Paid Acquisition on Mobile: A Scrappy, Practical Guide

Notes on a talk by Mike Gordon of Iron Horse Games

  • Iron Horse has had 11M installs, mostly on Android, mostly paid acquisition
  • Marketing in 3 phases on Google Play
    • Google Play organic installs are significantly higher than Apple
    • ROI tends to be better
    • Open beta
      • Don’t treat this as a test platform, because you waste users if the game isn’t stable
      • If you need a test market, do a closed beta
      • Keywords are critical at this stage
      • Strategy:
        • Choose and optimize your keywords
          • look at what competitors are doing
          • Use SensorTower to tell you which keywords get the most traffic, as well as how much competition you face for that keyword (don’t choose a 9)
          • Choose 3 to 5 because most of them won’t work—hedge your bets
          • Keyword bank is pulled from title, subtitle, description, short description, bundle ID
            • Density is more important than raw repetition of keywords
            • AppBank can tell you this, and compare to competition
        • Market your game to increase organic installs from keywords
          • With money: integrate AppsFlyer to attribute paid installs
            • Spend $50 to 100 a day
            • Start with Facebook and Unity
            • Focus on Tier 1 markets (US, Europe, Australia)
          • Without money
            • Get an integration bonus for adding an advertising integration 
            • Get a line of credit from a marketing partner
          • Monitor keywords
            • Google Play dev console, user acquisition, search to see both volume and quality(want about 50% coming in from organic search)—if few installs for key search terms, make sure your icon and force that this is what the person is looking for
            • Target the top 10 to 15 keywords
        • Use results to apply to early access to get featured
          • Use KPIs to make the case why your game is worth being featured—support you’re giving the game, results you’ve seen, potential
      • Users from search, via App Store optimization, are super valuable
    • Launch (first 30 days)
      • Organic ratios will be the highest of the game’s life
      • Market aggressively in this time
      • Spend as much money as you can to increase visibility in the lists
      • Learn from your open beta
        • Need to know which keywords are the strongest
        • Which channels had the highest ROI
        • Which marketing creatives were the strongest
      • Choose marketing partners
        • Unity and Facebook are high volume
          • Both will give you a line of credit
          • Facebook: mind the first 2 months (the honeymoon period)
          • Display ads still work just fine—don’t necessarily need video ads
          • On Facebook, start with low cost bidding, then after the honeymoon period, move to bid caps once they start raising your CPIs; start new campaigns when the impressions tank
        • Ironsource is low volume but high quality
        • Slight creative variations help, so that people who have seen the ad before and passed on it will have another chance
    • Live
      • Use data from launch to pitch for a feature in New & Updated
      • Try new marketing partners
  • Marketing a live game on IOS
    • Paid installs don’t really improve organic installs (unlike on Google)
    • Use what you learn on Google about targeting and ARPUs
    • Chart positions don’t help a lot, until you can get like 10k paid users per day (probably spending $10k or more!)
  • UAC: needs a big spend commitment to figure out if it works… need to spend for like 30 days to figure out if it’s going to pay off
    • $1k per day to get video ad views, which are what really pay off
    • Conversion rate needs to be 1 to 3%
    • CPI is at least $2.75
  • Instagram versus Facebook: IG was much lower quality
  • Why Apple App Store does 2x sales compared to Android’s Google Play
    • Android has a much higher audience in Russia, China, etc.—if you look only at US and western Europe, they wind up looking much more similar

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