOS. The ad networks that took the end of IDFA seriously and upgraded their prediction models for the big changes that the SKAdNetwork brought are growing market shares remarkably.

With iOS’s programmatic advertising; most of the revenue will come from SKAdNetwork Inventory, so it’s’ a no-brainer to use SKAdNetwork in 2021.

Apple Search Ads (ASA) saw a massive surge post the iOS 14 launch. The ad spends for skadnetwork campaigns doubled every week after that. However, we can’t just credit all of this to the iOS upgrade.

Apple also added a new update around May 2021 at the top of all search results. This tempted many advertisers to try it out. The latest skadnetwork Apple Search Ads is up about 25%.

 

What’s in it for your Advertisers?

All these IOS updates can impede advertisers’ strategies who heavily rely on ad campaign performance reporting tools to track budget, optimization metrics, etc.

While ASA does produce a decent ROI for the big players; its ad placements are simply not understood well among the smaller ad networks.

Open Questions for Advertisers:

  • How can I track conversion values/app?
  • What if there are errors in data collected from campaigns?
  • How will SKAdNetwork key metrics be assembled from all the participating ad networks?
  • How to get all the performance marketing insights summed up in one single dashboard?

With insufficient optimization levels to extract, advertisers will have to forget the traditional methods of acquiring user data and rely more on split testing and predictive modeling.

SKAdNetwork: Prep Plan

Brace yourselves for Apple’s latest iOS IDFA user-consent terms and conditions and look into the following key factors while keeping up with the ever-changing ad network requirements:

How will I get my Mobile Attribution Data?

For ad networks and developers, Mobile Attribution Data is going to get more segmented.

  • SKAdNetwork renders data to ad networks directly from Apple to all ios 14+ users (at the ad-campaign level)
  • The AppTrackingTransparency framework gives user-level data among iOS users who have no issues with being tracked (within user consent privacy parameters).

Utilizing SKAdNetwork to track conversions

To capture IDFAs or not? Many publishers assume that IDFA is slightly old-fashioned and disorganized to users. This is why many switched to using SKAdNetwork especially after the boost in usage of Apple Seach Ads since 2020.

How can I get the best out of SKAdNetwork and mobile app attribution?

Add these to your checklist:

  • For Advertising Networks: Sign every ad campaign aptly after registering with Apple
  • For the signature to surmount the OS, the source app has to indicate Operating System that each ad-click is admissible.
  • For Advertised Apps: It’s important to specify that these apps were launched and find out the quality of users per campaign through user activity.

SKAdNetworks’ Wins

More Privacy: Since Apples’ new App Tracking Transparency feature launch in iOS 15, users can decide if they want to be tracked across apps.  Websites like Facebook have been secretly tracking user buying behavior, likes, and interests for ages to use this data in Facebook ads. With SKAdNetwork 2.0,

Apple guarantees app install campaign conversions within privacy parameters.

Reduced Ad Fraud (for now at least): Apple strictly looks into all app installs in the current framework, which is likely to bring down ad fraud for the time being.

Accuracy: Attributed App Install counts will be precisely depicted from App Store’s pings where SKAdNetwork attribution takes place right away.

apple's-skadnetwork-ios14-apple-search-ads

SkAdNetwork Limitations:

Concerning advertisers, SkAdNetwork does come with few restrictions compared to prior means of app attribution.

  • Challenges in targeting look-alike audiences without device ID details. Some of the data collected are campaign aggregates and ROI metrics.
  • Each ad network is responsible for monitoring its work and each ad network ID reports its user data (that they own)
  • Conversion rates can take a hit due to insufficient audience-building data.
  • Campaign IDs are limited to 100 per ad network on each advertised app
  • There’s a need to examine how SkAdNetwork plays out in the long term. Fraudsters can come up with other tactics to get in the framework just to make a quick buck.
  • Limited ROI: SKAdNetwork’s notification features aren’t up to mark currently lacking in real-time optimization.
  • Say Bye to Impression Tracking: An ad unit has to be clicked for Apple to report on any conversions.
  • Delays: Postbacks are sent a day after the install. This stops the installed app from distinguishing users at the device level. Combining in-app events to the install actions won’t work anymore.
  • Linking and Attributions: Apple’s SKAdNetwork framework cannot defer deep links from ads thus hampering conversion rates.
  • For publishers who want to work with new ad networks, they will be obliged to re-register the approved ad networks each time the app needs a renewal.

How to make the SkAdNetwork Framework work for you?

Fortunately, there are loopholes to track and predict conversion rates by digging deep into Apple’s conversion value mechanism. The one-time postback covers the user’s conversion value. The data in this conversion value shares user’s activity post their installs. (Super Important!) Now how can this configuration be customized to extract meaningful insights?

The 6 bits in each conversion value have their unique decoding structured by the developer. This is associated with the source of the app install so map each conversion value

Make sure you have a robust prediction model built on these conversion values so that you can understand user activity first and sync it with their lifetime value.

With a steady prediction model, double down on potential wins and cut out on what’s causing ad revenue losses. This gives you more control to optimize accordingly and make decisions effectively.

Other Alternatives:

For those who choose not to use SKAdNetwork, mobile measurement partners (MMPs) is a good option as it offers the framework for user routing and link building for retargeting and engagement.

MMPs are unbiased and deliver vast advertising-network integrations which can bolster campaign optimization. They allow marketers to measure each user click, attributing those clicks to the corresponding app installs, & updates their partners regarding all in-app events that happen post installs.

You end up saving money and time once you choose the right MMP and start investing in performance-driven platforms. MMPs establish trust between publishers & ad networks by double-checking the performance of associated ad partners.

Additional Benefits of MMPs:

  • Supports custom conversion setup
  • Scalable deep-learning algorithms
  • Dashboard support
  • Client/server SK synchronization

Embrace the post-IDFA era with MonetizeMore

With Apple’s everchanging SKAdNetwork requirements post the IDFA apocalypse, publishers need to plan and safeguard themselves from further turbulence.

We strongly recommend our publishers update to the latest iOS SDK version to get the best out of performance enhancements as soon as possible. This upgrade helps avoid API deprecation too.

Optimize, Analyse, Predict, Protect and monetize your app to the next level with our all-in-one app monetization platform.

Embrace the post-IDFA era with MonetizeMore and Maximize Your Ad Revenue with our game-changing in-app monetization today!

Kean Graham

CEO and Founder at MonetizeMore

Kean is the resident expert in Ad Optimization covering areas like AdSense Optimization, DFP Management, and third-party ad network partnerships. Kean believes in the supremacy of direct publisher deals and holistic optimization as keys to effective and consistent ad revenue increases.

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