The Complete Guide to SKAdNetwork 4.0: Everything You Need to Know

Nadav Pesti
Nadav Pesti 04 April 2023
The Complete Guide to SKAdNetwork 4.0: Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking to get the most out of mobile performance advertising? If so, then SKAdNetwork is particularly relevant. Apple’s latest SKAdNetwork update, SKAdNetwork 4.0, was released in October 2022 – much to the surprise of the industry, who expected it to come at the end of the year. 

In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth look at SKAdNetwork 4.0, the newest version of the platform. We’ll cover what SKAdNetwork is, its benefits, key features, how to utilize it, and much more. We’ll also discuss SKAdNetwork’s integration with AppsFlyer and Adjust, implementation strategies, best practices for using the platform, and much more.

First Things First: What is Mobile Attribution, and How Does it Work?

In order to understand SKAdNetwork and the updates in its newest version, we must first go over the basics of Mobile Attribution and in-app events.

Mobile Attribution is an essential tool for brands, app owners, and businesses as it gives them insight into the performance of their mobile marketing campaigns. It enables them to measure their investments’ effectiveness in acquiring customers, boosting downloads, and improving engagement with app users. 

App Store Optimization
  • At its core, Mobile Attribution tracks user journeys across different devices and identifies which campaigns, partners, and channels led to an app’s user growth. It also provides tracking information regarding their post-install activities, such as in-app purchases. 

This is done using various technologies such as Fingerprinting, SDKs (Software Development Kits), and Device IDs, allowing it to trace specific users through different points in their journey and accurately attribute conversions to each individual source or partner that helped acquire that particular user.

  • Mobile Attribution should be used alongside Analytics and other tools, such as data warehouses, to maximize its effectiveness. This comprehensive approach allows marketers to make data-driven decisions that drive more value from every marketing dollar spent. 

Ultimately, Mobile Attribution is a powerful tool for brands, app owners, and businesses to gain better insights into how their mobile marketing strategies are performing and how they can optimize for growth. Without accurate attribution, advertisers, partners, and app developers wouldn’t know how much has been spent on ads or what constitutes a successful conversion.

What Are In-App Events?

In-App Events are an essential aspect of any app engagement and monetization strategy. They provide the ability to track user behavior and measure the impact of their mobile campaigns.

By capturing post-install fundamental user interactions within the app – such as buttons clicked, purchases made, videos watched, and levels completed – these events can be analyzed and used to inform product decisions and optimize marketing investments.

In-App Events
  • In-App Events are reported to the MMPs (Mobile Measurement Partners) via an SDK (Software Development Kit) or server-to-server API (Application Program Interface).

These events provide more granular measurement than downloads or install rates, giving marketers a better understanding of how users engage with their products or services. They also allow them to refine their marketing messages and effectively drive conversions.

They also help associate a value to in-app purchases, giving marketers access to more revenue insights. Additionally, real-time data insights can help identify opportunities for further optimization of the user experience to improve retention rates. 

  • With this data, developers & marketers can build better-performing apps that deliver greater value through better engagement and monetization opportunities.

What is a Postback?

A postback, also known as “callback,” is a type of attribution that occurs when data is sent from the MMP to a partner (ad network). This information helps partners optimize their campaigns. Postbacks are necessary for attributing each app install to the marketing campaign and media source that drove it. 

We’ll cover the importance of Postbacks in relation to Apple’s SKAdNetwork and its newest version, SKAdNetwork 4.0, in the following sections.

Understanding SKAdNetwork

SKAdNetwork stands for “Secure Key Ad Network.” It’s a mobile advertising attribution system created by Apple to help app developers and marketers measure and optimize their ad campaigns. It was first launched in 2018 as a response to the increasing privacy regulations from Apple and Google, such as deprecating the IDFA and plans to deprecate the GAID

Apple introduced its SKAdNetwork to receive the attribution of iOS ad campaigns. All advertising networks and developers had to adjust to this new framework by registering and ensuring compatibility. Naturally, solutions began cropping up everywhere. MMPs (Mobile Measurement Providers) developed new dashboards to work directly with SKAdNetwork.

