11 tips for killer User Acquisition ops (Q1 version)

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Hey ho, let’s go. Here we go again! The previous UA killer articles were super successful, so I decided to start writing a UA killer tips segment. So, I will keep sharing these tips, don’t worry.

Keep reading the tips to improve your UA. Simple, practical & efficient! That’s it, no bullshit! No fluff intro, straight to the point.

#1 Setting up goals & targets for UA

Goal setting for UA teams & measuring KPIs is always tricky business. Most companies are trying to set goals for the UA department to measure effectiveness and give bonuses to employees.

If you ask UA managers across the globe what is the goal they optimise against, D7 ROAS is going to be the most frequent answer.

This is a double edge sword, let’s take a look why:

7-day cohorts are matured enough, so we could say with decent confidence that a particular cohort is good or not. D1 and D3 metrics are, in most cases, too early to tell.

Not everybody necessarily understand how predictive modelling works, and it’s significantly easier to report on and optimise towards one metric.

Different UA channels have different LTV curves. Facebook D7 ROAS could be 20%, reaching 100% on D60. But on the other hand, Unity D7 ROAS could be 5% but 100% is already on D30 same with TikTok LTV curve. It can start slow on D7 with 10% but reaching 100% in D14.

If a company is looking to do UA at scale, it should never make decisions just based on one metric but try to understand the games they promote and how different marketing activities influence the User Acquisition performance.

All the learnings should be implemented in LTV modelling, and the UA team should work closely with product and data science teams to understand how each one of those impacts the performance.

So what should you do? I have no idea! Do whatever you want, but I can share what I usually do:

  • create D1, D3, D7 ROAS benchmarks for each platform and UA channel (iOS is tough sure) which lead to 100% ROAS in your desired payback period
  • measure & evaluate campaign performance against these benchmarks
  • recalculate the benchmarks based on the current situation (seasonality, company cashflow issues, scaling, new game features, etc.)
  • profit!

#2 How to do a proper UA & Creatives review?

Channel performance

  • Campaign structure / campaign type (AAA vs regular)
  • Targeting options (interests, broad vs LAL)
  • Optimisation structure (Purchase or VO? – mostly VO only)
  • GEOs
  • Creatives
  • Age segments
  • Android Device performance (is exclusion list used?)

Creative history

  • What really worked and what really didnt? And WHY?
  • Types of creatives
  • Creative team and their processes
  • Creative refresh cadence

Data setup

  • Is MMP setup correct?
  • Are installs & events numbers matching between MMP, UA channel and store?
  • What kind of visualisation tool is in place?
  • What kind of dashboards UA managers use?

Daily spend vs daily revenue

Paid vs organic installs (revenues)

This should give you pretty good idea of how the game is doing.

#3 Grow your UA budgets

Budget increase vs payback period exercise is very important. Thinking about how to increase budget slowly and steadily is pretty hard. How to do it?

Take a look at your payback period. Let’s say you can achieve D30 100% with 100k spend right now. How to grow?

Look at your retention profile. Are you retaining players after D30? Perfect! Are you retaining players after D60? Great! Are you retaining players after D90? Yes, but it’s starting to be close to 0.

Start increasing your budget step by step from 100k to 120-150k per month. Are you able to achieve D60 100%? Good job!

Let’s continue increasing the budget to 200-250k per month. 100% D90? Ou yeah!

Continue adding 20-30% each month on top of what you have, but remember that after D90 there is almost nobody in the game.

Also, we are talking here about NET figures. Not GROSS! If you are hitting 100% GROSS on D90 you might be in trouble, since there will be 30% cut from the store and tax you need to pay.

That can destroy the whole equation!

#4 Campaign structure consolidation

I often see a lot of campaigns with a small spend across multiple channels when I do a UA game review.

I do understand why teams end up in this situation, but this is far from ideal.

Teams also make a lot of changes very frequently, not giving campaigns enough time and space to exit the learning phase.

What to do? Consolidate campaigns – fewer campaigns, higher budgets to allow exiting the learning phase quickly (no, this wasn’t written by your FB or Google rep)

To be honest, I don’t run GEO-specific campaigns. I usually bucket countries into tiers and put decent budgets behind them.

Example campaigns structure:

  1. US, ROW
  2. US, T1, ROW
  3. US, T1, T2, ROW

Tiers consist of countries with similar LTV/ROAS numbers for the last 90 days.

Make your own tiers based on your own data. If you don’t have data, get inspired here or experiment.

#5 Creative winners

Finding a creative winner is not an easy job. Well, I guess nothing is! How should you iterate on a winner creative? What to consider?

