App Promotion: Using Paid Marketing, Choosing a Monetization Strategy and Benchmarking Services

For an app to succeed, it needs to achieve consistent growth in the number of organic downloads it receives. However, attracting what we often term “organic traffic” is a long and difficult process. While you should work to develop organic traffic, you can also boost your app’s downloads with paid marketing. Paid marketing can increase your app’s visibility and prime the pump — in other words, it can successfully kickstart your flow of organic traffic.

According to research by Localytics, paid methods of acquiring app users became popular around 2014. Although organic downloads remained important throughout 2015, the role of paid user acquisition in app promotion is definitely growing.

Dozens of platforms offer app owners the ability to pay for boosting app downloads and user acquisition, and help monetize an app. In this article we’ll look at the most popular of the paid app marketing services and offer some advice on planning your paid marketing and  monetization campaign.

Paid marketing pricing structures

When planning a paid user acquisition campaign, you must first decide how you’ll be paying for your users. There are a number of pricing structures available.

To make sure we understand all the options, let’s first define each of the available pricing models. Once you’re in the know, you can decide which will be most effective for promoting your mobile app.

CPC (cost-per-click) / PPC (pay-per-click)

With CPC or PPC (these are interchangeable terms) you pay each time a user clicks on your ad.

Of course, clicks are not 100 percent effective. A great number of them are in fact accidental and never have the potential to convert users. All the same, a PPC/CPC model gets you low-cost traffic. Also, by paying for clicks you get free ad presence and ad impressions.

CPM (cost-per-mille)

Cost-per-mille (Latin for thousand) is the price paid for 1,000 impressions (displays) of an ad. This type of payment is effective when you are confident that your ads are capable to produce a high “click-through rate” (CTR), or when you just want to increase the visibility of your brand. In both cases, a CPM model can be more cost-effective than purchasing traffic via the more expensive “pay per click” model.

CPI (cost-per-install)

Paying an ad publisher only when the ad leads to an app install is one of the most efficient and effective methods of promotion for mobile apps.

CPA (cost-per-action or cost-per-acquisition) / PPP (pay-per-performance)

CPA is another effective method for mobile app publishers. With CPA  you pay for the number of users who perform a desired activity — such as completing a purchase or filling out a registration form — after clicking on your ad.

paid app marketing

[Source: cpanetpro]

CPE (cost-per-engagement)

With a cost-per-engagement model, you pay for user engagement with an ad. Actions classified as “engagement” must be defined between you and your ad publisher. They could be reposts, likes, follows, mouse-overs, and so on.

CPV (cost-per-view)

A CPV model is relevant for video ads. You just pay for the number of views.

For a mobile app, cost-per-install and cost-per-action have proven to be the most effective payment options. This is because the risk of a failed promotion  fall on the ad publishers — if an ad campaign fails, then you barely pay anything. However, when deciding whether to use a cost-per-install and cost-per-action models, keep in mind that rates for either of these options are higher than, for example, a cost-per-mille rate.

Incentivized and non-incentivized users

There are two types of users you can attract using paid marketing services — incentivized and non-incentivized.

Incentivized users are rewarded for completing an action. The action they’re rewarded for could be installing an app, watching a video ad, doing something  within an app, or registering on  a website.  Incentivized users mostly help you to boost your download numbers in order to boost your chart rankings. Don’t expect them to stick with your app for the long haul.

Non–incentivized users, on the other hand, are attracted by ads that speak to their true need for your app. Cost-per-install/cost-per-action rates will be higher with this model compared to buying incentivized users, and  the average revenue (ARPU) and the lifetime value (LTV) of users acquired in such a way will be much higher as well.

There is no definitive answer as to what type of users you should  pay for during your app promotion campaign in order to be successful. Acquiring incentivized and non-incentivized users benefits your app in different ways: incentivized users are valuable for increasing your app’s chart rankings, thus bringing you more visibility, while non-incentivized users can prove their value in the  longer term, sticking with your app and bringing greater lifetime value and ROI.

App marketing and monetization services

What follows is a short list of popular marketing and monetization services for mobile apps, including information about  their services and pricing options. These companies provide a wide variety of payment options advertising channels and user targeting algorithms for non-incentivized and incentivized user acquisition and app monetization.

Millenial Media

Millennial Media is currently the world’s second largest mobile ad network, right after Google’s Admob. In September 2015 they were acquired by AOL. Millennial Media provides services for user acquisition, app monetization, and analytics.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized
  • User targeting: audience, behavioral, carrier, channel, demographic, device, operator, OS, time
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Traffic type: all types (direct, referral, etc.)
  • Channels: mobile
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPC, CPM
  • Budget: $5000 and up



Taptica is a mobile user acquisition platform that relies on  AI and machine learning to engage users according to KPIs you’ve defined for your product. Taptica focuses on acquiring quality, non-incentivized users for your app.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized
  • User targeting: demographic (age, gender, location, time of day, device type, OS), behavioral (clicked, downloaded, installed, paid, booked), first party (credit history, buying intent, interest)
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: online display, online video, mobile, social
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPC, CPM, CPV
  • Budget: $5000 and up