SKAdNetwork is a secure, privacy-centric platform that helps app developers and marketers measure and optimize their ad campaigns without compromising user privacy. 

They can measure performance without collecting personally identifiable user information (PII). Instead, SKAN uses a random, unique identifier for each user called an engagement token. This engagement token tracks users’ in-app activities, such as purchases, registrations, and more.

SKAdNetwork helps marketers gain more accurate insights into their ad campaigns by measuring post-install events and conversions. This means they can assess the success of their ads even after users have completed installation rather than relying solely on install figures. With this knowledge, brands can optimize their ad campaigns for greater returns and higher ROI.

What’s New With SKAdNetwork 4.0?

SKAdNetwork 4.0 is the latest version of the platform, released in October 2022. It includes several new features and enhancements that make the platform even more powerful and easier to use, benefitting app marketers & developers. 

Here are the most important ones:

Hierarchical Source Identifiers

This will allow campaigns above the privacy threshold, which is determined by the crowd anonymity threshold, to contain additional information and for advertisers to measure more parameters (i.e., ad placement or ad creatives that did not exist previously).

The crowd anonymity threshold defines each app user’s privacy level based on the number of installs generated by the campaign. More data access for ad campaigns that do not quite make it through the privacy threshold means receiving fewer null postbacks, which is great news for marketers. 

Another update is the increase in source identifier digits from 2 to 4. When an install occurs, Apple allocates it to one of the tiers and shares relevant data.

Coarse-Grained Conversion Values  

Apple introduced an option to access limited coarse-grained data (only fine-grained data was previously available). With Apple’s Crowd Anonymity (the term Apple uses to describe the way it delivers SKAN attribution data), the more installs your app receives, the more data you can access. 

Source Identifiers - SKAdNetwork 4.0
Source: Apple Developer

Apple’s latest SKAdNetwork 4.0 update features limited data sharing through postbacks in order to safeguard user privacy. However, this latest update introduces three tiers – low, medium, and high – which are based on a campaign’s conversion volume. In addition, two more postbacks have been added, bringing the total to three. 

  • With SKAN 3.0, developers & marketers only had fine-grained conversion values ranging from 0-63. With SKAN 4.0, conversion values can now also be assigned through a coarse-grained model with different levels of granularity: Low, medium, or high, indicating different levels of user engagement. The good news here is that these can even be applied to smaller campaigns that do not meet the privacy threshold (which were invisible previously).

Coarse-Grained Mapping 

As mentioned, SKAdNetwork 4.0 introduced a new way to track user engagement through a coarse-grained model, differentiating between low, medium, and high levels of engagement. These directly correlate to Apple’s new postbacks system, which we will cover below. 

Multiple Conversions 

With SKAN 4.0, up to three postbacks can be received (whereas only one was previously received), each based on a specific conversion window: 0-2 days, 3-7 days, and 8-35 days. Each of these windows will be allowed to include multiple engagements. 

  • The first postback can now receive either fine-grain or coarse-grain conversion values, whereas the second and third postbacks can only receive coarse-grain conversion values. 
  • Similar to SKAN 3.0, each postback will be sent after a certain delay (as seen in the image above). Additionally, even though there are 3 postbacks per user, it’s important to note that those will not be able to provide us with user-level data (IDFA, device ID, etc.). 


Using this new concept, app developers and marketers can now apply a lockWindow to lock a conversion value at any point in a postback window to receive quicker postback. 

This is instead of waiting for updates throughout the entire period. The window of the second postback could be locked at any point between days 3 and 7, for example. 

  • Remember that using the lockWindow is essentially setting up a trade-off between receiving the postback information earlier and getting the information you might need within that postback. 
  • If you lock the conversion value too early, you might miss out on critical user events that have not yet been performed. 

