SKAdNetwork, also known as StoreKit Ad Network or SKAN, is integral for measuring ad activity. It’s also crucial for maintaining users’ privacy. With the new updates coming via SKAdNetwork 4.0, advertisers may wonder what exactly this framework is and how the new updates will impact them. The following guide to SKAdNetwork will detail exactly what it is, how it works, and what it means for advertisers and app campaigns.
What Is SKAdNetwork?
The SKAdNetwork framework helps with direct mobile app install attribution. It allows for the measurement of various types of ad activity, including impressions and clicks, along with app installs. Apple introduced this framework in 2018. While it provides advertisers with plenty of information about ads’ performance, it does so while concealing user- and device-specific information.
Since 2018, SKAdNetwork has undergone certain updates, with the most recent coming along through SKAdNetwork 4.0.
How It Works
The SKAdNetwork involves four main components, including:
- Ad networks that connect publishers with advertisers
- A publishing app that displays the ad
- The target app behind the ad
- A mobile measurement partner (MMP) that both attributes and optimizes the data collected
With the help of SKAdNetwork, advertisers and marketers can effectively keep track of data and optimize their ads based on their performance. They can use SKAdNetwork to measure two main types of engagement, including ad views and StoreKit renders.
The SKAdNetwork Process
SKAdNetwork operates through a specific flow, which works as follows:
- The publishing app displays an ad. Immediately afterward, the app starts a timer for three seconds, with SKAdNetwork receiving a notification that the process has started.
- Once the ad has appeared for three seconds or longer, the app indicates to the framework that the timer has stopped, labeling it an ad view in the process. The publisher will then render the target app StoreKit if the viewer chooses to engage with the ad.
- At this point, the framework takes the StoreKit render into account. There’s a chance that the engaged viewer may also opt to download the target app.
- When users download, install, and open the target app within 30 days after clicking on the ad, SKAdNetwork then attributes the install to the ad network. The device will then transfer an install postback to the network along with a copy for the advertiser to view.
SKAdNetwork is helpful for app advertisers by indicating how effective their ads are, as they can gauge success based on views, clicks, and installs. As the framework continues to develop, there are some specific advancements that you’ll see with SKAdNetwork 4.0 that will make it one of the most reliable app attribution tools. It’s an essential part of any app growth ecosystem.
The Potential Uses of SKAdNetwork for Advertisers
Advertisers have the ability to receive a variety of data using SKAdNetwork, including:
- The publishing app’s publisher ID
- Click-through attribution for mobile app ads
- First-time installs
- The campaign ID that provides data around creativity, campaigns, and placement
- Conversion values ranging from 0 to 63 that the advertiser needs to set, with these values providing estimates of users’ quality instead of revenue data
- Accurate attribution that’s mostly devoid of fraud
- Cryptographic verification of parameters and attribution
To use this data to improve advertising campaigns, you must meet a few key requirements. Specifically, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Media partners need to support the SKAdNetwork API
- Analytics and reporting tools must be compatible with the data collected through the framework
- Advertisers will need to collect and confirm all install data from media partners to weed out instances of misuse or fraud
To meet these requirements, many advertisers may need help with third-party resources such as powerful analytics tools and MMPs.
Features of SKAdNetwork 4.0 and How They’ll Affect Advertisers
You can expect to see some dramatic changes with the new and improved SKAdNetwork 4.0 from Apple. These improvements will help make the framework more ideal for app marketers, but with some limitations to keep in mind. The following are some of the specific changes that will affect SKAdNetwork and, subsequently, advertisers.
As Many as Three Postbacks
Previously, SKAdNetwork only allowed advertisers to receive a single postback, but the new update will allow for up to three. Each subsequent postback will have a longer window of time, going from 0-2 days for the first postback to 3-7 for the second and 8-35 for the third. The main benefit here is that advertisers can optimize more effectively on conversions, with the ability to do so for as long as 35 days. At the same time, they can measure earlier events, including installs.
With the single-postback model, install and post-install conversions needed to appear in one postback. The result was delayed notification of installs, which advertisers didn’t receive until the recording of the final conversion within the time window.
In general, this feature will allow advertisers to optimize ad campaigns faster with insights into performance that become accessible earlier. You’ll no longer need to wait for the last conversion before learning about each conversion.
More Campaign IDs
Campaign ID will support a maximum of four digits, whereas previous versions of SKAdNetwork only support up to two. The benefit this brings is the ability to support up to 10,000 values for app campaigns, creative, and other elements. Additionally, Apple renamed “campaign ID” to “source ID” because of the new functionality.
Keep in mind that the four numbers must go through three tiers of privacy thresholds known as “crowd anonymity.” With the help of source ID, you can now get plenty of data on source identifiers with campaigns that see high volume. For instance, you can get data on location, campaign, and ad placement.
According to Apple, the source identifier field is hierarchical. The first, second, and last two numbers will be independent. However, the last two digits are the only two that will inevitably return. Because of this structure, advertisers will have many potential IDs to use in campaigns, provided they adhere to the new strict privacy standards that Apple has in place.
As a result of this implemented change, advertisers and publishers alike will benefit from more granular data that brings more value. Advertisers can gain more in-depth insights into their ads’ performance with added transparency.
While older versions of SKAdNetwork used app-to-app advertising, 4.0 will enable advertisers to attribute their web ads. These ads lead users to App Store pages where they can download the target app.
This is significant because of the lack of web-to-app support seen with SKAdNetwork 2.0 and earlier, with many advertisers seeking a solution to this particular issue. According to Apple, SKAdNetwork will specifically support “clicks,” although “views” are still unaddressed. The framework will register “clicks” from embedded cross-site iframes along with first-party sites.
New Testability Updates
With SKAdNetwork 4.0, Apple will also add some new features that will help with testing. These include validation of ad impression implementation and the ability to test SKAdNetwork postback.
The Ability to Receive Conversion Value IDs With Reduced Privacy Threshold Restrictions
There won’t be an increase in the number of Conversion Value IDs that you can use with SKAdNetwork 4.0, with the maximum staying at six bits with 64 available values. The use of this ID is more granular, but strict privacy threshold limitations will still be in place.
The big difference will be that advertisers can set and receive up to three Conversion Value IDs that are “coarse-grained” from low to medium and high. This is considerably less restrictive. As a result, advertisers can get valuable conversion data based on low, medium, and high values.
How Advertisers Can Adapt
The updates seen with SKAdNetwork 4.0 show how privacy-centric the digital world has become, and this trend is only going to continue. At the same time, advertisers and others will benefit from the ability to attribute, measure, and optimize campaigns more effectively.
To make the most of this inevitable change, there are some steps that advertisers can take, including:
- Using helpful tools to consistently update and map conversion value schema, which will get full use out of the 64 values without the need to spend so much time on development.
- Protect data from fraud using tools that work with iOS 14.
- Harness the power of predictive analytics to get around time window restrictions and accurately make predictions for the far future of app campaign performance.
By taking these and other steps, you can fully integrate SKAdNetwork 4.0 to supercharge your advertising efforts. The future of advertising, especially mobile advertising, is looking bright for everyone involved, from users to advertisers and developers. Users benefit from more privacy, while advertisers see more actionable insights that help fuel successful campaigns. By staying up-to-date with the industry and incorporating the latest changes, you can get the results you want from your efforts with more efficiency.
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