In 2015, Google launched a new app advertising campaign type called Universal App Campaigns (UAC). In 2017, UAC campaigns replaced Google’s now-deprecated app install and app re-engagement campaigns, representing the next step in Google’s automated ad campaigns. The familiar campaign management advertisers were used to disappeared, and a new era of app advertising began. Advertisers could only adjust location targeting, language targeting, campaign budget and the ad creative itself. Bids, audience, negative keywords, demographic targeting, and more common optimization areas were not available in UAC campaigns.

Advertisers grumbled about the lack of control in UAC campaigns. However, as time wore on, these campaigns proved their viability. Google reported that campaigns optimizing toward in-app events saw a 140% increase in conversions per dollar than other Google app promotion products. Advertisers eventually learned the value of Google’s machine learning and improved app advertising performance.

It still is important to remember that just because UAC is a machine learning campaign type does not mean leaving it on auto-pilot will yield strong performance. Here are some best practices to keep in mind while running UAC.

Best Practices to Transform your UAC Campaigns into Performance Drivers
Implement 3rd-Party Conversion Tracking

It is imperative to track valuable events outside of just an install. Business of Apps reported that 25% of apps downloaded are only used once and 50% of app churn occurs within the first month. Advertisers need to be able to measure past the install to ensure efforts are optimizing toward the most valuable users. In order to do this, an app should be set up with an app-tracking SDK. Some popular app tracking SDKs include Google’s own Firebase, Adjust, Appsflyer, Kochava, Singular, Tune, and many more.

Optimize to the Right Conversion Event

It is important to understand the goal of the UAC campaign to ensure it is optimizing toward the right action. If the campaign goal is simply to drive awareness, then optimizing toward installs will help deliver the most volume.

However, typically advertisers want to drive better return with UAC campaigns. In addition to better data and measurement, these 3rd-party SDKs also can import in-app events (purchases, registrations, subscriptions, etc.) back into Google Ads. This allows Google’s algorithm to optimize toward in-app events rather than installs which should lead to more revenue and better ROI.

Ensure Full Asset Coverage

UAC allows for four different ad types: text, video, image, and html5. Building ads for each type maximizes the campaign reach. UAC ads can show on the Search Network, Display Network, Google Play Store, YouTube, and AdMob Network. Without building ads of each type, the full inventory available cannot be used.

In addition, more ads and ad types will help Google’s algorithm learn faster and better. The more data the campaign has, the better it will be able to optimize over time.

Allow Enough Runway

Budget capping a UAC campaign will lead to poorer performance. The algorithm needs a minimum of 300 installs/30 days for install campaigns and 300 in-app events for campaigns optimizing toward conversions. Lower budgets means it will take longer to reach those thresholds, if it does at all. Limited by Budget campaigns also manipulate the machine learning which hurts optimization. The recommended budget should be 50x the target CPI or 10x the target CPA. So make sure to set appropriate CPI and CPA targets.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Like any new technology, UAC continues to improve with each iteration. If the first attempt at UAC did not work years ago, do not give up. Instead, review the strategies used. Was the campaign optimizing toward installs when it should have been optimizing toward in-app events? Did the campaign have enough ads of each type? Was there enough budget?

There are many alphas and betas in the pipeline to continue improving the campaign. Engagement App Campaigns, ad groups, and tROAS bidding are just a couple of items recently released or in the pipeline to improve the campaign type.

UAC campaigns are the way forward for app advertising. Make sure to follow campaign best practices and transform your app advertising into a revenue drive. Need help setting up or auditing your UAC campaigns efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Mobile Apps Specialist team!