Let’s get real for a second. App monetization is what it’s all about. Most of us get into the mobile app game not just to make the world a better place, but also to bring home the bacon. We put in hours upon hours trying to figure out where our users get lost, we pour hundred and thousands of dollars on trying to get the right users to notice us, and we consider most UX changes longer than we would a prospective spouse. That’s how important our app monetization is to us.

After all the hard work and long hours, we deserve a little something-something for our time and effort. So how frustratingly nerve-wrecking, not to say annoying, it is to learn that the very thing that should have turned a profit ends up hurting the bottom line? Especially when it’s not even the part of the app you wrote?

According to our January 2017 data analysis, most free Android apps use Advertisement SDKs in their app:

SafeDK | Most Popular Mobile SDK Categories Jan 2017

Ads are definitely the #1 source for app monetization in today’s market. It’s why we see their share consistent quarter after quarter.

And since SDKs are what we’re all about at SafeDK – ad-networks not excluded – we started monitoring what ad-networks are showing users. Allow me to share with you some real-life cautionary tales and answer the age-old question about user experience and app monetization: can I have my ads and eat it too?

Wrong Time, Wrong Place, Wrong Ad

The most fundamental basic wide-spread issue we saw with ads always relates to the wrong ad at the wrong time. Almost any detail or example I’m about to give of ads damaging app monetization can be described as just that. Wrong ad at the wrong time.

A conservative news publication showing ads with near-naked women? We saw it.

The same kind of conservative publication with ads promoting one-night stands? Saw that too.

Violence? Ho, yeah.

Illicit gambling? You bet.

Straight-up honest-to-god Porn? In the most innocents of apps.

And the thing is – it’s not like it happens to all users all the time. No. sometimes it’s a glitch in a specific region or for a specific set of devices. Usually only a subset of users would experience an issue and only a small percentage of them would bother complaining to you. The rest, most frequently, would just leave, uninstall, lower-rate your app or all of the above. Some of them could have earned you big bucks; all of them could have earned you anything more than zero.

I’ve heard of these companies that employ people all around the world just so they can use their apps all day and find problematic ads. There are also companies that can sample your app on various devices and see which ads are showing. That’s great, but it’s not enough. Unless you see every single ad seen by every single user, you have no idea how much traction you’re losing and how big of a hit your app monetization got.

App Monetization vs. User Experience: Can I Have Both?

Hey, Kid, Want a Smoke?

Now, let’s talk about the most sensitive part of “wrong ads at the wrong time” – absolutely anything having to do with kids.

Every single example I’ve given in the previous section would be double the horrify if it occurred in a game designed for kids.

You see, if there are some strict regulation about ads in general, it gets much stricter and much harsher when it comes to kids and their safety. It’s a one strike system. So this is the one place where you need to always keep a watchful eye to protect your app monetization.

Here’s an example for you – imagine your kid is playing a game where they have their own puppy to play with. It’s all nice and everything, but suddenly there’s a banner on top for cigarettes. In an app marked as “PEGI 3”.

App Monetization vs. User Experience: Can I Have Both?

Dude, Where’s My Ad?

Nothing hurts a party more than when the guests don’t show. Nothing hurts your app monetization more than when ads simply don’t show up.

We have a customer who got some complaints from users about ads not displaying. Simply put, the webview containing the ad had a problem and instead of ads the users got the following:

App Monetization vs. User Experience: Can I Have Both?

Now here comes that “only a small percentage of users would complain” part. Because only when they checked their SafeDK dashboard, they noticed that this was in fact the fourth most displayed ad in their app. Talk about wasted inventory and money down the drain.

Each one of the millions of “impressions” are simply lost. There’s no way of getting money from any of these. You don’t get credit for showing an ad, you can’t make anything of a user clicking on it (since they can’t click it) and frankly, your graphic integrity is compromised as well.

Most important thing to notice here is that it didn’t happen with a new experimental ad-network. This was a top player. Our SDKs data places that player as one of the top 5 ad-networks in the Android market and I guarantee you’ve all heard its name (ho, piqued your curiosity, did I? Well, I’m not going to reveal the name. These things happen. But… I would be a fool not to mention that our dashboard provides that information so this customer knew exactly who to address with this issue.)

The Other App’s Grass Is Greener

So you got your users into your app. Now just sit back and collect the… whoa, wait a minute, where did they go to? Where are they? No. Don’t tell me. They saw an ad for a similar app and now they’re over there, playing with the new kid.

Dramatic cynicism aside – this is a real issue. The last thing you and your app monetization need is for one of the ads displayed within your own app sending users into the arms of a competitor. You see, bad ads aren’t just violence and porn and bad influence on kids. True, they all hurt your brand. But you know what also hurts your brand? When you advertise for someone else’s brand and you’re both competing for the same spot, the same users.

With Playable ads getting more popular in recent months, this kind of risk has become even more dangerous for the mobile gaming industry. You are literally letting one of your users take a rival’s product for a test drive. And worst of all – you don’t even know it. Or at the very least – you don’t know the extent of it.

How many users have left your app because they liked the other one more? Or simply because it was new?

App Monetization vs. User Experience: Can I Have Both?SafeDK’s Dashboard let you set alerts for any ad, category or developer you don’t want published in your app.

Is My App Monetization in Danger?

Using our Ad Intelligence solution, we saw at SafeDK many problems stemming from bad ad experience. Ads that were never supposed to be displayed in the kind of app they were displayed in; ads not suitable for children in kid-targeted apps; competing brands, missing ads and the list goes on.

So is your app monetization in any kind of danger? The most simple and honest answer would be yes. But it’s not that simple. Yeah, there are always risks. The question is – are you aware of their existence and are you taking precautions?

Just like with anything else in the mobile world, especially with 3rd party SDKs, you must always be vigilant. Anything you miss could and will cost you money.

You know that old business saying “You’ve got to spend money to make money?” It works another way too. Sometimes to make money, you have to be wise on how you’re spending it. A naïve businessperson would want to display every possible ad in every possible situation to maximize his profit. A wise (or simply more experienced) one would do everything in its power to only display the right ads, thus keeping users happy and increasing the bottom line in the long run.