Mobile Attribution Myth Busting: Mobile App to Site Tracking

Kiip LogoDespite the growing adoption of mobile across all industries and a seismic shift toward mobile-first campaigns, there are quite a number of concerns and questions regarding mobile attribution that arise over and over again within our industry. It’s high time these be debunked once and for all.

As mobile advertising grows, so do misconceptions and myths. Unfortunately, these myths can hold up programs and be a source of frustration across all teams. Ninety percent of today’s existing data was created in the last two years, so it makes sense that brands struggle to keep up with what is and isn’t possible when it comes to breaking that data down and making it actionable. This represents the first article in a series of four in which we’ll be setting the record straight on some of the most problematic misconceptions circulating in the industry. And in this installment, we’re starting with one of the most prevalent.

Myth: “Mobile app to site attribution isn’t possible.”

Mobile app to site tracking is absolutely possible. This can be accomplished with both client-side tracking and server-side tracking.

Client-side tracking, or on-site conversion tracking, uses cookies and conversion tags most commonly referred to as “pixels” (1x1s, iFrames, Javascript), whereas server-side tracking leverages postbacks and measurement URLs. Postbacks are server-side callbacks generated by an advertiser’s attribution partner that return, or “post back,” campaign-level information to a publisher via a unique identifier tied specifically to a consumer’s sessions.

Also Read: Everything You Wanted to Know About Marketing Attribution

Deciding which tracking methodology to use will depend on your team, campaign type and needs. Client-side/pixel-based tracking is easy to implement and relatively ubiquitous but is more prone to fraud and inaccurate conversion tracking on mobile. While postback tracking can be operationally more time-consuming to implement, it is less prone to fraud, works cross-device, and opens up more options for conversion tracking and visibility. Postback tracking is also the default tracking type used for mobile application install campaigns. Application installs and in-app events are reported to publishers and networks via postbacks configured by the advertiser or the agency of record in their mobile marketing platform dashboard. Pixels are not the default or preferred methodology for tracking app installs or in-app events. Pixel-supported or cookie-based tracking is, however, the default solution for mobile web conversion tracking, especially for tracking desktop or mobile-web conversions.

While the above primarily pertains to first-last click attribution modeling, it can also be applied to first-impression and first-click attribution methodology. Multi-touch attribution relies on a client-side methodology, unless the campaign is an install campaign, which by default leverages server-side tracking and postbacks, in addition to measurement URLs and view-through tracking, when applicable.

The key takeaway, though, is this: Don’t let this common misconception around mobile attribution hold up your app marketing strategy. Web- and app-based initiatives commonly require different technologies and strategies in order to be effective from implementation all the way to campaign post-mortems. There are effective means of tying your mobile app advertising to your site activity, and such tracking will enable marketers to better understand the ROI of their mobile dollars.

Author’s note: Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, in which we’ll discuss how to make mobile attribution fit with your in-house analytics solution.

Also Read: An Impenetrable Attribution Chain Is The Key To Getting Ahead Of Mobile App Install Fraud