A Look Back on 2012: AdMob Edition

Planning to close 2012 by looking back on advertisement in my game, got delayed though XD

openingDon’t have time for this wall of text? Head to the end of the post for the conclusion.

Anyway, a couple of days ago there’s a discussion about paying tax in one of my Facebook groups. And well, the topic is sort of interesting to me since I have zero idea about tax and stuff (seriously, where do people learn it?). That discussion prompts me to think about the revenue I’ve earned so far from my game. I know I haven’t earned anything worthy of being taxed, but I have never really analyzed how it does. So I think this would be the perfect chance to do it.

A little background is in order. Android platform, unlike iOS, has several places where users can download app for their device. As a developer, of course I put my game across various Android app stores to maximise my reach. One of the app store I used to provide my game is Samsung Apps, which is pre-installed in all (well, most) Samsung mobile devices.

Most of these 3rd-party stores perform okay-ish, nothing really different from Google Play. However, at the end of July, it looks like the game on Samsung Apps got featured or something because it suddenly got hundreds of download each day. Seeing all those downloads made me think that I should try to monetize it while the download count is still high. And so I signed up for AdMob.

To be honest, I never liked having banner ads on games, they ruin the overall aesthetic (exhibit 1). Fullscreen ads or offerwall is much preferred since they occupy a separate screen. However, Samsung Apps doesn’t allow games to link to Google Play (most offerwalls advertise apps that’s on Google Play), so banner ads is the only advertisement option I have.

Offerwall

Here’s an example of an offerwall

At the beginning of August I quickly integrated AdMob and added a banner ad on Project Claw. I chose to put the ad on the result screen since I think that’s the perfect time and place for people to take a look and click it (putting it on the game screen would be a good target for accidental click though =p). After passing the approval process for Samsung Apps, the game with ads is finally available around mid-august.

Well, as of mid-december, it’s been 4 months since I tried to generate revenue from advertising, how does it do?

summaryYep, it has generated less than $14 during those 4 months. For reference, the game has been downloaded over 10,000 times from Samsung Apps during those months as well. To be honest, I was expecting more since I thought 10,000 downloads is quite a lot. It is possible that advertising on games isn’t as good as advertising on non-game apps. After all, unlike games, people use Twitter clients or manga readers almost all the time.

Wait, before we go further, let me give a quick explanation on all those weird terms. Let’s start with something easy, impressions. Impressions is how many times an ad is displayed, while fill rate is the percentage of how often an ad is requested and successfully displayed. Easy right? Let’s move to eCPM. eCPM is effective Cost Per Mille impression, that is your earning for every 1,000 impressions. In human language, it is how much each impression is valued. Last term, CTR stands for Click Through Rate, which shows how often an ad is clicked.

Now we know what those term means, let’s check them out. But before we do that, we need data from other apps so we can make a valid comparison. There isn’t any official data that can be used, so these various posts by anonymous people will have to suffice. For example, based on those reports, we could say that 98.8% fill rate is totally normal.

The first thing that came to mind that could be causing low revenue is low eCPM value, which is only $0.32 in this case. Most of the game downloads came from India and China, so it’s not really surprising to see low eCPM value. After all, it must be cheaper to advertise in those countries compared to advertising in the USA. The data speaks differently though. Apparently $0.32 eCPM value is quite normal for AdMob!

Another interesting point is that the game has a really decent CTR (almost 2%, compared to other people 0.5% CTR) despite only showing the ad on the result screen. May be it’s proof that you don’t need to to put banner ad aggressively to get people to click it. Or… it could be proof that my ad doesn’t get refreshed often enough (4-5 impressions per download seems low) =/

Unfortunately, hard, static data only shows so much. I think it’s time to add time dimension to those numbers.

ChartOkay, so this chart above shows several data about my game on Samsung Apps from August 15th to December 15th. The data depicted are revenue, number of impressions, and eCPM. Note that each data has different unit, so their value shouldn’t be compared, I put it close to each other so it’s easier to compare the shape of one graph to another.

The first striking thing to me is how the revenue graph doesn’t really mirror the impressions graph. After all, it’s only natural to assume that the more usage your app has, the more ad clicks (and revenue) it will get. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. You can see that even though the number of impressions shrunk after September, the ad revenue actually went up. And when the impressions suddenly goes up at the end of October, the ad revenue doesn’t go up as much.

It’s kinda perplexing, but things become clearer once we consider the eCPM graph. As you can see, the eCPM graph has a totally different shape compared to other graphs, because it doesn’t depend on download count or even the progress of time. So when the eCPM has high value, even with the number of impression going down, the revenue managed to go up because each ad has higher value.

You can say that impression is really similar to usage or download count. So, I think it’s safe to say that not all usage/download has the same value. As shown by the graph: the usage in October, despite being much higher than the preceding months, don’t bring as much revenue per download as before. I’m sure things will be different if the high usage number occurs earlier.

Since it seems like eCPM plays so much role in determining advertising revenue, I think it’s worth the time to take a look at it from a different perspective. Enter geography:

Taiwan download data doesn't show up =/

Somehow download count from Taiwan doesn’t show up on Samsung Apps report.

Several things are noticeable from the table. For one, there’s a strong correlation between the number of download in a certain country and the number of ad impressions that originated from that country. Another noticeable thing is how the CTR doesn’t really vary between countries, I suppose there isn’t any culture that encourage people to click on ads or something XD

Things become interesting once we observe the revenue column. Apparently, almost half of my revenue is generated only from 5 European countries, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany. Aside from Russia, these countries don’t contribute much to the game’s download number.

You may notice that the countries which generate high revenue have mostly high eCPM values. However, if you sort the countries by the number of impressions, you will notice that these high-impression countries have really low eCPM values. France is probably the only exception here. No wonder I only earned $14 despite having more than 10,000 downloads.

Seems like my initial theory that the low revenue is caused by the low eCPM, which in turn is caused by the user base location, is correct after all.

Conclusion
First thing first, let me remind you that that this whole stuff is done using only AdMob and distributed via Samsung Apps. So apps on Google Play might have a different case than this one. Anyway, in 4 months, Project Claw has gained over 10,000 downloads and has generated $14 from advertising. Apparently eCPM matters a lot when it comes to advertising revenue, and most of the time, eCPM is determined by the user’s country. So apps with users mostly coming from developed countries will have higher eCPM (thus, better revenue) than the one with users coming from developing countries.

That said, even if all 10,000 downloads came from France (the country that generates most revenue), by extrapolation, it would only raise the revenue to $35. Just enough to cover Google Play registration fee.

What’s next?
As I’ve said earlier, I never liked using banner ads, and since those ads haven’t been performing so great, it’s safe to say that I will abandon such method (the latest version doesn’t have enough space for ads anyway). My ideal monetization method would be using In-App Purchase so people can easily unlock items. Unfortunately it isn’t available here in my country, so right now I’m trying out Tapjoy offerwall in place of a real IAP menu. I was hoping a combination of unlockable items, popups, and offerwall could bring in a decent revenue.

And also, a little teaser, I used AppBrain offerwall to generate revenue from my app on Google Play previously, and despite the much lower download count, the revenue it generated isn’t that much different!

Special thanks to @lwastuargo for proofreading!

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