*This post is part of a recurring series regarding mobile apps and the tools available to digital marketers to drive more installs and understand in app customer behavior.

Mobile apps can play a crucial role in a business’ success. A great App improves overall customer experience and can result in faster and more frequent conversions from users.  For this reason, along with the significant growth in mobile traffic, it is becoming more important to begin reporting on app download stats along your other campaign metrics. With Facebook, Google and Bing coming up with new ad formats for app promotion it can get tricky to attribute app installs to the right marketing channels.  Here are three ways, with benefits and draw backs to help track those client app downloads from easiest to hardest.

Using a Tag Management system on your website

The simplest way to get an estimate of how many downloads are originating from paid visits to your website is to track clicks going to the App Stores. It can be achieved by passing a custom event to your Analytics platform each time a customer clicks on an App Store link. If you are using Google Analytics, once the event is firing properly, you can create a specific App Store Click Goal and monitor its progression in a customized report.

The obvious draw back to this method is that you do not know whether or not the user downloaded the app after clicking on the App Store link, and you are merely collecting data for an estimate. The benefit to this approach is that it requires no developer access to the application or access to the App Stores themselves. This method is a great way to start internal conversations about app download attribution and the necessity to implement more accurate app download tracking.

Using the Google Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Analytics report

Another and more complex way to get a clearer picture of your app install data is to link a Google Play Store account to a Google Analytics mobile app property. Linking these two accounts will provide access to a report named the “Google Play Referral Report” which passes Android install data from the Google Play store to the GA property. This report shows which campaigns are driving the most app installs. While this is all great information, the Play Store Referral Report does not include iOS app install data.

To attribute iOS downloads to specific campaigns, you can tag App Store links across your site and ad campaigns using iTunes Connect’s App Analytics campaign URLs. These Campaign URLs contain tracking parameters and will pass the campaign source to the App Analytics dashboard. With this information available in the Apple dashboard, you can now combine your Play store and iOS data to get a more accurate picture of how your marketing efforts are driving app installs.

This setup is slightly more complex and requires admin access across Google Analytics, the Google Play Store, and iTunes Connect.  It also requires the technical work of tagging URLs and replacing them in the proper campaigns. The benefit of this approach is that you will be tracking App installs directly from the respective stores, but again are only seeing data at the campaign level.

Implementing the Adwords SDK within your Apps

 Placing Adwords’ SDK within your Android or iOS app is the best solution when trying to attribute app installs to specific ads or keywords. The benefit of the Adwords SDK (Software Development Kit) is that it is lightweight and can pass a lot of insightful data to Google Adwords. The steps for implementation are outlined on the Google developer site. The SDK allows for the source off the download to be tied back to a very specific ad unit or keyword in Google Adwords. The drawback to this approach is that it requires development resources and admin access to the app which can be time consuming and expensive.

 
Those are three possible methods to track app installs. The three of these solutions not only flow in-terms of difficulty but can also be a great way to start the app tracking conversation when defining a mobile app tagging strategy and when estimating the amount of development resources that will be required.

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