How ads monetise and promote your app

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Haven't got the first clue about how to monetise your app? Thinking about ads but not sure where to start or what's involved? Mark Allan from Ranyart Systemsshares his experiences so far - his Manchester United app is not only the top rated free app in the UK, it's also the top rated sports app in the world.

"When I did the initial Manchester United app I decided to put it out there for free to get the numbers up - I thought I'd figure out monetisation later on. After a while I dropped in Microsoft pubCenter ads to see how that would go. It didn't make me lots of money but it was more about getting my app in front of people. Now I've got 50k downloads I get a reasonable income from it. The new version has an extended range of ad providers including Nokia Ad Exchange and a couple of others like the adduplexwhere all the apps that use that ad exchange run ads for each other - so there's no money in and no money out unless you choose to run an ad rather than exchange. It's more about getting your app in front of people.

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All of the ad providers are reasonably easy to integrate although a couple of providers are a bit buggy. pubCenter and Nokia are trivial for example. I put some effort in to build some code that balances how often the ad providers work so I can keep an eye on revenues and send info to the app to base towards Nokia or pubCenter depending on what's working and what categories are effective - you need to have some control over the ads and how they're served up to your users. There are open source controlsthat do the same sort of thing around balancing so you don't have to go and create your own like I did.

All the providers give you access to the inventory of suppliers so you have a list of advertisers ready and waiting, you don't have to find any. You can filter them by territory and if you have business intelligence from your stats like their gender, location and age then you can provide that information through a control which will improve your performance. For example you can filter on health or sports based apps to choose to run ads that are aligned to your app category and what your users are interested in. That's where the fine tuning (balancing) comes in.

I get around 200k impressions a day - about half my users are coming back regularly which is really good retention even though the app isn't ranked at the very top. What makes them come back? I update the content regularly like news so if people have pinned the app to the start screen then it's a great way to encourage them to pop back in and get the latest news. It really encourages people to keep launching the app.

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I've got a 2 pronged approach to marketing - when I wrote the app I decided I was going to put lots of effort into links to matches and commentary and making it a really good app. It helped that it gets so highly rated - it's still at about 4.9 stars on average. The other approach is when I wrote the app I spent a while on social media like Linked In and Man U forums and just told people about it. That seeding helped it climb up the charts. Once you're in the top 10 or so the app starts to market itself. I use Distimo for reporting and it told me I've been promoted twice in India and once in the UK Store just in the past week. I did all my marketing with no budget, but investing in marketing is the next step really, so watch this space!"

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