Have you ever had the experience of overhearing someone say something in a team huddle or at a mobile industry event and thought “WTF does that mean?” Even if you’ve been working in app marketing and growth for years, it can be hard to keep track of the ever-evolving lingo of mobile marketers. To keep you up-to-date on the ABCs of mobile advertising today, here’s our app growth glossary from A to Z.
Got an important mobile word we missed? Reach out to our team and we’ll add it to the mix!
A/B testing: Also known as ‘split testing,’ A/B testing is the process of comparing two sets of ad creative, copy, or targeting strategies to see which one gets a better response from viewers. All other variables are held constant in an A/B test campaign for an unbiased comparison. One variable is changed to evaluate its relative effect on the campaign.
Active user: A user who opens an app within a specified time frame. You can also add additional constraints on what is considered “active” such as setting a minimum time spent in-app.
Ad exchange: A technology platform that allows multiple ad networks to bid on advertising inventory. The price of specific ad units in this inventory changes frequently. The price is also based on bidding by other networks rather than fixed or negotiated pricing.
Ad network: These organizations bring together ad inventory from mobile app and website publishers, then match it with advertisers – agencies, publishers and marketers. Ad networks often offer a variety of advertising types for marketers to use. Many of them also have specialities such as video advertising or incentivized advertising.
Ad server: The back end technology that places mobile advertisements onto mobile web pages or apps. Ad servers track the interactions between users and the advertisements (such as clicks, video views or ad impressions) and report them to the advertiser.
API (Application Program Interface): An API is a set of standardized programming instructions that allows apps to access a server-based software application or tool. Developers use a software company's API to design products that are powered by its service. An example is the Facebook Connect API, which allows app developers to utilize the Facebook account system for user login.
Appi Camper: An expert in the growth marketing field who has acumen and longstanding experience in the segment of the industry in which they work. They’re also cool enough to provide advice to other mobile marketers on their expertise around the - proverbial - campfire.
ARPU (Average Revenue per User): A measure of how much income an app generates, relative to the size of its customer base. To determine ARPU, divide the total revenue generated by users by the total number of app installs. This number can be compared with the cost per install (CPI) to determine if UA campaigns are profitable.
ASO (App Store Optimization): The process of optimizing an app’s metadata (title, description, keywords, category, screenshots, video) to rank higher in app store searches. While similar in theory to web search optimization, the major app stores have very different search rules.
ATT (AppTrackingTransparency): A framework coordinating Apple’s new IDFA opt-in mechanism launched with iOS 14.5. It requires apps to ask for a user’s consent to use their unique identifier. Unless a user opts in to tracking under Apple’s ATT, marketers will not have access to their IDFA.
Banner: Static graphic ads that often live in unobtrusive places like at the top or bottom of an app; or, as a piece of content that can be scrolled through. They are beneficial for serving ads alongside in-app content that does not interfere with existing content on the page.
Blacklist: A set of user IDs that have been excluded from a campaign because the user does not meet the targeting criteria. A blacklist is commonly used to exclude existing users from user acquisition campaigns.
Casual Games: Casual games are game apps characterized by mass-market appeal with simple game mechanics and rules that can be picked up quickly. Compared to hyper-casual games, casual games have more complex mechanics. Compared to mid-core and hardcore games, they cater to less niche audiences. Casual game players often also spend less time playing. They also play at irregular or spontaneous intervals compared to mid-core and hardcore game players.
CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act): A state statute aimed at enhancing the data privacy rights of users in California. Like GDPR in Europe, CCPA regulates how companies capture and distribute data. This is done by mandating user consent to sell data to third parties and holding businesses accountable for security breaches.
Cohort Analysis: A group of users who have a common identifier such as location or app download date. Using cohort analysis, marketers can observe how key KPIs change over time within a specific subset of users. This can subsequently be used to understand what campaign improvements and optimizations will yield the best results.
Conversion: When a brand successfully encourages a customer to carry out a particular, desired action. That could be making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or any number of other possible goals.
CPA (Cost per Action): An advertising campaign payment model where the marketer pays for a specific user action, such as account registration, social sharing, purchase, etc. Basically any action other than an install, view or click.
CPC (Cost per Click): An advertising campaign payment model where a marketer pays for each click a user makes on an ad they’ve been shown, regardless of what the consumer does once they’ve opened the link.
CPI (Cost per Install): An advertising campaign payment model where the marketer pays each time a consumer clicks on an ad, goes to the app store, and installs the app on their device.
CPM (Cost Per Thousand): ‘M’ in this case stands for the Roman numeral M for 1,000. A CPM campaign is a payment model that charges a fixed fee for every thousand times an ad is shown. This is a typical payment model for brand marketing campaigns.
CTR (Click-Through Rate): The percentage of consumers that click on an ad or link out of the total number of consumers that view that link. This is a good metric to keep in mind when evaluating the strength of your creatives. For example, a low CTR would indicate that an ad is not inspiring users’ to click on it.
