Attribution model explained

  • Advertisers
  • Ad Networks

mobile user journey

What is mobile attribution?

Mobile attribution determines that a mobile app install, or post-install event, is the result of a particular media source engagement. Mobile attribution is essential to optimizing user acquisition, re-engagement efforts, and results.

What is a mobile app install?

The Attribution Model is a set of rules, used to determine how credit for an event is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths. All players in the mobile marketing ecosystem, Google Play, App Store, ad networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and mobile measurement companies, have their own mobile attribution models. Each player counts installs and events differently.

It is important, to understand the attribution model of the players you work with. Most important is to understand the AppsFlyer attribution model.  

In AppsFlyer, an install is recorded after the user downloads and launches the mobile app. This means that the timestamp of an app install is the first launch. This compared to ad networks who use the engagement time and App stores who use the download time.

AppsFlyer attribution methods

AppsFlyer's Attribution Methods

AppsFlyer employs different attribution methods, depending on the device platform and availability.

Install referrer (Android only)

AppsFlyer uses the Google Play referrer parameter which delivers the original URL, clicked before redirecting to Google Play. This is the primary method for Android attribution and is only available if the Android app is downloaded from the Google Play store and not from an out-of-store market store.

Device ID matching

The ad network, which has access to the user's device, sends the device ID to AppsFlyer on the click URL, or when notifying AppsFlyer that an impression has been served. This allows AppsFlyer to match the click device ID with the device ID fetched by the AppsFlyer SDK.

Device ID matching is the primary attribution method on iOS. Available IDs are:

  • iOS devices: IDFA, hashed Sha1 IDFA
  • Google Play: GAID, hashed Sha1 GAID
  • Out of store Android markets: Android ID, IMEI device IDs

Device ID matching for Self-reporting networks 

Upon the first app launch, AppsFlyer checks if the app is configured to receive traffic from the Self-reporting networks (SRNs. ) The SRNs include Facebook, Snapchat, and Google Ads. 

AppsFlyer queries the SRNs configured, using the unique device ID of the new install. The query is performed using Mobile Measurement Partners (MMP) APIs, which the SRNs enable AppsFlyer to use. Based on the answers, AppsFlyer attributes new users to the SRN.

Fingerprinting

The fingerprint is established by collecting different parameters about the device. The first time fingerprinting information is collected is on the first click. Then at the time of app launch, the fingerprinting information is gathered a second time and matching attempted. Fingerprinting information includes device-related parameters such as the IP address and OS version.

Fingerprinting is a statistical matching method and is not based on a unique ID. Therefore, it always loses to clicks with referrer or ID matching methods, if they also occur within the look-back window.

For the same reason, the attribution window for fingerprinting is much shorter than the other methods.  AppsFlyer determines the fingerprinting attribution window dynamically, based on the user's network type and the uniqueness of the IP address.

IP_uniqueness.png

TV attribution

AppsFlyer supports the attribution of organic installs to TV and radio campaigns under the TV media source. An organic install is TV attributed when all of the following occur:

  • The download, install, and the first launch together takes place a short time after the commercial is aired.
  • The user is physically located in the country where the ad is aired. The option to limit to a specific city is permitted.

Methods of TV attribution:

  • File Loading
  • TV Integrated Partners
  • Shazam

See Integrating with TV Attribution Measurement Partners.

Pre-installs

AppsFlyer supports attributing app installs when the app was installed on the device prior to the user purchasing the device.

Because there is no preceding user engagement, click-through, or view-through, installations are attributed on the first launch using the AppsFlyer SDK API. See Configuring and Testing Pre-install Campaigns for Android

User engagement attribution types

AppsFlyer records and uses two types of different user engagement attribution types: click-through and view-through. 

Click-through attribution

Most attributed mobile installs come from user clicks on ads, like banners, videos, and interstitials.

Upon the ad click, AppsFlyer opens a click lookback window with a default duration of 7 days. Installs occurring within the lookback window duration are non-organic and are attributed to the media source. Installs that occur outside of the lookback window are considered as organic installs.

click-through-lookback.png

AppsFlyer recommends using seven-day click lookback windows, which is the industry standard. You can set the lookback window in the range of 1-30 days based on your agreement with the media source. For example, the lookback window of Facebook is 28 days, Twitter 14 days, and Google Ads 30 days. 

Attribution Type

 

Attribution Method

 

Clicks Lookback Window

Range

Recommended
(default)

Click-Through

(All Integrated Partners)

 

Referrer, ID Matching

1 – 30 Days

7 Days

Fingerprinting

Fixed

1 Day

The click fingerprinting attribution lookback window has a maximum of 24 hours on iOS, and a lot less on Android, in order to maintain a high degree of accuracy.

For more information about AppsFlyer lookback windows, click here.

View-through attribution

New installs by users who view mobile ads, but do not click on them, can be attributed to the ad network that served the ad.

The lookback window for view-through attribution is shorter than that of click-through attribution. The window is configurable.

To enable the view-through attribution, set the lookback window in the configuration window.

view-through-lookback.png

This is especially helpful for video ad networks that traditionally have low CTRs on their video ads, but also for traditional ad networks serving regular ads.

Attribution Type

Attribution Method

Range

Recommended
(default)

View-Through

(Selected Integrated Partners)

ID Matching

1 Hour - 2 Days

1 Day

In cases where both a click and an impression occur, the click always prevails, as it is an active engagement.

For more information about view-through attribution, click here.

Advanced attribution topics

Assisted installs

AppsFlyer fully attributes only one media source per install, usually using the last ad click or the last ad impression (if there were no clicks).

Assisted Installs (AKA multi-touch attribution) are installs where the media-source/campaign was not the last touchpoint but touched the user before the install and the touch took place within the attribution lookback window.

Assisting networks are shown as contributors to the install in AppsFlyer.

For more information, click here.

Re-installs

AppsFlyer records new app installations on a device when:

  • The app was never previously installed OR
  • The app was already installed, has been uninstalled and then re-installed after the re-attribution window from the original install date has passed.

Re-installs within the re-attribution window are therefore not attributed to any media source, including organic. However, any performed in-app events by reinstalling devices are attributed to organic.

For device testing and multiple installations, you must white list the device on AppsFlyer's database or else only the first install is recorded. To Whitelist a device for ongoing testing purposes, click here for more information.

Retargeting attribution

A user who re-installs an app within the re-attribution window (90 days by default) is considered a re-attribution and appears as such in the AppsFlyer Retargeting Dashboard, if acquired from a retargeting campaign.

For more information, click here.

App updates

When existing users update their app, AppsFlyer does not consider them as new users, nor show the reinstall in any way on the dashboard. You can see the distribution of your new app versions and more on the SDK information page.

The exception to this rule is when an app, that has an active user base, first integrates the AppsFlyer SDK. When existing users, update to a new version, which includes AppsFlyer SDK, AppsFlyer shows them as new organic users.

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