Mobile App Metrics that Matter – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by adamsinger

Releasing a mobile app to the public is certainly an accomplishment, but launch day is nowhere near the end of the process. It’s just as vital to measure people’s interaction with your apps as it is to measure their interaction with your web properties.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Adam Singer—Google’s analytics advocate—walks us through some of the most important metrics to watch to make sure your app is as successful as possible.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I am Adam Singer (Twitter, Google+), Product Marking Manager on Google Analytics, as well as blogger at, and I happen to be up here in Seattle and the Moz folk asked me if I’d be willing to do a Whiteboard Friday. So I’ve actually been watching Whiteboard Fridays for probably the last six or seven years. It feels like that long. I don’t know if you guys have been doing them that long, but it feels like a long time.

So I’m excited to come in today and chat with you about a subject I’ve been talking about at conferences all over the world, we’ve been sharing on our blog, on ClickZ—I write a once monthly column at ClickZ—mobile app analytics. So app analytics are really important. Pew just did research. More than half of Americans now own a smartphone. We’ve also seen a lot of really interesting pieces of research sharing that for some retailers they’re actually getting more conversions on mobile via apps and via mobile sites than desktop.

So, obviously, apps are really important, and via our own research that we did on the Analytics Team, last year we found that around 87% of marketers are actually planning to increase their emphasis on mobile app analytics and app measurement into 2013. We also found out that around half of marketers were either completely new or novice at app analytics, so they didn’t have much experience.

So this is an area as a marketer, if you’ve never measured a mobile app before, it’s an area you’re going to need to get into, because in the future I think pretty much every company that is interested in maintaining a relationship with their users in a location-agnostic setting, not just in front of their desktop, but wherever they go, will have a mobile app.

So I want to talk about some important mobile app metrics that matter. So, thank you, Jennifer, on the Moz team—sorry, Moz, not SEOmoz anymore—drew my little diagram for me. So really the buckets for apps that matter are really three: acquisition, engagement, and outcomes. So let’s go through these metrics, and it’s slightly different than web. So if you’ve only measured on web, this will be different, but at the same time there’s a sort of one-to-one with different metrics, for example pages and screens per session.

So let’s take a look. For acquisition metrics, app downloads are really important. So when you’re acquiring new users, you definitely want to look at who’s actually downloading your app, what channels are most effective at acquisition, what channels are actually bringing you high quality users.

You also want to look at new users and active users. So this is important. You want to make sure you’re not just acquiring a whole bunch of new users, but you want to make sure that you actually have a steady stream of people actively launching your app. So when we talk about engagement in just a second, we’ll show you why that’s important. But I think a lot of marketers make the mistake of doing a good job bringing people to their app download page, getting people to install the app, and then they’re really not concerned with if that user sticks around. For apps it’s really important. If people download your app, use it once and then never use it again, you’ve kind of failed.

Also for acquisition, demographics are really important for apps. So you especially want to look at where people are coming from; which on apps is really interesting because they might not be at home, they might be at home; as well as acquisition channels. So whether you have an android or an iOS app, the channels that your users come from are going to be pretty important, and if you’re already looking at web analytics, these will be familiar to you. You’ll see acquisition sources from search, hopefully from email campaigns. If you’re doing that to market your app via email, make sure you tag those links. And how people are coming to your page in the Play Store. In the iOS marketplace, it’s a little bit more of a black box, but certainly you’ll still want to take a look.

Next up under engagement, so engagement metrics are really important for apps. I’d actually say engagements are the most important metrics to look at, because, again, if people install your app once and never launch it again, you’ve kind of failed. So engagement flow is important for apps. These are reports we have in Google Analytics mobile app analytics, but certainly no matter what app analytics platform that you’re using, there will be a visualization tool to actually look at how people move through your app, as well, app screens, so what screens people look at. App screens is an interesting one because you could have a lot of people viewing multiple screens on your app. Is this a good thing? Maybe.

