12 tips for killer User Acquisition operations

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You know why you are here! Keep reading the tips to improve your UA. Simple, practical & efficient! That’s it, no bullshit!

#1 Google Ad ROAS campaigns

If your game is monetised by Ads, definitely reach out to your Google rep (or ping me and I will share the guidelines) about Adbased tROAS campaigns. 

Google made the announcement about these campaigns sometime in the middle of the year. Originally, it was meant for Admob only mediation. 

But, thanks to peer pressure (this is pure speculation) you can run Adbased tROAS campaigns with other mediation platforms. Works like a charm, get on it ASAP!

Here are some best practices: 

Nobody cares about tCPA (event optimised campaigns) anymore, don’t use proxy events or predictive purchase events – its bullshit. Good on paper, shit in reality

Set an appropriate conversion window

A shorter (~3-7 day) tROAS window is preferred – Your window should reflect enough time to capture ~90% of your conversions/conversion value. 

2-3 “cycles” of the window must take place in order to fairly evaluate the campaign. 

On the other hand, a general higher data volume is required for tROAS bidding. 

I usually do 3 days window for adROAS, 7 days for tROAS

Set a realistic tROAS target

Whatever your achieved ROAS for the comparable campaign is should be your starting tROAS bid (or 10% – 20% lower)

Campaigns Optimization & setup

If your campaign has almost no traffic, check your tROAS bid. A high ROAS target could cause a longer initial ramp period. Consider lowering your tROAS target.

You could gradually increase the Target ROAS as the campaign stabilises, to achieve better ROI (This may come at the expense of campaign volume.). Only make small, incremental adjustments (10-20%)  to avoid volatility. 

I like to do a “hamburger” approach:

Budget increase

Bid increase

Budget increase

You get the drill, right?

#2 Soft launch magic

In Softlaunch, developers should use at least three UA channels from Google, Facebook, Unity, Applovin, TikTok, IronSource or Snapchat, then benchmark them against each other. Why?

So you don’t end up killing your game based on the numbers from only one channel.

My own experience, we run FB campaigns and KPIs were pretty far from the goals we had. We wanted to kill the game, but we decided to run a test on Google and Unity. Results were amazing on both channels. Not that we didn’t kill the game, but global launched successfully. Be careful when making decisions!

PS: this applies for global launched titles too. Diversify your UA portfolio!

#3 Ideal Optimisation mix

Your UA channels depend on your split between IAP and IAA (ads revenue). 

Having 50/50 split is ideal for your UA team and opens a lot of possibilities. 

You can use Purchase campaigns (AEO/tCPA), Value optimised campaigns (VO/tROAS) and also Ad monetisation campaigns (value optimised campaigns based on Ad revenue)

#4 UA channel of the year 2021 (2020too?)

Ultimate UA winner of 2021 was most certainly Unity ads. Fire up your CPI campaigns ASAP to get to ROAS campaigns on Unity. It is a necessary evil to chew through the CPI campaigns, but the ROAS campaigns are worth the pain.

Unity is one of the few UA channels that allows you to run AdROAS campaigns. But there is a catch! You are good to go if you use Appsflyer or Adjust as an MMP, but you can get into trouble if you use Singular (which is not officially supported)*

*got a clarification from Singular about the AdROAS campaigns:

The TLDR is indeed that Singular are not officially supported (the onus here is on Unity as they deprioritized the integration) but its a custom setup.  The setup itself, when executed correctly, works.  The wording ‘getting into trouble’ here actually means you could have hard time implementing the custom setup and spend more time than expected so you need to think about that while allocating resources. But when done correctly, campaigns work!

#5 Applovin 

Applovin & MAX – killer combination for Ad monetised games both in terms of Monetisation and UA. Be sure to use AdROAS campaigns with an appropriate D0 AdROAS target. Heard a lot of good things about this type of campaign and success stories about growing Ad based games. For me, didn’t work at all. All in all, worth a try if you have 80%+ revenue from Ads.

There is also a new product called Total ROAS -This new campaign combines ad revenue data from MAX with in-app purchase data from an app’s mobile measurement partner (MMP) to optimize for Total ROAS. Alright, lets try this out!

#6 The holy grail of Soft launch

Game developers are obsessed with achieving the highest D1 retention numbers they can, but D1 is not the holy grail. I’ve seen games with D1 retention around 25% still being able to generate 2 million EUR a month. The magic was behind really good D60 retention, which was 6-8%. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to focus on the ratio between D1, D3 and D7. Multiple scenarios described here!