In the ideal world, you understand why your creative resonates with your target audience. You can dissect the parts that work well and those that don’t. And try to replace those with something that is closer to your target audience.

What you can also do:

  • iterate on the first 3 seconds (change them completely)
  • take your winner creative add 1-2 second intro to grab attention
    • you can use real life footage here
  • slap an influencer on top of your winner creative
    • UGC FTW
  • add different elements (hand, emojis, VFX, sounds) into the video
  • add trending tiktok music to your winner creative
  • cut it into pieces
    • make 2-3 short creatives out of it
  • different CTA

Happy iterating!

#6 Player motivations for creatives

Different creative concepts bring different retention & monetisation results. (DUH!) Yeah I know I know, but people tend to forget this.

When you are in the retention phase of your soft launch, be sure to test different creative concepts to find the sweet spot.

In early soft launch, I try to understand what are the player motivations of the game I manage. I sit down with the team and look at the target audience. What are some potential player motivations for your game?

Competitive spirit: Some players may be motivated by the desire to compete with others and strive to improve their skills and rankings.

Challenge: Some players may enjoy the challenge of trying to complete increasingly difficult levels or beating their own high scores.

Relaxation: For some players, the act of playing a match3 mobile game may be a way to relax and unwind after a long day.

Social interaction: Some players may enjoy the opportunity to connect with other players through the game, either through in-game chat or by competing against one another.

Aesthetic appeal: Some players may be drawn to the game because of its colorful and visually appealing graphics and animation.

Collecting and customization: Some players may enjoy collecting various items or power-ups within the game, or customizing their game avatar or in-game environment.

Escapism: For some players, playing a home decoration mobile game may be a way to escape from the stresses and demands of everyday life and enter a fictional world where they can relax and have fun.

These are just a few examples. Sit down with the team (UA & Product & Creative) and try to understand this. It will help you afterward in the brainstorming sessions & creative production!

#7 UA outlook for 2023

What will the UA in 2023 look like? This is the question I get a lot since the beginning of this year. Let’s unpack a few things:

Budgets

Gaming companies are targeting shorter payback periods in these uncertain times. If they aimed for D365 profitability, now it’s more like D180 or from D180 to D90. Depends on the cash flow of the company as well. You get the idea, right?

What kind of games will benefit the most?

I assume Ad monetized games because of the short payback periods and lower CPIs. AdROAS campaigns can bring very low CPIs, but also very good quality players that watch a shit ton of ads. Keep that in mind!

UA channels

Moving away from Facebook is still working well for me. Adding Applovin and Ironsource to the UA mix helped maintain (and even improve the quality). What does the UA mix look like for me now? Google, Unity, TikTok, Facebook + Applovin, Ironsource → a number of channels is connected to the previous point about payback period.

Creatives

We are moving from gameplay-focused concepts to altered gameplay concepts. What the fuck is that you might ask? You build custom levels in Unity or from scratch using game assets.

These custom levels are not shown in the game too often, but when you find a concept that works, you can easily integrate those into your game to improve conversion rates (and expectation flows)

When talking about altered gameplay thing Rush Royale or Gold & Goblins creatives!

Privacy, AI & other automation bullshit

SKAN 4.0 is coming + Privacy sandbox as well, nobody knows what to expect.

UA managers need to start leveraging AI (midjourney, ChatGPT, or whatever else) in their UA & creative workflows to get more efficient.

#8 Benchmarks & KPIs

Game developers usually talk to each other about KPIs they have and what they are able to see.

When you are asking about benchmarks, don’t only ask for CPI. Ask for CPI in a particular country or at least regional CPI.

Only CPI won’t tell you much either. What would you do with one number, e.g. CPI $5. Is it good? Is it bad? Hard to say. Ask about the LTV! When you hear LTV D7 $10, you know $5 CPI is actually pretty good.

Same thing with ROAS. Don’t ask what is the D7. Ask what is the D7, D30 and D90 ROAS. It’s about how the LTV curve look like.

I’ve seen games with D7 ROAS 80%, but 100% ROAS happened on D180. Because of the poor longterm retention.

You should be doing this excercise with all the metrics. Not only when you talk to other developers or UA managers. But when you are looking at your dashboards.

#9 UA for Apps?

As one of you requested, here are some insights about running UA for apps. Slightly different from the games, where for Apps the big portion of spend goes to Apple Search ads. After talking to few people, we agreed on 20-30% budget goes to ASA.

