How to promote an app or game with paid ads

Have you got an app or game to promote and don’t know where to start? Here we look at the best platforms for paid app campaigns to drive more downloads and in-app actions for your app

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Last week, after the GDC (Game Developers Conference) was postponed, for obvious reasons, Google hosted its own free and completely virtual summit to showcase its new innovations around gaming and app promotion.

The Google for Games Developer Summit is an hour long presentation from Greg Hartrell, Rob Martin, Abhita Chugh and John Justice from Google and Stadia in which they share the latest product updates which included:

Open testing ads

These ads have been launched to help Android game developers find more beta testers “to test things like app stability, user retention, monetization and effectiveness of ad creatives”. Around 50% of an app’s installs happen in the first 8 weeks of its release so these ads in App campaigns will help developers find people to test the apps before they are fully released.

App + Web properties in Google Analytics

Analytics has always been a great way for developers to learn about how their game is being used, but now Google has released gaming-specific Analytics, so metrics can be easily funnelled for better analysis.

This sort of insight allows game developers to learn more about how people interact with their app and improve the overall user experience. They can also narrow down audiences to remarket to, such as players who have dropped off, to try and re-engage them.

Improved reporting

Within Google Analytics games reporting there will soon be some new features to help highlight valuable insight into how a game is performing:

  1. Updated Google Ads asset report: Shows how your app campaign creatives are performing
  2. AdMob cohort report: Shows the LTV (lifetime value) of your players
  3. AdMob mobile app: Allows access to accounts on the go

Promoting apps with paid ads

As with any paid ad campaign, you need to think about who your audience is and where the best place is to get in front of them. Then once you’ve decided on the right platform(s) you need to establish the best way to pick out relevant users with the various targeting options available on the platform(s) you have chosen.

Google, Twitter and Facebook/Instagram all have app campaign options available, so they are the main places to start.


Google App campaigns are slightly different to the usual Google campaigns as you provide ad assets (headlines, descriptions, videos and images etc), which also include assets from the app store listing.

Google will then use those to create ads for the various networks available. These include:

  • Google Search Network
  • Google Display Network
  • Google Play
  • YouTube
  • Google Discover

There are 3 ways you can ask Google to optimise these ads:

  • For app installs – you set a bid for the average amount you’d like to spend each time that someone installs your app
  • For in-app actions – you choose the target CPA (cost per action) for the average amount that you’d like to spend when a user performs your selected in-app action
  • For in-app action value – you choose the target ROAS (return on ad spend) for the average return that you’d like to see from your ads. For example, “if your goal is to ensure that users spend £0.50 of in-app purchases during the conversion window for every £1 of ads that you spend, you’d set a target ROAS of 50%.”


Facebook, and therefore Instagram, also offers both app install ads  and app engagement ads. You simply link your ads account to your app and choose either app installs or app engagement as your campaign objective, select your app from the drop down and the rest of the setup is like any other Facebook campaign:

  1. Choose your target audience
  2. Set bids and budget
  3. Create ads (single image, carousel or video)
  4. Connect with your Facebook page and/or Instagram account
  5. Confirm

Please note that if you’re running an app engagement campaign you can select a second objective; conversions or traffic, depending on what you want to get out of the campaign.


Similarly Twitter ads allows you to link directly to download or open your app with a Tweet using app cards. Within the app card the user will see an image, app ratings and install/open links in their Twitter timelines and the advertiser is charged on a cost per app click pricing model.

When it comes to optimising these campaigns and getting the best return from them, like with many campaigns you must:

  • Keep your creative fresh – your ad copy should be up to date and relevant to your target users
  • Rotate creatives frequently – don’t just rely on one creative, mix it up and keep testing new ads so users don’t get banner blindness
  • Show the USPs/value of your app – make sure you tell your users why your app is worth downloading
  • Keep ad copy succinct – there are now more characters to play with on Twitter but that doesn’t mean you need to use them all – short and sweet ads generally work better

Apple Search ads

This is something I have covered on our blog previously, back in 2016 in my guide to Apple Search Ads and Apple says it is “an efficient and easy way to help people discover your app at the top of App Store search results.”

To utilise these ads you need to set up an account, and tell Search Ads which app you’d like to promote by selecting it from the drop down. Give your campaign a name, set a budget, and an optional maximum daily spend cap to allow more control over how the budget is allocated over time. Then choose your keywords (terms people might use within the app store that are relevant to your app) and audience (customer types, demographics and locations) and your app can appear at the top of the App Store search results page for those terms.

Promoting an app or game online

When it comes to promoting an app online there are several app campaigns that could be worth trying. As long as you get the targeting right, the keywords and/or the audience, then you have a great chance of increasing downloads and in-app actions, depending on what the goal of the campaign is. Simply remember to track conversions, downloads or in-app purchases etc (this is possible in all platforms as long as you or your developer can edit the app’s code) and test, learn, and optimise, like with any paid campaign.

If you’d like any help promoting your app or website feel free to get in touch with us.

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