We’ve recently released a new Android Mobile SDKs Data Report, revealing the top SDK players in each category, as well as the most popular SDKs categories.

One such popular category is of Attribution Analytics SDKs that allow apps to track the source of their app’s installation. Most app publishers that acquire users through paid installs and engagement campaigns have implemented at least one premium Attribution Analytics SDK, which is probably why this category is among the most popular. Our report discloses which Attribution SDKs are the most popular (depicted below), as well as a geographical drill-down (which SDKs are being used by different developers around the world).

Soon we will publish a new report and will show the trends of Attribution SDKs in the past few months.

SafeDK Data Report: Attribution Category

Because this is such a popular and important category, we’ve decided to dive deeper and share some ways to optimize their cost effectiveness.

Take for example the SDK Adjust. It has recently sent an email to its entire customer base, updating them on a significant price change. And the industry responded accordingly. Many developers started looking for alternative attribution tools or ways to operate their paid media activities without implementing paid attribution tools.

Many of our colleagues started thinking and asking questions. As did we.

We have decided to write this post in an effort to help app publishers with their queries and provide some answers to hot questions. Why use attribution SDKs, when are they “just beneficial” and when are they are a must have, how much should you pay, which tools you should choose etc.

Why Use Attribution Analytics SDKs?

Let’s think of the mobile app industry’s big brother, the online industry. Tracking the source of a website’s activity based on web ads is (relatively) easy by using simple cookie-based technology, and by adding UTM parameters to your Landing page URL.

But you can’t use cookies with mobile apps… In order to be able to do the same with apps, you’ll need something else.  You’ll need Attribution Analytics tools (SDKs) in order to track the sources of your mobile app paid installs or post install paid events.

Mobile Attribution tools allow you to track and analyze which marketing channels or sources (usually, paid) are producing the best results in terms of app installs, repeat visits to your app, in-app purchases and other in-app events. Having access to detailed analysis of such events enables you to tweak your marketing initiatives accordingly. In other words, you can make optimized data-driven media buying decisions.

Attribution tools also save you the need to implement a new SDK for every time you run a pilot with a new ad channel, as they are directly connected with hundreds of ad-networks.

Moreover, attribution tools are used by app advertisers (the buyers) and the media channels (ad sellers) as an unbiased referee. Since fraud is common in the ad industry, app developers that use multiple channels for acquisition are left vulnerable and at risk. The numbers provided by attribution tools – an unrelated third party – becomes the baseline for the billed installs on which both parties can agree.

Nice-to-Have OR a Must-Have?

All You Need to Know About Mobile Attribution SDKs

Generally speaking, the more paid campaigns you run, and the more paid channels you operate in, the more crucial and complex it becomes to monitor the whole process. The extent of your paid media is definitely something to take into account when you consider implementing mobile attribution tools.

Still, a significant amount does not mean you can’t live without premium attribution analytics (who’s to judge what is considered a ‘significant amount’?). It really depends on how and where you spend your budget and on the quality or availability of your developers (that need to implement an alternate source of tracking).

Facebook, for instance, provides an easy-to-implement SDK with an elegant way to track installs and post-install paid or organic events. If you spend your budget mainly on Facebook, you must be familiar with Facebook Analytics, and you know you have someone on board to help you with events tracking. So you won’t necessarily see a significant added value in a premium attribution SDK.

On the other hand, most app marketers are desperately looking for ways to track their acquisition sources, and they usually get very little implementation help from their ‘overloaded’ developers. For them, attribution tools offer a great alternative, allowing them to instantly add multiple paid channels to the mix, without involving any member of the development teams. Plus, it allows app marketers to track real time data, as well as the quality of organic channels.

Let’s assume that you, like most publishers, are using multiple acquisition channels, paid or organic (like social media activities, email marketing campaigns and so on). Chances are that you can’t afford to wait to discover what your best channels are, in terms of cost and quality. Sure, you can add key events directly via the paid channels SDKs and forego the attribution SDKs. But if you are running campaigns through multiple sources, implementation becomes a burden, and so does analyzing results from multiple dashboards.

