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Businesses running mobile ads on platforms such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, InMobi, AdMob, Flurry and others will be affected by the recent release of Apple"s iOS 14 mobile operating system.
In this article, I will discuss the changes that Apple made in its newest iOS release and what steps you can take as a business owner or marketer to support advertising on different mobile ad platforms.
Let"s start!TABLE OF CONTENTS: ↓
iOS 14 is Apple"s latest version of its mobile operating system and it was launched on September 16, 2020.
The major highlight of the iOS 14 update is how it handles user privacy and data use.
Apple has blocked the IDFA identifier (more on this in the next section) at the app level. Advertising agencies use this to test the effectiveness of ads, and unless users allow the running of the identifier on their device, it will remain blocked.
To maintain user trust in Apple devices and the company"s high standards for privacy, security and content, the newest versions of Apple iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 will prompt users and ask their permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies.
Here is what the prompt looks like:
Around 70% of iOS users share IDFA with advertisers – but this number is expected to decrease to 15% or even 10% in the coming months.
Without IDFA tracking, it will be hard for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their ads.
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IDFA stands for Identifier for Advertisers. It is a tracking ID used by Apple devices such as the iPad, iPhone and Apple TV.
Advertisers track IDFA to deliver personalized advertising without revealing personal information:
IDFA is used with browser cookies to deliver relevant and personalized ad experiences to an audience, which leads to higher ad conversions for advertisers.Some Uses of Data Tracking
IDFA is used for data tracking. Here are some example use cases of data tracking:
Various conversion events handle ad tracking, targeting and reporting. For instance, tools such as the Facebook Pixel receives and processes the conversion events on Facebook. Similarly, Google measures conversions with the help of Google Analytics for mobile apps.
In simple words, Apple"s iOS update will give users the option to disable app tracking. Therefore, advertising companies won"t be able to track user behavior.Why Did Apple Change This?
Apple makes money selling hardware. In contrast, its major rivals, Facebook and Google, earn profits by selling ads. And every form of online advertising requires tracking user behavior.
This is what Apple CEO Tim Cook said while delivering a speech on user privacy:
“Our Silicon Valley rivals are gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that"s wrong. And it"s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”
Apple has decided to stop this practice and allow transparency in how companies collect and use user data. Therefore, this move has forced advertisers to make changes on their platforms to comply with the latest Apple guidelines or face rejection from the App store.
On another note, Facebook said:
“Apple"s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.”Why the Change Is Harmful to Small Businesses
Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a negative impact on small business" sales. People who are running Facebook Ads to increase app installs will now have to charge for subscriptions because Apple"s new policy is forcing companies to turn to subscriptions and in-app payments.
Apple does not receive any commission from Facebook Ads, although there is a commission for every app install from the App store. Therefore, Apple is trying to increase its profits by forcing small businesses to accept payments or exit the market.
What"s more interesting is that Apple"s own advertising platform is not enforcing the new changes. Nevertheless, Facebook has no option but to implement the changes suggested by Apple:
“We disagree with Apple"s approach and solution, yet we have no choice but to show Apple"s prompt. If we don"t, they will block Facebook from the App Store, which would only further harm the people and businesses that rely on our services.”
To track users" activity across devices, advertisers will now need the App Tracking Transparency Framework.
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If your app collects user data and shares it with other websites to track across apps and websites, then yes, you will have to use the App Tracking Transparency Framework.
There are three steps to start using the App Tracking Transparency Framework:
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Apple SKAdNetwork is an API that measures the effectiveness of ad campaigns while maintaining user privacy. You should configure it to comply with the Apple guidelines. It has three participants:
This figure explains the workings of the SKAdNetwork:
The SKAdNetwork receives metadata from ad clicks. Apple provides network IDs to registered mobile ad networks. The signed ads are provided to the source ads. The advertiser ads provide app install validation and update conversion values. The postback to ad networks will now contain up to 100 values only.What Are the Impacts of iOS 14 Release for Mobile Advertisers?
Companies running ads on Facebook can start measuring Facebook Pixel conversion events using Facebook"s Aggregated Event Measurement protocol. This protocol allows for the measurement of events from iOS devices but includes only eight conversion events per website domain. Ads that use events other than the eight events will be paused.
Here are the steps you can take to continue to measure the performance of your Facebook ad campaigns for iOS users:
You don"t have to worry too much about making changes in your Ad manager because Facebook will automatically configure the conversion events. You can, however, visit the Events Manager and add your preferred conversion event.
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In case you can"t verify a domain, you can track upper-funnel objectives such as landing page views or link clicks. A landing page view happens when customers land on your ad"s destination URL. This event does not require domain verification.
However, landing page views tracking can only be used to improve the quantity and quality of traffic to your site. Similarly, a link click event happens whenever a prospect clicks on your ad. It only measures the number of times people click on your ad.
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If you don"t have the Facebook SDK, then you should contact your Mobile Measurement Partner and ask them to provide the unique URL. You can use this URL to import all the data from your partner app.What if You Use the App Events API?
Configure SKAdNetwork in the Events Manager. Also, configure the Events Configuration Schema. Then ask your developer to share your OS and iOS version along with your app events. More information on share OS and iOS can be found in this developer resource.
Lastly, send the advertiser tracking-enabled flag along with app events. Here is a guide that shows how to enable and disable advertiser tracking.Some Points to Note for Facebook Ad Campaigns:
TIP: If you are running campaigns with conversion goals, then you can choose to remove iOS devices from the campaign and run your campaign on Android devices only.
This Android-only tip (suggested by Brett McHale on WordStream) is useful for companies that are looking to add hyper-personalized ads for maximum conversions:How to Measure Google Ad Campaign Performance for iOS 14 Users
If you are running Google app ads and using Google Analytics to measure your campaign performance, then here are the steps you need to take:
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Google will start using the modeled conversion model for all other channels, including search. Therefore, your Google Ads Manager"s conversion column will now contain modeled conversions (see more below).
Similarly, app installs, conversion value installs, and in-app actions will also have the modeled conversion value. To specifically view the reporting data for SKAdNetwork, you can visit Reporting > Other > SKAN conversions:What Are Modeled Conversions?
Modeled conversions do not identify individual users to estimate conversions.
When Google cannot attribute ad conversions to a particular source due to user privacy limitations (as in the case of Apple), it uses modeled conversions to detect whether Google Ads initiated the conversion. Therefore, modeled conversions predict attributed conversions.
This offers a holistic and accurate picture of your advertising ROI. Automated bidding can be improved using modeled conversions since incomplete data might lead to biased learning which, in turn, leads to decreased campaign performance. Modeled conversions solve this problem and offer a complete report of your conversions.Some Points to Note for Google Ads Advertisers
App publishers will see a significant impact on mobile ad revenues due to the latest iOS 14 release. Take the steps discussed in this article to measure the performance of your mobile ad campaigns accurately.
Both Facebook and Google are trying hard to provide Apple with suggestions and data to improve the way iOS ads are tracked and measured. Meanwhile, as an advertiser, you should configure the SKAdNetwork and follow all the guidance offered by Google and Facebook to continue running and monitoring mobile ads" performance on Apple iOS.