Based on the industry’s alignment to Facebook’s lockWindow in SKAN 3.0 (which was 24 hours), we can predict that it might be a similar case with SKAN 4.0.

SKAdNetwork Attributions for Web Ads

Web-based ads didn’t previously have a SKAN solution, but with the new update, they will (this was Google’s excuse to use modeling until now). 

This means that web ads that send traffic to App Store product pages can now be correctly attributed, making cross-channel attribution possible. 

This may also solve many other use cases, such as affiliate marketing. SKAN 4.0 web-to-app attribution is currently only available for Safari, but the coverage is still significant, given that Apple’s official web browser comprises 90% of iOS browser traffic. There is still a sizable chunk of Google Chrome and other browser users that will automatically be excluded here, though. 

Benefits of Using SKAdNetwork 4.0 for App Campaigns

SKAdNetwork 4.0 brings exciting new opportunities for digital marketers to improve their app campaign performance. 

Now that we’ve covered all the technical updates, it’s time to review the ones that will serve advertisers and app owners:

Bigger Attribution Window & Longer LTV

First and foremost, having access to a bigger attribution window – up to 35 days – is a hugely positive change, especially for the many subscription-based apps. The extension of the postback windows from one to three allows marketers to better understand engagement from users who installed their app from a campaign over time. Additionally, this increases the chance of receiving more information in each postback, which could extend to lower-volume campaigns. 

Improved Granularity in Campaign Reporting 

Beyond that, the more accurate measurement the 4.0 update enables marketers is excellent news for the industry. Measuring post-install events and conversions can lead to a more accurate understanding of ad campaigns, thus helping marketers optimize their campaigns and maximize ROI. Allowing up to three postbacks instead of just one also enables us to understand how users engage with our apps over time. 

The new coarse-grained conversion values can be split into three types – low, medium, or high – and are assigned according to varying levels of user engagement. This means advertisers can still receive some attribution data even when the privacy threshold isn’t met – when crowd anonymity is low. 

As a result, advertisers can leverage this extra opportunity to discover more about their users’ quality, as coarse values can be used to track specific events, retention, or revenue. 

Accessible Attribution data

With the release of SKAdNetwork 4.0, small to medium-sized apps that previously did not meet the privacy threshold can now access attribution data, making it easier for them to understand the impact of their ad campaigns. 

  • This is particularly beneficial for smaller apps that may not have the resources to work with multiple ad networks to collect attribution data. 

  • Additionally, crowd anonymity and source identifiers are replacing the privacy thresholds of SKAN 3, providing marketers with more data in their postback. 

  • SKAN 4.0 introduces four tiers of crowd anonymity (0, 1, 2, and 3), which are assigned to each install. 

  • With SKAdNetwork 4.0, marketers can choose the amount of data received using four identifiers. It’s worth noting that the Media Source and Campaign ID identifiers remain unchanged, while the two new identifiers can be changed.

  • With the latest version, a full postback will be assigned to one of the following fields: Fine-grain conversion value, source ID, and source app ID. 

This increased accessibility will empower smaller apps to make data-driven decisions and optimize their advertising to reach their target audience.

Faster Insights 

With lockWindow, locking and finalizing the conversion value at any point in a postback window means reducing how long you have to wait for the postback. Consequently, marketers can gain faster insights. 

Web-to-App Attribution 

Web-to-app attribution is a valuable feature that enables tracking various flows originating from the web. Although limited to Apple’s Safari browser, this doesn’t hinder the amount of data marketers can collect. It’s worth noting that reducing null values can be incredibly beneficial, especially for small app owners and advertisers who may otherwise not meet the privacy threshold required to access data. 

Safari Icon

In fact, small advertisers make up around 70-80% of all apps. Thus, reducing null values is essential to making small advertisers more profitable. Apple realized the significance of this issue and reevaluated its approach, recognizing that preventing small apps from analyzing their data was counterproductive.

