Home » Mobile Marketing Tips » Monday Mobile Marketing Tip: Pay per KPI with Google AdWords

Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.


You might know how much you pay per install, but do you know how much you pay per user that registers, or completes an in-app purchase? Do you know exactly how much you pay for those users per campaign?

I’ve written before about how you can use Google AdWords to place adverts within other mobile applications, and even target ads to specific apps. And with the Google AdWords SDK, it was pretty easy to see which ads were driving app installs. However recent updates to Google Analytics for Mobile combined with Google AdWords now allows developers a killer combo – using events and goals tracked within Google Analytics for Mobile as their conversion goal in AdWords. In otherwords, you can track your conversions in AdWords through to a specific event in your app like a registration or an in-app purchase.

This is a huge deal, and something that allows Google to steal a march on Facebook’s mobile ad platform. While some preferred Facebook developers (of which there are only about a dozen) have built tools and their own SDKs to link campaign management on Facebook to app KPIs, this still needs to be managed by a third party (and one that often times will charge many thousands of dollars for a “test” campaign). With Google, you can now self-manage a small campaign to see EXACTLY how much you have to pay to acquire a user that achieves your app KPIs, plus with enough conversions, you can start to take advantage of Google’s automated algorithms that optimize for conversions, meaning that Google will automatically target your campaigns at an audience more likely to convert to a registration, in-app purchase, or other KPI.

This requires a couple of different steps, but once you have all of the different pieces set up, you will be able to see exactly how much you are paying in AdWords for an event-related conversion in your app – something that isn’t possible yet with Facebook’s mobile ads. Here’s how to get set up.

1. Set up Google Analytics for Mobile

You will need to download the SDK that gives Google Analytics access to your application. While you may be familiar with Google Analytics for websites, the mobile version is quite different, although the sentiment – in depth, free tracking for your property – remains the same.

2. Create some basic event tracking in Google Analytics so you can set up goals

If you are not the developer of the app, this will need to be implemented by your development team. The Google Analytics for Mobile documentation is quite good (and available here) and outlines how to track events. Make sure you are tracking events for KPIs relevant to your app (such as registration, in app purchase, plays a game, invites a friend, etc). It’s most effective to optimise for just one KPI but you can track as many as you’d like in Google Analytics.

3. Create a goal for your KPI

Once you have Google Analytics for mobile tracking your app and app events, go to your Analytics admin section and create a goal for the KPI you want to optimise for.



4. Link Google Analytics and Google Play

You will want to complete the loop between AdWords, Google Play (and the download) and Google Analytics. Follow the instructions here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2956981 to link Google Play and Google Analytics. As an added bonus, this will start to show you more of the referral sources that are driving traffic to your Google Play page.

*You can follow these same instructions (and skip this step) for iOS apps as well.

5. Import your goals to Google AdWords

Now log into Google AdWords and in the Tools section, under Conversions, you can choose the option to import goals from Google Analytics.


If you haven’t ever connected your Analytics and AdWords account before, you will be prompted to a this point. Then you will be presented with a list of your Google Analytics goals, and can select the ones you want to track as conversions in AdWords. As I mentioned in earlier, it’s best to optimize for one conversion at a time and stop tracking conversions for installs. AdWords does not differentiate for different types of conversions within a campaign which means if you are tracking an event and installs, you will be double counting conversions for some of your acquisitions. For the right KPI, installs shouldn’t matter anyway – you just want to know how much you are paying for the real thing.

6. Create (or watch) your AdWords campaigns

You’re done setting up tracking, now you just need to start monitoring the results. If you haven’t created a Google Analytics campaign to promote your app, you can create one now, otherwise your existing campaigns will start tracking and reacting to your new conversions within 24 hours.

Keep an eye on your Cost per Conversion metric – it will likely jump up quite a bit over your previous cost per install but it’s a much more realistic way to understand how much you are paying for your active users.


I haven’t come across any other self-managed ways to see automatically on a campaign level how much it costs to acquire users that achieve KPIs. Have you found any other way to track the cost of acquiring your most valuable users?

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