Retargeting for Apps on Google AdWords

Ohad Galitz
Ohad Galitz 19 March 2018
Retargeting for Apps on Google AdWords

As you may know, Google shocked the mobile app industry in 2017’s Q3 when they announced that starting October, you won’t be able to promote your apps on Google AdWords, unless you use Google’s Universal App Campaign. The tricky part is that this new rule applies only to mobile app installs, not re-engagement. Until Google launches their re-engagement UAC, here are a few guidelines and suggestions for making a re-engagement campaign for your mobile app on Google AdWords.


Before you get started, you should first decide which audience to target. It can be users who reached a certain level of app usage, users who subscribed, or those who just installed your app. Once you finalized your target audience, you need to set a control group, i.e. setting aside a certain percentage of the users to act as the control group, just like in a laboratory. These will not be targeted, and will only be the base indicator of the re-engagement activity.

Matching Audience to Activity

After you have your users to target, it’s time to make the list. In AdWords, there’s a difference between which data list you upload to the UI. With emails, you can only run YouTube campaigns, while with IDFA/AID you can run only Display campaigns. Additionally, the list size should be large enough so the campaign will be able to run properly. On a side note I will add that search isn’t recommended when it comes to re-engagement, as from our experience it might cannibalize your UA efforts, as it seems on search Google has trouble differentiating between users who installed the app and users who have yet to do so. The best way to select an audience list to target on Google is with a dynamic list. This is done through an AdWords conversion tag, implemented into the app itself. This enables a dynamic inclusion and exclusion of users from the list, based on their fit to the list’s criterions, or if they converted in the meantime.

Unfortunately, most 3rd party mobile tracking providers do not support this feature with Google. Hopefully, Google will solve this issue by the time the re-engagement UAC will come along.

Before You Get Started

After all of this is said and done you are ready to launch campaign, optimize according to its progress and measure the performance compared to the base results of the control group. Remember to set a KPI which is dedicated to the retargeting activity, due to the fact that it is a fundamentally different activity than a mobile app install campaign. Segment your audience according to where they are in the funnel (e.g. users who registered and purchased, users who registered and didn’t purchase, etc.). Then show them the right message to get them to convert to the next KPI further down the funnel, and measure that specific segment according to that KPI. It may be a bit of a rigorous process at first, but the results it will yield are well worth the hassle!

Ohad Galitz
Ohad Galitz
Ohad has a vast experience in PPC and media management, and has a deep knowledge of search engines and user acquisition on both paid and organic. Ohad works on multiple platforms, and promotes apps on Facebook, Google and other major search engines and social media. Ohad also has experience in ASO on iOS and Android and A/B testing methodologies. As Moburst's resident Analyst, Ohad produces high detail automated reports on Excel and Google Data Studio.
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