Because of the intent of the user. User is trying to search for different types of apps from battery savers, generative AI apps, fitness apps or whatever else.

What is the best campaign structure for starting ASA?

Lets say your app is called Generate my pretty face with AI

Brand campaign – Name of the app, typos, synonyms

Competitors

Eg. Lensa AI, I would use also other apps like Wonder, Dream by Wombo, Reface, ToonMe Cartoon avatar, Faceplay, goArt etc

Generic keywords

Ai generated art, generative ai, ai generated images, generative ai images, AI images,etc.

Starting with US and then adding other GEO campaigns (on geo per campaign) based on the revenue

Then we have the usual suspects here like Facebook, Google, TikTok and honestly sometimes even ad networks (Applovin + Unity).

My usual combo is ASA, FB, TikTok because the apps I manage(d) are mainly published on iOS.. But if you have an Android version, add Google ads as well.

#10 The anatomy of a (potential) viral TikTok video

Very important to start with is the length of the video. All videos under 7 seconds, kind of guarantee a nice algorithm boost for your posts. I found out about this when I experimented a little bit with TikTok myself for our no-BS gaming podcast two & a half gamers.

Here are other elements of a quality TikTok video:

  • Catchy hook that grabs the attention
  • Quality content
  • Call-to-action

What are the types of videos that might go viral?

  • Public Interviews
  • Day in the life videos
  • Educational videos
  • “POV” type of videos
  • Product review videos

Don’t underestimate the power of TikTok (both organic and paid). Publish frequently (every day or every other day), keep it short (up to 7 seconds), use hooks to grab attention, and double down on quality with humor by piggybacking on trends.

If you keep these lessons in mind, you’re setting your 2023 UA efforts up for great success.

#11 Generative AI in UA & creative workflow

UA managers need to start leveraging AI tools (midjourney, ChatGPT, or whatever else) in their UA & creative workflows to get more efficient.

Here is how:

Let’s start with the most obvious one – ChatGPT!

Writing headlines, text + short descriptions & long descriptions for your games in the store!

Headline Example:

Write 5 headlines for a Motocross game with 30 characters max

  1. “Race to Victory on Dirty Tracks!”
  2. “Feel the Thrill of Motocross!”
  3. “Dominate the Competition!”
  4. “Get Your Engine Roaring!”
  5. “Push Your Limits in MX!”

Order from the highest possibility of converting to players

Sure, here’s the revised list with a focus on increasing conversion:

  1. “Feel the Thrill of Motocross!”
  2. “Dominate the Competition!”
  3. “Race to Victory on Dirty Tracks!”
  4. “Push Your Limits in MX!”
  5. “Get Your Engine Roaring!”

While I moderated a panel discussion last week in Barcelona, Radostina who was on my panel mentioned this great idea of ordering ideas by possible conversion.

The same thing goes with short & long descriptions. Play around with the prompts and don’t forget to mention your most important keywords!

Creative Brainstorming:

Can you write a creative brief with 3 different video concepts for a tower defense game?

Sure! Here are three potential video concepts for a tower defense game:

  1. Epic Battles“: This video showcases intense, action-packed gameplay footage of players defending against waves of enemies and using a variety of towers and strategies to emerge victorious. The video highlights the excitement and thrill of defending against overwhelming odds and showcases the game’s high-quality graphics and special effects.
  2. Strategy and Tactics“: This video focuses on the strategic and tactical elements of the game, demonstrating how players must carefully plan and execute their defense in order to succeed. It features gameplay footage of players making calculated decisions, choosing the right towers for the job, and adapting to changing enemy tactics.
  3. Unlockable Content“: This video showcases the various tower designs, upgrades, and other unlockable content available in the game. It highlights the sense of progression and accomplishment that players feel as they unlock new content, and encourages viewers to play the game and unlock new towers for themselves.

Obviously, this is not a final brief but can give you pretty nice starting ideas.

With Midjourney, I mostly use it for my newsletter! But also for Icon testing in ASO. Test it out for yourself:

man face, female face, heads next to each other, man looking left, woman looking right, game art, cartoon, immense details, game icon, man is a businessman, woman redhead, beautiful faces –v 4

This was one of my very first prompts, which looks fucking terrible but served its purpose.

There are tools like copy.ai, notion.ai, etc. that can help you be more efficient.

Anything that I missed?

Oh wow! You made it until here! You must be very engaged. I like that type of players.. Ehm, people!

Please share this article with your industry friends. It would mean a world to me.

Also, subscribe to my newsletter. It’s so honest it might actually annoy you. If you are easily annoyed, please don’t subscribe.

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