About self-reporting networks (SRNs)

At a glance: Self-reporting networks (SRNs), also known as self-attributing networks,  communicate attributable events by API and don't implement external attribution links.

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Self-reporting networks (SRNs)

  • SRNs, communicate events like new installs and in-app events to AppsFlyer by API.
  • Non-SRNs report events using external attribution links. 
  • Each SRN has a unique attribution policy and reporting method. This leads to quirks and differences in reporting between the SRNs and non-SRNs and between the SRNs themselves.

How do SRNs work?

Potential app users are exposed to and interact with multiple ads before they install an app. In general, attribution providers provide advertisers with last-touch attribution, attributing the install to the last click before the install, and multi-touch insights.

Upon the first app launch, AppsFlyer checks if the app in AppsFlyer is configured to receive traffic from SRNs. If so, AppsFlyer queries the SRNs configured for the app, using the advertising ID of the new install. This is performed using MMP (Mobile Measurement Partner) APIs, between AppsFlyer and the SRNs. Based on answers returned, AppsFlyer performs attribution. 

Example

Network A reports a click from a user on Monday, Network B reports a video engagement on Tuesday, and then Network C reports an additional click on a playable ad on Wednesday – resulting in an install about thirty minutes later. In this case, AppsFlyer attributes the install to Network C and gives credit to the previous networks as having assisted the install. We provide the option to access available touchpoints prior to install data so that marketers can further customize their own multi-touch or fractional attribution models. Click here for a short explanation.

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Third-party attribution providers and SRNs

Some of the largest networks use a different methodology. Rather than reporting each click to attribution and measurement partners, they create an open data sync with specific attribution and measurement providers. Whenever the attribution provider sees an install, it uses a proprietary API to sync the DeviceID with the network. The network then reports the details of any relevant ad clicks or impressions.

At AppsFlyer, we then sequence all relevant impression and click data, using our standard attribution logic to attribute the install based on both last touch and multi-touch methodologies.

Example

Continuing the example above, if Network D, an SRN, reports a click a few minutes before Network C, which uses a standard attribution integration. In this case, Network C is attributed as the primary driver of the install, because Network C drove the last click.

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However, if Network D drove the last click, Network D is credited with the install.

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SRNs and attribution windows - lookback and view through

Some SRNs may charge advertisers for an install (CPI) or subsequent action (CPA) based on a click or impression occurring 14 to 28 days ago. AppsFlyer attributes the install, activity, eCPI, and eCPA based on the advertiser’s preferred attribution methodology and lookback windows.

The marketer may still have to pay for installs based on the SRNs attribution lookback window and view-through models. Marketers look to AppsFlyer’s third-party universal attribution methodology to optimize and allocate their spend since we report the actual eCPI and eCPA based on the marketer-defined terms. Therefore, SRNs may benefit in the short term, as they often define their own payment terms. However, marketers fix this by using third-party attribution providers.

User-level SRN/partner data restrictions

Most SRNs impose restrictions on the use and retention of user-level data provided by them.

 Caution

The data restriction explanations provided by us are for information purposes only. Meaning that you are responsible for familiarising and complying with the SRN/partner's terms of use. Where necessary, consult with your lawyers.

Data retention and deletion obligations

Some SRNs and partners require that attribution providers delete the SRN/partner related user-level data after certain periods of time following their installs. This means that any events performed by these users after the deletion become organic. However, past aggregate data is not changed.

SRN/partner PID Number of months post-install after which data must be deleted
Facebook (TOS) facebook ads (all channels) 6
Google Ads googleadwords_int (all channels)
Twitter twitter
Snapchat (TOS) snapchat_int
Pinterest pinterest_int
Amazon amazon 12 
Microsoft microsoftdisplay_int and bingsearch_int 13
User level data deletion policy by SRN/partner

Sending data to third parties

Some media sources obligate advertisers to hide any identifying information about the media source when forwarding attribution data to third parties. The installs and in-app events are being sent, but without the media source name and campaign details. Instead, they are sent as organic installs and events.

When using AppsFlyer to send data to third-party analytics or marketing automation tools, such as Mixpanel or Swrve, the following sources will not be visible in those tools:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Amazon
  • Bing
  • Verizon Media (Oath: Ad Platforms / Yahoo Gemini)
  • Pinterest

FAQ

Why is the Original URL Column Empty in Raw Data Reports?

Since the click is not performed with an AppsFlyer attribution link and registered on the network side, click data from the SRNs cannot be accessed by AppsFlyer.

Why Can't I see Clicks and Impressions for SRNs in the Dashboard?

Since the click is not performed with an AppsFlyer attribution link and registered on the network side, click data from the SRNs cannot be accessed by AppsFlyer.

For Facebook and Google, AppsFlyer has an API integration with these networks and is able to receive the aggregated information and display it in our dashboards.

For Facebook details, click here.

For Google Ads details, click here.

How Do I Set Up a Campaign with an Agency and an SRN?

Instructions on how agencies can set up and run campaigns with each of the self-reporting ad networks can by found by clicking here.

How to get more installs for the same money from SRNs?

If you run both user acquisition and retargeting campaigns using the same SRN, there's a good chance you're paying for traffic you didn't intend to pay for. This happens because of user mistargeting by the SRN.

The good news is that the problem can be solved, for free!

The SRN mistargeting problem

SRNs should target non-users in user acquisition campaigns and existing users in retargeting campaigns. This is often not the case and SRNs mistarget users. When an SRN in AppsFlyer is enabled to retarget, then after each app launch AppsFlyer queries the SRN to find out if the device was involved in a recent engagement. When true,  the SRN replies with the campaign name. Appsflyer then determines if the launch was a first launch or not and attributes accordingly as follows:

  • First launch:  New install attributed to the campaign name
  • Not first launch: Existing user attributed to a re-engagement under the campaign name

While getting a new install instead of a re-engagement is fine, getting re-engagements from user acquisition campaigns is unexpected and wasteful.

How big is the mistargeting problem?

AppsFlyer data analysts checked a month's worth of Facebook user acquisition campaigns, where retargeting was enabled. We found that in 30% of campaigns at least 15% of the targets were existing app users. In 5% of campaigns at least 40% were existing app users.

Generally, 1 out of 10 targeted users in SRN user acquisition campaigns is already an existing user. 

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Solving the mistargeting problem

The basic solution for the mistargeting problem is to exclude your entire existing app users list from the user acquisition campaign targeting. This ensures the SRN only targets new potential users, which maximizes your new user acquisition results for the same budget.

This update can be done periodically by hand, for example once a month. However, such time gaps may cause for new users to still be targeted in user acquisition campaigns during their first month after install.

If your AppsFlyer account includes the Audiences feature, then you have a hermetic solution. Audiences feature enables you to automatically send any segments of your user base to dozens of ad networks, on a daily basis.

As our research proves, solving the mistargeting problem could have a dramatic impact on your marketing and user acquisition efforts.

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