Ad monetization strategy for better mobile game performance | Chartboost Academy

July 5 · Nick Schultz · 8 Min read
Learn how to test your ad monetization strategy and optimize your ad performance to help you generate more revenue. Let's dive in!

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Can I ask you a question?

Why did you create your mobile games? Most likely you love the industry and had a unique idea you thought would resonate with other people. But, let’s be honest, you spent a ton of time and money on this endeavor because you thought it would be profitable.

Good news: there are multiple ways to make money from your mobile game. You can sell in-app purchases, run in-app ads, or go the subscription route.

Let’s focus on the second option: in-app ads. Once you learn how to test your ad monetization strategy, you’ll be able to optimize your ad performance, which should help you generate more revenue. Let’s dive in.

Test your ad monetization strategy in 5 easy steps

So you want to test your ad monetization strategy but don’t know where to start. No problem. This five-step process will help you optimize your ads in as little time as possible.

1. Define your goals

First things first: Decide what you want your tests to achieve.

You have plenty of options in this regard. For example, you might want to increase your average revenue per user (ARPU). Or, maybe you’d like to grow your retention rate by XX percent. Maybe you’re more concerned about your mobile game’s click-through and/or ad fill rate.

Whatever the case may be, decide before you start running tests. Why? Because you won’t know which metrics to track and optimize if you don’t start with a clear objective.

Want to increase your ARPU? Track revenue. Want to grow your retention rate? Track the percentage of users who engage with your game over a specific period of time, such as 30 days. To improve your game’s click-through and ad fill rates, track the number of clicks your game generates, as well as the ad requests and ad impressions it receives.

Remember, you won’t be able to track and optimize every metric all at once. You’ll need to choose a specific metric to monitor for each and every test you run.

2. Choose a testing approach

Now that you know what your goals are, you can design tests that will help you achieve them.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of tests you can run to improve your ad monetization strategy: A/B tests, multivariate tests, and soft launches. Let’s take a closer look at each one so that you can decide which is the right fit for your mobile game.

A/B testing

A/B testing, also referred to as split testing, is a method of ad optimization in which two versions of an ad are compared against each other to see which performs best.

A/B testing is straightforward. You simply track the results your original ad generates (version A) and compare it to the results your altered ad generates (version B). The ad that performs better wins. The winning ad then becomes version A and is tested against a new version B.

Unfortunately, A/B testing can be tedious. This is because you can only test one variable at a time. To run fewer tests and still gain meaningful insights, consider multivariate testing.

Multivariate testing

Multivariate testing is a method of ad optimization in which multiple elements of an ad are altered and tested at one time. The goal is to determine which combination of ad elements has the best effect on the tester’s end goal, such as higher ARPU.

Multivariate tests are complex. They also require a lot of traffic, which can take time. As such, they aren’t the right approach for game developers on a tight schedule.

Soft launch

A soft launch is a testing method in which a mobile game is released to a limited and specific audience, such as iOS users in Australia. Data and feedback are then collected, which the game developer uses to optimize its mobile game before it’s released to the general public.

A soft launch will help you determine the effectiveness of your ad monetization strategy. It will also give you a chance to test different ad techniques to see which perform best.

How to choose the right method

Your testing approach is important.

To choose the right one, ask yourself, “What’s my level of expertise?” and “How much time do I have?” and “Has my game already been released to the general public?”

A/B testing is both simple and powerful, but implementation is tedious. Are you prepared to put in the work? Multivariate testing, on the other hand, is complex and often takes time to generate results. Said results can be more insightful, though.

Finally, soft launches can provide a wealth of information regarding your ad monetization strategy. But if your game has already launched globally, a soft launch may no longer be available to you.

3. Set up your tests

It’s pretty easy to set up an ad monetization test. Simply decide what you want to achieve and the metrics you’ll use to track your progress, as we covered in step 1. Next, decide which testing method to use: A/B testing, multivariate testing, or a soft launch.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Start with a clear hypothesis: What do you think will happen when you test your ad monetization strategy? It’s important to start every test with a hypothesis. Doing so will help you learn why you achieve the results you do, which is essential to optimization.
  • Only test one variable at a time: If you’re split testing, test only one variable at a time. If you don’t, the reason why one version performs better than the other may be cloudy. And if you don’t know why something happens, you can’t optimize it. (Note: if you’re running a multivariate test, this tip doesn’t apply to you.)
  • Always keep a control group: Know which variable you want to test? Great, now you can get started. Just remember to leave your control group (version A if you’re split-testing) alone. Make changes only to version B so that you can compare the two.

4. Collect and analyze data

After you’ve started running tests, it’s time to analyze the results.

There are many tools available to do this. Obviously we’re biased, but we recommend Chartboost. Our transparent reporting and insightful analytics platform will help you track the KPIs you care about and then optimize them to drive as much revenue as possible.

Of course, Chartboost isn’t the only tool in town. Google Analytics, Firebase, and AdMob all help track and visualize your data as well. 

No matter which tools you use, make sure you run each of your tests for at least three days, even if your results are sub-par. That’s the only way to acquire accurate data.

Consider collecting qualitative data from your users too. Read reviews submitted after your tests take place. Send surveys to current players. Attempt to set up an interview or two.

While qualitative data should be taken with a grain of salt, it can provide valuable details regarding the effectiveness of your ad monetization strategy.

5. Iterate and refine your strategy

If you don’t use the results of your tests to improve your ad monetization strategy, what’s the point? You should always look for ways to iterate and optimize your approach.

It’s important to point out that iteration is not a one-time event. You should continually test and improve your ads so that they remain effective for as long as possible. So keep an eye on your metrics, whatever they may be: ARPU, eCPM, retention, CTR, fill rate, LTV, etc.

Look out for current trends and seasonality too. What’s currently working for other games in your genre? What ad monetization best practices worked during specific seasons last year? Can you implement them again this year? These are all important questions.

Since we’re on the topic of iteration, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ad formats, networks, and/or partners. Doing so may help you discover new techniques, diversify your revenue sources, and beat out complacent competitors.

Improve performance with an effective ad monetization strategy

You need to test your ad monetization strategy. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to do it properly. Simply follow the five-step process outlined above and you’re golden.

If you define your goals, choose a testing approach (A/B testing, multivariate testing, or soft launch), set up your tests the right way, collect and analyze the data your tests produce, and iterate your strategy based on the information available, you will succeed.

Don’t forget, Chartboost can help you monetize your game in a variety of ways. Publishers that partner with us gain access to innovative ad formats that resonate with users, painless waterfall management that makes it easy to optimize the process, and transparent reporting that delivers the information you need to make smarter monetization decisions.

Sign up for Chartboost to supercharge your ad monetization strategy right away.