You want to take a look at are they actually accomplishing what you want, because you might have too many screens. What we’ve seen for apps is that by reducing the number of screens and perhaps putting more content on one screen that someone can slide through, get an overview of quickly, and then drill down into a more specific feature or screen on your app, you can increase the engagement with your app significantly rather than creating frustration if someone has to continue to click on different screens on your app to get to what they want. So I think you’ll notice a lot of the apps that are most sticky for you, at least I find, actually have less screens.

Loyalty and retention is really important. So whatever app analytics tool you’re using, you want to be looking at your loyalty reports to determine who’s launching your app, not just one or two times, but you want to see in a given month people launching your app 10 times, 11 times, 20 times, even 50 times.

So if your app is really sticky, people will be using it more consistently. So really, if you have a lot of people downloading your app, but then you notice those same users aren’t very loyal, they’re not launching your app a lot of times throughout the month, you want to reevaluate your app before you go out and do more acquisition, because there’s nothing worse than spending more money in online advertising and mobile app advertising to get more users if they’re not engaging with your app.

So figure that out soon. Make sure that your app is sticky. This is even more important than web because what you want ideally is you want to be using your analytics to make your app better, and you want it to be so good that it’s on the home screen of your user’s device. It’s not buried on a second or third screen that they never actually launch on their iPhone or on their Android.

So that gets us to outcomes, everyone’s favorite report. So if you’re kicking butt with acquisition and you have a really sticky app that people are using all the time, you’ll want to next focus on outcomes. So outcomes, similar to web, are really conversion areas for our app, where we’re actually making money; metrics that have economic impact for our business.

So, things like app sales, if people are actually buying your app, that would show up in outcome reports. Ad monetization, if you have in-app monetization for ads, that’s a great way to monetize your app. Especially if you have a game, it’s a great way to make money from your app using a tool like AdMob. You want to determine how you can maximize ad revenue without being intrusive, because you definitely don’t want to have an ad experience in an app that’s going to detract from the app.

You want to make sure that’s it’s a balance. If you’re a new site, you want to make sure that there are not ads coming over your content and causing users to accidentally click them. You want to make sure that the ads are relevant and that the ads are useful, and that they’re not disruptive to the experience.

You also want to consider in-app purchases. So if you’re a game app, for example, a lot of game apps are really successful at charging users to unlock secret features or extra things inside your app. Maybe it’s a way to get an advantage over the other players in the game. In-app purchases is a great way to do that. You want to measure those and determine which in-app purchases are sticky. I have a few friends that are app developers, and that’s the bread and butter of their monetization for their apps.

You’ll also want to look at goal conversion. So if you actually don’t sell anything in your app, if you’re, for example, E*Trade – and I have an E*Trade account, I’m a big fan of theirs – you would want to track goal conversions, such as maybe to them a goal conversion is me looking at the trade screen or me looking at my portfolio or some other action in the app. Because what you don’t want is to not know what success looks like in your app.

You want to understand what you want your users doing, and that way you can actually have some goals to measure against. If you’re not selling anything in your app, just like on web, assign a value to those goals. Because once you do that, all of these other buckets become more interesting when you can do segmentation and you want to look at, “Hey, what users on the acquisition side of the equation are actually coming through to purchase?” Or, “Which users are engaging really well, but aren’t necessarily making me more revenue?”

So you’ll want to segment that data, and you’ll want to look at which users are completing your desired goals. So that’s just a service level overview.

Some other things that I didn’t go through were the developer reports, like crashes and exceptions. Certainly, if you have an app, those are important as well. If you’re a marketer, look at those reports too, because you want to push your development team to eliminate any of the crashes in your app. Those aren’t good things. You can suffer attrition, certainly, unless your app is really, really sticky. People might launch it once, and enough crashes they might not ever come back. So those are important reports to look at too.

But I just wanted to provide an overview to you guys today. Hopefully, you are measuring apps right now. We have a free app analytics tool at Google.

But no matter what app tool you use, you definitely want to be measuring. Data is really important for apps. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet at me @AdamSinger. Always happy to help out with app measurement, and have an awesome weekend Mozzers.

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December 13, 2013  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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TechNetSource » Mobile App Metrics that Matter – Whiteboard Friday