Attribution SDKs offer you a way around implementing each ad network SDK in your app. They serve as mediators – once you implement this one attribution SDK, and considering this SDK is connected with all the ad networks you wish to test (which it normally is), then you don’t need to implement each ad network SDK as well.

Cost effectiveness is the name of the game.

Having attribution tools saves you time and trouble when you need to determine what your optimal paid channels are. They won’t necessarily be the ones that bring you the largest number of installs, but the ones that bring the largest number of quality installs, the kind that trigger engagement events and positive ROI. And speaking of ROI, if you do any type of monetization on your users – you’ll need attribution SDKs to make sure your ROI is kept positive.

The Top Attribution Analytics Tools

All You Need to Know About Mobile Attribution SDKs

With so many tools adding attribution to their features list, it looks like attribution capabilities are becoming a commodity in the mobile app ecosystem.

Some attribution SDKs are more popular than others, with AppsFlyer claiming the throne based on our recent data trends report that analyzed over 35,000 Android apps.

How to choose the Best SDK?

How you should go about choosing the right one when there are so many options out there?

The following is a simple checklist that can help you select the preferred provider:

Highly adaptable – One of the most important things to check is with how many ad-networks the SDK is connected with. You don’t want to integrate an attribution SDK just to find out you can’t connect with future ad-networks of your choosing. Since you can’t always predict exactly which ad-networks you’d want to work with in the future, your best bet is selecting a well-connected highly adaptable attribution SDK.

Stable – It’s always a good idea to pick an SDK that is stable. One that has established long-term partnerships with major industry players such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, iAd, Bing and Yahoo.

Lightweight – Choose an attribution SDK that is lightweight: doesn’t add too many methods to your code, doesn’t inflate your binary file, and makes minimal use of both memory and network.

Specialty – To avoid conflicts of interest and to ensure you implement an SDK that specializes in attribution, you may want to focus on one whose sole purpose is Attribution Analytics, as opposed to relying on an SDK that serves other functionalities too (like an ad-network).

Deep linking – In today’s mobile app world, having deep linking capabilities is no longer a luxury, it’s basic. Your attribution tools should be able to offer you the option to track deep links, as well as regular links.

How to Optimize Pricing

All You Need to Know About Mobile Attribution SDKs

Adding a few more cents on each install is not something to ignore. It can amount to a lot of money if you’re running a serious paid acquisition plan.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when considering not just product, but also price:

  • Some attribution SDKs will still demand monthly payments, even if you don’t run paid campaigns, while others will stay completely free of charge as long as you don’t run paid campaigns.
  • Some will charge for both clicks and installs (for the networks that provide click data). Try to estimate the projected price (XX amount of installs + XX multiplied by 10 amount of clicks).
  • Consider the pricing levels. Your acquisitions may grow faster than you think.
  • Just because you use an attribution SDK, doesn’t mean you always have to use it. You can cut cost by minimizing the amount of data you send to that SDK. For instance, if you’re already integrated with some of the ad-networks (for example, many apps are directly integrated with Facebook), you can opt to skip these channels and only track the ones you’re not already integrated with. Sure, it’s less convenient, but it’s more cost effective.
  • If you’re using attribution tools only for quality tracking, you can use our data sampling option: The SafeDK Real-Time SDKs Control allows you to sample the data you send to specific SDKs (i.e. apply the SDK to only a percentage of your users), so you can still enjoy the relevant insights and optimize your spending.

Summary

There’s nothing quite as annoying as paying for something and not knowing if you’re getting your money’s worth. For app developers every cent counts. So if you’re going to be spreading the word and trying to get installs through ads, paid campaigns and what not, you’ll most likely want to keep track of how helpful these paid channels actually are. Enter Attribution Analytics SDKs which provide you with exactly such information. But as every cent does truly count, it’s important to not only choose the right ad and campaign, but also the best tracking SDK for you.

Consider the pricing not just for how many users you have now but how many you’ll be paying for. Consider the different tiers and plans, what best suits your needs, and what will be optimal for you not just in the present, but in the future as well. How easy it’ll be for your marketing team to use them, to track future campaigns with future ad-networks, and how you’re provided with added value, not just added volume.