#7 Soft launch Ad metrics

While soft launching your game the north star metric you’re aiming for is Impressions/DAU (Imp/DAU). In order for your ads to have a significant impact on the magic number you need to exceed or hit is 5 imp/DAU. With a proper mediation setup here’s what you can expect in terms of bottom line:

  • 5 Imp/DAU – $0.06 – 0.08 AdARPDAU
  • 6 Imp/DAU – $0.08 – 0.11 AdARPDAU
  • 7 imp/DAU – $0.12 – 0.14 AdARPDAU
  • 8 imp/DAU – $0.15 – 0.20+ AdARPDAU

*The main caveat here is that Felix has seen some games reach as high as $0.23-0.52 AdARPDAU with just 5 Imp/DAU as their inventory converts super well with advertisers.

This is very much connected to your User Acquisition activities in the soft launch period. You need to be aware what to aim for and what kind of campaign optimisation to use. Keep in mind, different optimisations, different AdARPDAU (and different LTV)

#8 UA diversification

Having Facebook as one and only UA channel is dangerous and the times when you could use FB up until the $1M monthly spend are gone.

If you put all your eggs in one UA basket, you are playing a very dangerous game. If you’re running your UA on one channel, what if that stops working? I start thinking about diversifying the UA portfolio after hitting around $20,000/month on one channel. Depends heavily on the game genre and monetisation strategy, but you get the point.

I always tried to maximise the spend in one channel. So, doing the diversification of the optimisation strategy first and then moving slowly to other channels, step-by-step.

By diversification of optimisation strategy I mean running all types of optimisations on campaign level: MAI, MAI + Purchase, AEO (tCPA), VO (tROAS), AdROAS.

This is very much connected to the previous tip!

#9 Creatives are made for players, not Art directors

UA should always work very closely with the product and art team. But an Art director should NEVER own anything UA related. Art director is a very different person when comparing to UA managers.

Meaning, UA managers care about data and performance, not how creative looks like. If it’s working I don’t care if it its blue, yellow, that scene or the other, camera is shaking and most importantly if its really high production value or really horrible looking piece of gameplay.

Real life example

One person said: “Look matej, no offence but the creative that is the best performer looks like shit.

I didn’t even had a chance to reply when both cofounders started saying:
”HEY!, its called performance marketing we look at the data and run creatives that bring money to the company.”

And thats the ideal scenario.

#10 Seasonal creatives don’t work..

… if they are isolated without proper creative strategy. 

Summer is around the corner and you are starting to think about seasonal creatives. Is that right? Sun is shining, we see a nice beach where your game characters are playing beach volleyball. Just stop right there! It’s the same thing as with Christmas/winter creatives…

Creative & ASO/store alignment is a really important part of the whole mobile marketing strategy. You are setting certain expectations for your players when they see your creatives.

In this case, you show them Christmas creative, but the only thing you have in your Appstore in Christmas theme is your icon. That is not going to work. Keep this in mind when creating your ads and preparing Appstore visuals such as icons and screenshots.

Create one seamless experience for your players. Conversion rates are going to explode! For more examples, check this!

#11 How to find a winning creative?

Question I am getting a lot: What is the best performing creative? How much money should I spend on creative production?

Answer: I have no fucking idea! You can spend 100k and not have a single good performing creative or a creative winner.

What I would suggest is following:

  • Have a brainstorming session
  • Come up with 5-6 totally different ideas
    • by totally I mean this:
      • gameplay iteration
      • slightly fake creative approach
      • UGC type of creative
      • lose-upgrade-win scenario
      • ask a question (Who would win? What would you do? What is your favourite food? you got the point..)
      • memes
  • produce 3-4 creatives
  • test, evaluate & iterate

Don’t forget. Creatives are about emotions. Nothing else!

#12 Don’t listen to me

Don’t listen to experts out there – me included. I know it goes against all the tips I have been sharing with you .

Get inspired & try things that work for others.

What works for me, doesn’t need to work for you and that is completely okay. Just don’t rely on others while you are trying to figure out things (“That worked for him, it must work for me as well”)

Do your own homework/research. Think, adapt, experiment & profit.

Anything that I missed? 

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11 tips for killer mobile User Acquisition (Q1 version)

Yo! Enjoy these few tips that will help you to improve your UA Operations. If don't, at least you spent few minutes reading and not working. Sit back, relax & enjoy the winter Q2 edition and share this with your UA friends. They will love you!

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