DAU (Daily Active User): The number of active users of an app on a given day. Often reported as an average.
Deep link: A way for marketers to link to a specific page within their app. These are specifically effective for retargeting campaigns. This is because they enable marketers to advertise a specific feature or product within an app and send the user directly to that feature.
DSP (Demand Side Platform): A system that allows marketers to buy digital advertising inventory across multiple ad exchanges via one interface. By using a DSP, marketers can manage their real-time bidding (RTB) across ad exchanges as well as the pricing for the data that they are layering on to target their audiences.
Frequency capping: The process of capping the number of times a particular ad is shown to a specific user. This is important for preventing the oversaturation of ads. It also limits the risk of wasting impressions on users who have not engaged with your ad.
Funnel: The path a user takes from initial ad impression to the final defined target action such as app download or retargeted engagement. The term funnel alludes to the drop off in users at each step along the process.
GAID – Google Advertising ID: A unique and anonymous string of letters and numbers that identifies Android users for advertising tracking purposes. Users can reset their GAID at any time. They can also wipe their previous information clean, or turn off tracking data at any time. The GAID replaced the less flexible Android ID, similar to the way Apple’s IDFA replaced the UDID.
GDPR: a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union (EU). GDPR's primary aim is to enhance EU-based individuals’ control and rights over their personal data.
Ghost Ads: A type of ad marketers use to conduct an incrementality analysis that entails serving invisible (hence, the term “ghost”) ads to users when a real ad would have been shown. Bid data is still provided to marketers to provide information on users who should have seen an ad even though they didn’t actually see it. This provides a low selection bias environment and an apples to apples comparison of users exposed to ads versus users who would have been exposed to ads that enables marketers to undertake an accurate incremental lift analysis.
If you are incredibly confused by this explanation, we don’t blame you. Read our article on incrementality testing and ghost ads for more context.
Hardcore Games: Game apps featuring complex mechanics that require players to invest a lot of time to learn. As a result, hardcore games apps often feature the highest engagement among game genres. Hardcore games often feature in-depth and long-form storytelling and multiplayer role-play formats that inspire longer app session lengths. Hardcore gamers are also more likely than other players to seek out content outside of the game. For example, a hardcore gamer is likely to watch others play on game streaming services like Twitch; Or, participate in online forums to discuss strategy, tips, tricks, and more.
Hyper-casual Games: Games apps featuring a single core mechanic that is “snackable,” like parking a car or running through a maze. This content inspires short spurts of play that can be undertaken when a user is waiting in line or commuting. Hyper-casual games’ short and compelling gameplay make them most likely to go viral of the game app genres.
IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers): A unique tracking identifier created by Apple to help marketers and developers track a user’s activity for advertising purposes. The IDFA was first released in 2012 with iOS 6. In 2021, Apple access to users’ IDFA was made consent-based via Apple’s ATT framework with the release of iOS 14.5.
ITT (Intent-to-treat): A basic testing methodology used in incremental lift analysis that measures incremental lift by comparing the results of serving an ad to a treatment group and not serving an ad to a control group. Most advertisers use this approach since it’s low cost and easy to implement. However, this method can result in bias since not all users from the target group are included in the analysis. This approach also creates “noisy” data which can decrease the quality of your analysis.
Impression: When an ad is shown to a consumer, regardless of whether or not the user clicks on the ad. Each time an ad is served to a user, it's considered a new impression; even if the ad is shown multiple times.
Incrementality: AKA the best measure of ad success. The incremental lift that advertising spend provides to the overall conversion rate of a campaign. Evaluating a campaign’s incrementality measures its individual effectiveness and allows advertisers to better allocate their spending.
KPI (Key Performance Indicators): KPIs are criteria marketers use to measure their app’s success. This might include install numbers, app sessions, retention rates and revenue. In other words, your app’s business goals. It’s critical to set KPIs so you and your growth partners know how to win … and who doesn’t like winning?
LAT (Limit Ad Tracking): A setting first launched by Apple on iOS 10 in 2016 that allowed a user to go to their privacy settings to manually stop sharing their data with advertisers. It was brought back into the spotlight after Apple announced the privacy changes on iOS 14.5.
LTV (Lifetime Value): A mobile metric used to determine how valuable a user will be over a span of time. It can be particularly helpful for marketers when evaluating ad spend. This is because it helps pinpoint exactly how much money they can afford to spend on UA and remain profitable.
MAU (Monthly Active Users): The number of users who have engaged with your app at least once in the last month.
Mobile Apocalypse: Major events in the mobile industry that create overriding and impactful change. They often spawn a spiraling negative narrative in the industry that is overestimated and hyperbolic. Some prior mobile apocalypses include governmental data regulations like GDPR and private sector initiatives such as Apple’s IDFA changes.
Mobile Moment: That magical moment when a user pulls out their mobile device to undertake a specific action, providing marketers with a key opportunity to engage them. This includes - but is not limited to - a user pulling out their phone to text or opening an app to make a purchase.