How to Set up & Optimize App Ad Campaigns With SKAdNetwork 4.0 (Featuring Adjust & AppsFlyer)

Using SKAdNetwork is relatively straightforward. However, it’s worth noting that marketers can’t rely fully on SKAdNetwork 4.0 just yet, because a few preliminary things must happen first.

To begin with, the majority of iOS users need to update their devices to iOS 16.1 (the version from which Apple supports SKAN 4.0). 

To fully benefit from the new SKAdNetwork 4.0 solutions offered by MMPs, app owners and developers must update their software development kits (SDKs). Moreover, ad networks and SRNs must ensure they also support SKAN 4.0 to successfully receive postbacks from Apple.

All of those steps are not yet fully complete, but in the meantime, marketers can begin thinking about how to use the additional data points provided by Apple.

StoreKit Icon - Apple

The first step to using SKAdNetwork 4.0 is to set up your app in the App Store Connect portal. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to add the SKAdNetwork SDK (or configure it through a different MMP) to your app to allow it to track and measure your ad campaigns. Remember that every SRN and ad network has its own SKAdNetwork settings, meaning you may have to configure your campaigns differently in each SRN. 

  • After you’ve added the SDK to your app, you’ll need to set up your campaigns, including post-install events and more. 
  • Following this, you’ll need to configure your ad networks and SRNs mapping, which involves setting up each source’s in-app events and revenue values.
  • Finally, you can measure your performance using SKAdNetwork data to analyze and optimize your campaigns as needed. 

SKAdNetwork 4.0 and AppsFlyer

SKAdNetwork 4.0 can be used in conjunction with AppsFlyer, a mobile attribution and marketing analytics platform. AppsFlyer offers several features and tools that can be utilized to measure and optimize ad campaigns. When used together, SKAdNetwork and AppsFlyer offer a powerful solution for measuring ad campaigns.

AppsFlyer's SKAN 4.0 Solution
Source: AppsFlyer

AppsFlyer’s solution provides us with additional layers of granularity to help reduce the data discrepancies between SKAN and non-SKAN opt-in attributions. However, it’s essential to note that this data still remains at an aggregate level and does not provide device or user-level information.

  • This solution also allows marketers to measure performance across multiple channels and platforms. These features make AppsFlyer an ideal companion to SKAdNetwork. 

It is recommended to update AppsFlyer iOS SDK to v.6.10+ in order to receive SKAN 4.0 data. Additionally, if you’re using any of their raw data solutions, you should update your SKAN conversion mapping.

SKAdNetwork 4.0 and Adjust 

Adjust’s solution to SKAdNetwork’s latest update is its open-source SKAN 4-ready SDK (version 4.33.0). This version supports all SKAN 4 features, including coarse conversion values and lockWindow. 

With Adjust’s Conversion Hub (that’s featured in its latest SDK version), advertisers can easily map conversion values, track installs and in-app events, and gain insights into user behavior. 

Adjust's SKAN 4.0 solution
Source: Adjust

Similar to AppsFlyer, Adjust also supports hierarchical conversion values, allowing advertisers to get data back even when the full install or event isn’t tracked with SKAN modeled data. Finally, Adjust offers campaign management capabilities so marketers can easily manage their SKAdNetwork campaigns from one platform.

Tips for Optimizing Your App Campaign With SKAdNetwork 4.0

With the introduction of SKAdNetwork 4.0, Apple has made it easier for app marketers to measure and optimize their campaigns. 

