Top App Install Ad Platforms (2023)

Updated: December 12, 2023

If you’re looking to increase user acquisition with more app installs, this guide will help you. In it, we’ll review the benefits of using app install ad platforms for running any successful app install ad campaign. Plus, we’ll cover some of the basics of app installs to help you boost user acquisition.

In 2019, app installs ad spend reached almost $60bn. But by the end of 2022, reports say it could double to over $120bn. And with such steep and fast market growth, competition is exploding for app install ads.

So how can you plan strategic, winning, app install campaigns that beat the competition? Well, increasing app installs is easier with the right platform. And many of them offer a range of services based on CPI (Cost-Per-Install) or CPA (Cost-Per-Action). So, read on for more detail on the best app install ad platforms.

What is an App Install Ad?

App installs happen when new users download apps and open them for the first time. And app install ads contain deferred deep links that recognise users’ operating systems and divert them to their relevant app store.

App install ads are usually paid ads that run on social media platforms and search engines. And they make up a core part of paid user acquisition strategies for app marketers.

Marketers who engage with app install ad campaigns can drive large increases in user acquisition. Plus, mobile app install advertising is skyrocketing. Over the past 3 years, advertising spend on app installs doubled. So, with spending now into the hundreds of billions of dollars, competition to get app installs is intense.

Worldwide App Install Advertising Expenditure 2017 – 2022

What Are the Different Types of App Install Ads?

App install ads appear on a wide range of platforms and in a broad range of formats. And they include Native Ads, Search Network, Display Ads, Banner Ads and Short and Long-Form Video.

Google App Campaigns

Also known as Universal App Campaigns (UACs), Google App Campaigns are ideal for new app launches, creating app awareness and driving app installs. They run across several Google-owned platforms such as Google Search Network, YouTube, Google Display Network and Discover.

Google needs input from marketers to run ads across these platforms. With it, Google can assess performance while providing useful insights.

  • Type of Ad: Interstitial ad or Banner
  • Ad Content: Description, App Store rating, icon
  • Ad Location: Search network, Google Play, YouTube
  • Action: What happens once users click on an ad (usually linking to the app store)

Google App Campaigns also run ads in the Google Play Store and show up for people who search for apps using relevant terms.

App Search Ads (ASA)

The Apple App Store can help you gain more installs by showing your app in an app store search. With a bidding system that lets the highest bidder appear right at the top of searches, 65% of installs happen after a store search. So you may want to leave some extra budget aside if you want to secure the top position in the search.

Facebook App Install Ads

Marketers can gain an increase in Facebook app installs by running ads across Facebook, Instagram and the Audience Network. But they’ll need to work with the Facebook SDK (Software Developer Kit) to be able to measure the rate of Facebook app installs.

App install ads can run via Facebook Ads, or by using a platform or Meta Business Partner.

Instagram App Install Ads

Instagram ads run in a native style, which helps audiences focus their attention on each ad. And this may be one reason why Instagram ads get a higher rate of clicks than Facebook ads.

Snapchat App Install Ads

Snapchat offers a younger audience to promote app installs to. And due to higher levels of engagement, the airline-booking app Hopper decreased its CPI rate by 50% using radius targeting.

TikTok App Install Ads

TikTok offers a wide range of creative advertising methods such as in-feed video, brand takeover and branded AR content. And many brands find in-feed ads to be the most effective at driving app installs.

Top App Install Ad Platforms

How Do App Install Ads Work?

App install ads usually appear on search and social media. And most include a link to install an app or redirect a user to their relevant app store.

For marketers, including deferred deep links in app install ads helps them to manage attribution. And it offers a chance to track campaign progress using specific identifiers for iOS and Android devices.

To run app install ads, marketers need to define their budgets. They then need to get hold of advertising space. And many app install ad platforms enable you to bid for ad space through programmatic advertising.

Marketers also need to create an ad and include images, the name of the app and a CTA. Then it’s posted on a relevant platform like Google App Campaigns or Facebook App Install Ads.

Google Play Store

Although there are other app stores, most users will need the Google Play Store or Apple App Store to get their install. But set up and attribution is different between the two. For instance, Google tracks all conversions to the store by default whereas Apple App Store needs a code to do it.

App installs from Google Play Store totalled 30bn in the first quarter of 2022. And this exceeded Apple’s App Store download rates by X3.

App downloads (Google Play) quarterly Q1 2015 – Q1 2022

Apple App Store

Apple App Store holds over 2m different apps, with over 8bn downloaded in the first quarter of 2022. And while all downloads from the App Store are non-chargeable, certain features such as in-app purchases do come at a cost.