Offer wall: A wall of offers or incentives that persuade a user to perform specific actions, like downloading another app, watching a video ad, or sharing content on social media. Offers are usually in-app rewards such as digital currency or additional unlocked features.
Personalization: Using technology and individuals’ preferences to create, target and serve more relevant advertising. Personalizing ads to users’ preferences can enhance an app’s overall ROI and retention.
Playable Ads: Interactive ads that let users try out the core functionality of an app or game. Similar to a free demo, playable ads give users the opportunity to experience an app before they commit to downloading.
Postbacks: URL requests that notify advertising tracking systems that an install or other tracked conversion has taken place. Postbacks give networks and ad exchanges vital data that allows them to optimize advertising in real time.
Programmatic: Automated bidding on advertising inventory done by an algorithm or computer program.
PSA (Public Service Announcements): A type of ad used by marketers to undertake an unbiased and accurate incremental lift analysis. In the PSA methodology of incrementality testing, a random selection of the test group receives a brand-related ad. At the same time, a random selection of the control group receives a PSA. Marketers use this information to understand the variations in behavior between a user in a control group in reaction to a PSA, versus a user served a regularly-branded ad in a test group. Additionally, PSAs provide information that raises social awareness around important public service issues.
If you are still confused about this explanation, we totally get it. Read our article about incremental lift analysis and PSAs for more context.
Push Notification: A brief, attention-getting message sent directly to the screen of a user’s mobile device.
Reach: The total number of individuals shown an ad at least once during a campaign. Not to be confused with impressions amount, which is the number of times an ad is shown to a user.
Re-engagement: The act of communicating with a disengaged user in an attempt to get them to engage with your app again. Re-engagement campaigns target consumers who have already downloaded an app but haven’t opened it in a certain amount of time.
Retargeting: The act of advertising your app to your existing user base, typically in an effort to re-engage lapsed users who have uninstalled or simply stopped using your application. Requires an ad network that can serve up ads to a specific list of user IDs provided by the marketer.
Retention: The rate at which an app keeps its users engaged after their first interaction over a given period of time. For instance, how many new customers in a given cohort or group continued to engage two months later? Marketers typically express retention in raw numbers (your app retained 1,000 users for one year). They also express it in percentages (your app had a three-month user retention rate of 35%). An app’s retention rate is critical to know in growth marketing. This is due to the high cost of acquiring new users and persistent drop off of app users over time.
ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): A monetization metric that refers to the amount of money an app earns back for each dollar spent on advertising. It is designed to measure how effective a business’ advertising efforts are. Your ROAS is calculated as follows: gross revenue from ad campaign / Cost of your ad campaign = ROAS.
While ROAS was once considered the best metric of ad performance, it overlooks the complexities of individual ad campaigns on individual user groups. See our article on incrementality for more information.
ROI – Return on Investment: The amount of money earned back from a specific business activity. In the case of growth marketing, ROI usually refers to the amount of money earned from investment in an advertising campaign to attract users to an app.
RTB – Real Time Bidding: A programmatic ad buying process carried out via real-time auctions where DSPs and SSPs buy and sell ad inventory. DSPs bid in real-time on ad inventory supplied by SSPs. The entire process happens in only a fraction of a second.
Segmentation: The process of grouping users by their similarities (for example, new subscribers) and creating offers and campaigns that speak specifically to that group of users in more nuanced ways. Segmentation matched with personalization drives higher user retention and ROI.
SDK (Software Development Kit): A set of software development tools that provide developers with libraries and tools to create, modify, improve or configure software. While many SDKs contain APIs, they are not identical. SDKs are often available as app platforms.
SkAdNetwork (or SkAd): Apple’s ad measurement and attribution solution with Apple’s ATT opt-in consent flow for the IDFA on iOS 14.5 and beyond. Publishers registered with the SKAdNetwork use SkAd for attribution on ads displayed on iOS devices. This provides marketers with the information that an install occurred. But, it does so without connecting a specific install to a specific device. This places the burden of attribution on the platform itself.
SSP (Supply Side Platform): A cloud-based service used to sell advertising in an automated capacity. In mobile, publishers use SSPs to sell display, video and mobile ads.
Stickiness: A metric calculated by dividing daily active users (DAU) by monthly active users (MAU) to indicate whether users keep coming back to an app. The “sticky” terminology refers to how well an app “sticks” in the mind of its users.
View-Through Attribution (VTA): an attribution model that credits installs or other types of actions to users who have been exposed to an ad and converted without actually clicking on it. VTA does this by tracking ad impressions and comparing them to post-impression user behavior within a specific attribution window. For example, if a user sees an ad for a shopping app while scrolling through a news site, doesn't click on it, but then goes to download the shopping app from the app store after within a specific time window, then it's attributed as a conversion according to a VTA model.
Whitelist: a database of mobile device IDs that are the target of a mobile advertising campaign. Marketers often use whitelists in re-engagement campaigns to retarget inactive users.