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your SKAdNetwork campaigns:

  • Utilize Meta Advantage+ App CampaignsMeta Advantage+ app campaigns (formerly known as automated app ads) can help you consolidate otherwise limited campaigns and expand your targeting options.
  • Map Events and Revenue to Coarse Conversion Values – Don’t neglect coarse conversion values; mapping events and revenue to these values is essential for optimizing your campaigns.
  • Assign Enough Budget – When optimizing your app campaigns using SKAdNetwork 4.0, it is crucial to assign an adequate budget to ensure the best and most precise outcomes. Marketers must consolidate a minimum number of campaigns to feed the algorithm, train the model, and receive as many signals as possible. So, make sure to review and allocate enough budget to fully campaign your app, as it can make a significant difference in the outcome of your campaign.
App Store Optimization
  • Pass Privacy Thresholds – It’s important that you pass privacy thresholds when setting up your campaigns to ensure compliance with Apple’s guidelines.
  • Opt For Broader Targeting Options – Broader targeting options can help you reach a larger audience and increase conversions from your SKAdNetwork campaign.
  • Consider Returning to a 30-day Subscription App Flow – For apps using in-app purchases and subscription-based models, it may be worth reverting to a 30-day subscription flow. This approach was previously used by some apps that adopted 7-day trials. However, with the implementation of SKAN 4.0 and its extensive 35-day attribution window, it’s now feasible to track these events more effectively.

By following these tips, you can maximize the effectiveness of your SKAdNetwork 4.0 campaign and drive better performance and measurement for iOS apps!

Key Takeaways

In summary, SKAdNetwork 4.0 is a powerful tool for mobile marketers that offers increased user privacy and greater transparency for app campaigns. It provides an invaluable set of metrics to measure the success of campaigns and can be instrumental in helping marketers adjust campaigns as needed to maximize their returns. 

Setting up a campaign is easy with well-documented instructions, and optimizing your campaign with SKAdNetwork 4.0 doesn’t have to be daunting. With the tips outlined above, marketing teams should consider their options for leveraging the resources available in this new era of mobile advertising and look out for opportunities to optimize campaigns further.

Ultimately, hiring an experienced ASO agency can help identify any blind spots within your existing app marketing strategy and open up new avenues of growth that were previously inaccessible due to a lack of visibility into marketing results. Take advantage of all available tools like SKAdNetwork 4.0 and look forward to improved ROI from your next app launch or overhaul!

Are you ready to get started with SKAdNetwork 4.0? Team up with Moburst and watch your mobile marketing campaigns soar to new heights!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is SKAdNetwork 4.0, and why is it important for app owners and brands?

SKAdNetwork 4.0 is a framework developed by Apple to help advertisers measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns on iOS devices without revealing user-level data. It’s important for app owners and brands because it provides a privacy-friendly solution for attribution that complies with Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework.

How does SKAdNetwork 4.0 work, and what are its limitations?

SKAdNetwork 4.0 limits the amount of data advertisers can receive from ad networks to a few dozen campaign-related parameters. It uses attribution models to determine which ad campaigns led to install events. However, SKAdNetwork 4.0 still has several limitations, including inaccurate attribution and limited optimization capabilities.

Which ad networks support SKAdNetwork 4.0, and how can app owners implement it?

Several major ad networks, including Google, Facebook, and Snapchat, support SKAdNetwork 4.0. App owners can implement SKAdNetwork 4.0 by integrating the framework into their apps and configuring it through their ad network partners.

What are the best practices for using SKAdNetwork 4.0, and how can brands maximize its benefits?

Some best practices for using SKAdNetwork 4.0 include setting up conversion value mapping, creating granular campaign structures, and optimizing based on aggregate performance data. Brands can also maximize the benefits of SKAdNetwork 4.0 by using it in conjunction with other measurement solutions, such as MMPs, to gain a more complete view of their ad campaign performance.

Nadav Pesti
Nadav Pesti
Nadav is Moburst's Head of Media Integrations & Data Analysis. He's an experienced growth hacker who specializes in helping our clients accelerate the development of their digital businesses through data-driven decision-making. He has an extensive technical understanding of performance marketing, social platforms, and analytics, as well as an eye for uncovering new trends and improving performance.
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