Guest Blog Post: What Makes a Better Mobile Ad Experience?

This post comes to the Application Developers Alliance community from Leigh Kellner of Appsaholic.

You’ve heard about “better” in-app advertising experiences. Ah, the sweet, sweet ambiguity. It reminds me of this scene from the movie Elf, where Will Ferrell’s naïve character actually believes that a grimy New York cafe makes the world’s best coffee based on their window neon. (It’s not too early for Elf references, right?)

But what does “better” really entail? For mobile ads, better actually isn’t hyperbole. There are tried-and-true strategies that improve user experience with ads in your app. That means you don’t have to choose between making money and satisfying users.

Here are 6 strategies for you to build a great ad experience in your app:

1. Design Your App with Monetization in Mind

When you’re making an app, include monetization strategy and ad placements in your planning. If you want a great, native ad experience, this is where you need to start.

Don’t wait for late in your app’s development to figure out where your ads will go. Tacked-on ads are jarring! That completely detracts from the experience that you worked so hard to create.

You should think through your advertising and monetization strategies as you plan the flow of your app. This will pay off dividends in the end. Where annoying ad placements push users away from your app, native ad placements that don’t disrupt the experience feel like they belong. And you can integrate monetization even more deeply into your apps experience, if you…

2.  Reward Ad Views

When your users watch ads, you make money. So why not give your users something in return? Rewards are a great way to turn advertising into something users actually value.

Look, we all know that no one really wants to watch ads. Do you? But rewards reduce the pain. 59% of smartphone users prefer ads that offer rewards in return.

Rewards can have in-app value, like currency, items, or rescues. Or you can offer real-world rewards for a different and unique experience. Both make the ad experience more tolerable for everyone involved. And rewards benefit user engagement, retention, and satisfaction too!

3. Avoid Surprises With Opt-In Experiences

Surprises can be fun, but no one likes it when an ad pops up with no warning! Give your users a heads-up for when an ad is about to display. This turns in-app advertising into an opt-in experience.

This ties in well with rewards too. Let users know in advance what they’ll get in exchange for viewing. Users have more control over their experience and come away with a reward? Now that’s a good experience.

4. Consider Mobile Data Speeds

Good ad experiences depend on the ad itself, too. And the worst experience? Waiting forever on an ad that never loads. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

If your users generally have access to strong WiFi connections or 4G speeds, great! You can call up most ad types, including video. But if they’re on something a little slower, you’ll need ads with a little less bandwidth to avoid the dreaded slow load. This is particularly important for apps with a global reach, as different parts of the world have different mobile speeds.

Fortunately, the solution for both of these lies in a good ad partner. Make sure that your partner serves the right ads for all the regions your app targets. This ensures a great ad experience for your users, no matter their connection.

5. Test to Find the Right Balance

What’s the best ad experience for my app? Would my users be more comfortable with an ad before or after this level? Should I show videos or interstitials? Well, test and find out!

Retention rate is a good metric to track if you want a general feel on how users feel about ads. Measure retention before and after an ad to see how many people are willing to engage with an ad versus ending interaction by closing out your app.

If retention is high and few people drop out, congratulations! You’ve got a good ad placement. If there’s more dropoff than you’d like, try something new. And don’t forget, there’s always room for improvement!

Beyond the numbers, user reviews can be a great place to find out what users think about your ads. We all know that if users have something they don’t like, they aren’t shy about sharing. Take this feedback into consideration too.

6. Put Your Users First

Ultimately, a better ad experience is one that puts the user first. Like the tree that falls in the forest when no one is around, you won’t make any money if no one uses your app!

Of course, putting the user first doesn’t mean shutting your monetization needs out. Better ads fit natively into your app, offer your users a reward in exchange for their participation, and don’t hinder user experience. These concepts are what help you create the right balance to drive big ad revenue. And you don’t even need a neon sign to keep users engaged!

A better ad experience means more satisfied users and more revenue for you. That’s a win-win!