Tapjoy is a platform that provides user acquisition and offerwalls services. The idea of the offerwall format is that users earn virtual currency for incentivised actions, while the app earns actual cash money for each action completed.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized, incentivized
  • User targeting: Tapjoy exclusive audience segments, demographic, location, language, device, Tapjoy reconnect, sequential retargeting
  • Ad format: content lock, interstitial, offerwall, rewards
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: mobile
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPE, CPC, CPV
  • Budget: $5000 and up


Pocket Media

Pocket Media is a performance-based mobile advertising agency offering user acquisition, app monetization and offerwalls services. Pocket Media’s user targeting, retargeting, optimization, and reporting services can improve search visibility, traffic and conversion rate.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized, incentivized
  • Traffic type: all types
  • User targeting: all possible types of targeting
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: online display, online video, mobile, social, search
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPC, CPM, CPL
  • Budget: $1000 and up


AppThis is an app discovery and mobile ad platform that provides machine learning and data analytics-based services for user acquisition, app monetization and app analytics.

  • Type of uses targeted: non-incentivized, incentivized
  • Traffic type: all types
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: mobile
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPM, CPC, CPV
  • Budget: flexible, depends on volume of traffic



MobCo Media is Israeli-based mobile-only performance agency for mobile apps that focuses  on non-incentivized user acquisition, monetization, and app branding services. MobCo strongly relies on user engagement metrics in their ad campaigns.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized
  • Traffic type: all types
  • Geo-targeting: 160+ countries
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA
  • Budget: $1000 and up


Surikate is a mobile ad network with headquarters in Paris and London that specializes in non-incentivized user acquisition. The Surikate network has access to an online panel of 80,000 active mobile users worldwide. Surikate is partnered with TUNE, Kochava and Adjust app analytics services.

In addition to user acquisition, Surikate also offers a mobile test application panel and marketing strategy development services for mobile apps. They’ve even carried out their own  iOS user behaviour survey that focused on the behaviour of iPhone and iPad users in the AppStore.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized
  • Traffic type: all types
  • Channels: mobile
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPM, CPV, CPC
  • Budget: Globally: $5000; US: $10,000 and up



The Startapp self-serve platform specializes in user acquisition, user engagement and app monetization. It uses its own machine learning algorithm, SODA, to target the most relevant users.

  • Type of users targeted: non-incentivized, incentivized
  • Traffic type: organic, referral, social traffic
  • Targeting: geographic, demographic, device type, connection type, OS
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: mobile
  • Ad format: app icon, full-page ads, in-app ads, video
  • Payment models: CPI, CPA, CPM, CPC
  • Budget: $50 minimum



Tappx is a monetization-focused cross-promotion ad network. The platform is built around the idea of mutual promotion within apps. In other words, apps promote other apps. Here’s how it works: you place other member’s ads in your app, earn credits, and use those  credits to place your own ads in other  apps.

The service also has a built-in analytics tool and an  ad banner design tool. Tappx can be integrated with other ad networks.

  • Type of users: non-incentivized
  • Ad format: banners
  • Channels: mobile
  • Budget: self-serve



Appnext is another self-serve platform that operates on a CPI bidding basis, enabling a wide array of mobile partners to programmatically offer the most relevant app content to their users and clients. The partners include app developers and publishers, OEMS, mobile operators, mobile web portals, content discovery networks and others.

  • Type of users: non-incentivized
  • Ad format: video, rewarded video, interstitials, widgets, native ads
  • User targeting: country, city, publisher/app, device type and version
  • Geo-targeting: all countries
  • Channels: mobile
  • Payment models: CPI
  • Budget: self-serve

There are dozens of user acquisition and app monetization platforms. If you want to conduct some additional research, start with ad networks aggregators like Mobyaffiliates and Thalamus.


Most of the abovementioned paid marketing and monetization services let you measure how many users install your app after clicking on your ad.

But if you need deeper insights, there are benchmarking-focused services that help you get a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of your ad campaign. These services are especially valuable when you use several paid marketing services. Benchmarks usually provide you with insights such as:

  • How different ads affect customer acquisition

  • Which ad networks bring in the most engaged customers

  • Which ad networks provide high-quality customers

  • Which ad networks attract users with higher retention rates

There are many benchmarking and analytics services on the market. Here are two  examples.

App Annie. App Annie provides many services including:

  • Data mining: store stats, download rates, revenue per user, market share, frequency of use of competing apps;

  • app store analytics;

  • advertising analytics; and

  • free insights into the market.

Similarweb. This service provides:

  • app store analytics;

  • traffic sources analytics; and

  • Insights about other on apps on the market.

Final advice

Paid app marketing services will increase your app’s chances of success significantly. When choosing a paid marketing service,  keep in mind the following questions:

  • Is the cost of user acquisition justified by the lifetime value of that user?

  • Which acquisition channels bring the greatest ROI?

  • Which of the paid acquisition routes eventually leads to an app install?

To find the right answers, use analytics and benchmarking tools, try different platforms and thoroughly analyze your ad campaigns to make sure they are both cost-effective and provide you with loyal users who  will stay with you for a long time to come.

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