Plus, Apple’s analytics tool makes it easy to track performance, app engagement and in-app event performances.

App downloads (iOS) quarterly Q1 2015 – Q1 2022

App install ads work based on several business models and metrics, all of which enable app companies to measure ROAS. They include:

Cost Per Install

Cost-Per-Install (CPI) metrics allow brands to drive installs by placing ads across a variety of media networks. And they get charged for any install based on a fixed or bid rate.

CPI rates are generally higher than others, sometimes as high as $3, due to better conversion rates. So if a user installs an app, it has a direct impact.

Cost Per Action (AKA Cost Per Acquisition)

CPA rates differ from CPI rates in the way they only charge for specific actions. And they’re based on affiliate marketing practices.

But since fewer networks and platforms support this approach, it can be harder for marketers to gain results. This form is very measurable, though, since CPA rates are calculated by dividing cost by the number of conversions.

Cost Per Thousand (AKA Cost Per Mile)

CPM or Cost Per Thousand rate is calculated based on every thousand impressions made from an ad.

CPM costs can vary from $0.78 to $7.00, depending on ad format and operating system. In 2021 the average Facebook CPM rate was $15.

US Facebook Ads CPM Rates, 2020-2022 ($)

Source: Revealbot

Cost Per Click (CPC)

The Cost-Per-Click model is arguably the eldest of the rates family, dating back to early 2000. And it applies to any prospective user that clicks on the app install ad. Cost-Per-Click rates are generally cheaper since there’s less indication of conversion compared with CPI and CPA rates.

For example, a Facebook Ads CPC rate comes in at $1.35. And so CPC and CPM are both ways of ‘casting the net’ to gain attention. But they won’t always translate into direct conversions or app installs.

What are the Benefits of App Install Ads for User Acquisition (UA)?

So what’s so good about app install ads when it comes to UA? Some notable benefits include:

  • Boosts App Store Optimization (ASO): App install ad campaigns drive traffic to an app in an app store. So, they’re a key driver for increasing App Store Optimization (ASO).
  • Helps with App Event Optimization (AEO): In-app events like product launches, premieres, and special events can all benefit from increased traffic from app install ads.
  • Increases ROAS through Targeted A/B Testing: With some attribution measures in place, marketers can carry out multivariate testing on app install ads using targeted campaigns. Then, they can use this learning to determine successful campaigns and increase Return on Ad Spend.
  • Can increase in-app purchasing: By driving more users to download apps from the app store, marketers can gain additional revenue from in-app purchases.
  • Encourages organic traffic: App install campaigns can raise a brand’s profile and increase the amount of organic traffic coming to an app store via search.
  • You only pay if it succeeds: CPI and CPA rates can avoid arbitrary costs and improve your chance of getting results.

Evidence shows that app install ads help many verticals to promote their products and services and gain audience increases. So how do they work?

Global App Installs from Paid Campaigns – 2018 and 2019

How Much do App Install Ads Cost?

Since we’ve already highlighted the various business models for app installs, here’s a quick rundown of the costs you could expect:

Cost Per Install (CPI)

Average Cost Per Install (CPI)$1.75
Average mobile app CPI (North America)$5.28
Average mobile app CPI (APAC)$0.93
Average mobile app CPI (EMEA)$1.03
Average mobile app CPI (Latin America)$0.34
iOS app CPI Globally$3.6
Android app CPI Globally (Google Play market)$1.22
Facebook Ads CPI (Cost Per Install)$1.97

What are the Best Practices for App Install Ads?

So how can you create an effective app install ad campaign? We’ve set out a few suggestions below that may help:

Define Objectives

Understanding and identifying campaign goals and objectives are at the core of every app install ad campaign. So start with defining your audience. Which sort of age range, location, behaviors and characteristics are you looking for in an audience?

Implement Campaign Tracking

There isn’t much point in running an app install ad campaign without analyzing what it’s doing. So make sure you’re tracking app installs and campaign performance by implementing the right monitoring tools.

Conduct Testing

You want to understand which campaigns are hitting the spot and which aren’t. So, running A/B testing is one way of comparing response rates between variables.

Optimize Creative Assets

The creative content of your ad is vital to success. Because, if your ad contains too much text and not enough visuals, your bid value will increase.

Understand the Bidding Process

Each platform has a different bidding process. For example, Google Ads uses machine learning to rotate ads and adjust bids. Whereas Facebook uses Optimised CPM bidding, which leverages Facebook’s algorithms to optimize all campaigns.

Pros and Cons of App Install Ads

What do App Install Ad Platforms Do?

Gaining increases in-app installs is a complex endeavor. But marketers can gain the expertise, knowledge, tools and advertising creative support they need by leveraging support from app install ad platforms.

Buying Advertising Space via Programmatic

Programmatic advertising allows marketers to benefit from automated, real-time bidding for advertising space. And app install ad platforms help you to get hold of ad space using programmatic platforms. These are defined as:

  • Demand Side Platforms (DSP): DSPs let you buy digital ad space automatically via ad exchanges. Buyers can target audiences based on data, e.g. location, age, and then target audiences that meet these parameters.
  • Supply Side Platforms (SSP): SSPs manage ad space inventory, making them a little different from DSPs because DSPs manage ad buying. In practice, SSPs work with DSPs to help manage existing ad inventory. And they connect to multiple ad exchanges to get the widest reach of potential buyers.
  • Data Management Platforms (DMP): DMPs are independent platforms that centralize data and build a comprehensive user profile using algorithms. They also match up ad inventory to ad space, acting as a catalyst for programmatic to work.
  • Ad Exchange: An Ad Exchange is the final piece of the puzzle. It is like a trading floor, where SSPs and DSPs meet up to agree on buying and selling ad inventory.

Identifying and Targeting Custom or Lookalike Audiences

Many platforms aid with managing data to support with identifying, segmenting and targeting audiences. And since over 60% of app marketers think targeted ads, that use purchasing data, are the solution to finding new users, it’s a critical function to success.

Develop App Install Ad Creative

Marketers need to choose the right ad format and include the right data as part of their ads. And the key elements include:

  • Images: Particularly if you’re running ads on Instagram, images will be central to your campaign’s success.
  • Copy: Solving a user’s problem can gain higher levels of engagement.
  • CTA: Try out different CTA (Calls-to-action) as part of your testing.

Create Full-Funnel Strategies

George Sharpe, Founder of Favoured, says full-funnel marketing means marketing beyond app installs. And many app install ad platforms can offer a bigger picture approach to marketing, helping app marketers to create holistic campaigns that take advantage of what happens before and after an app install.

Manage Attribution and Performance Tracking

Tracking performance is vital to the success of your campaign. And most app install ad platforms can support this for you. Testing is key, which is why many app install ad platforms also support data segmentation and targeting.

What are the Different Types of App Install Ad Platforms?

App install ad platforms come in different forms. Some take an agency approach and others operate as SaaS cloud-based platforms. Most will drive app install campaigns by working on a CPI or CPA basis.

Performance Marketing Platforms

Performance marketing is when you pay only for measurable results, usually via native ads. And while it’s often based on a CPM model and can reach thousands of prospects, it usually costs much more. The average CPM for Facebook Ads comes in at $14.9, whereas the average CPI is more like $1.97.

The advantage of this higher rate, though, is a lower risk of failure.

Growth Marketing Platforms

Growth marketing is about trialing and implementing new ways to gain app growth using innovation and technical ability. Growth marketing also covers full-funnel marketing, which helps app marketers to optimize app installs rather than leave them in isolation.

Self-Serve Advertising Platforms

Self-service advertising platforms are almost always SaaS products that enable advertisers to buy and manage ad campaigns themselves. They’re owned by third-party ad tech vendors. And because they don’t allow an advertiser to control supply sources, they aren’t technically DSPs.

Multi-Campaign Platforms

It’s usually much easier to track app install conversions across different platforms with a service that can track them for you.

Google Display ads, Google Search Network, Facebook Ads, Apple Search Ads – there are so many platforms to run app install ads. And so app marketers may benefit from working with multi-campaign platforms.

Why Work with a Top App Install Ad Platform?

Getting increased app installs as part of an app launch or bulk drive can be complex. And so app marketers may find it much easier to align with an app install ad platform. Most of them will run on a CPI model and others use CPC or CPM. And of course, there are upsides and downsides to each of these approaches, as we’ve highlighted.

Today, getting more app installs should be only one element of a full-funnel marketing approach. App installs are one thing, but they’re only as powerful as the marketing practices that surround them.

App install ad platforms can provide a global, birds-eye, bigger picture approach to your campaigns that uses data in targeted and focused ways. So, please be our guest and take a look over our selected list of the best app install ad platforms.


List of The Top App Install Ad Platforms

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