Case Study

Mobile Traffic: Price vs. Quality

Иван Смирнов

It’s sad but true: from time to time many publishers and developers, especially the beginners, realize too late that their choice of traffic vendor turned out to be wrong. Avoid their negative experience by choosing an agency to promote your app very carefully without rush. Obviously, the main goal of advertising are the real users bringing income, not the number of installs or other digital data. Somehow, it happens that along with the great amount of the app installs, especially cheap ones, very few users seem to use the app actively. The case written below, perfectly reveals the difference in traffic quality.

Recently, our agency was hired by a start-up mobile gaming studio to conduct an advertising campaign for their new game. During the promo campaign, we, by accident, got to know the details of how another partner, also a mobile marketing agency, works. We got the information on how they sell and, more important, how they provide services. With the client’s consent, we publish this story.

Let’s start with customer’s needs. The aim of the ad campaign was the game’s soft launch with the follow-up updates divided into several stages. Our task was to bring small loyal user groups into the app, so it would be possible to track in-game metrics and to refine the game progressively after every mobile traffic purchase. To get the most concerned audience, the targeting was set on the fans of certain game genre, RPG. Of course, the traffic was purchased by the experienced in gaming industry media buyers working full-time at Qmobi.

mobile traffic: price vs quality

In addition to our agency, the gaming studio reached the same agreement of promotion with another one. Vendors promised “clean” quality mobile traffic approximately 30 percent cheaper than us. According to them, their agency owned both the affiliate network, media buying department and had own tools for traffic purchase.

The client provided us with the access to Kochava service with the ability to view the second partner’s ad campaigns.

And, what did we see there shortly after the launch? On the screenshot below you can see a traffic report from our media buying department and a report from the affiliate network belonging to another agency (name is hidden to avoid misunderstandings):

The data taken from Kochava tracking system shows that with the same amount of installs, users brought by Qmobi were much more active. They even had ten times more events in the game! The average session time was also four times higher, as well as there were three times more sessions in total. Showing their interest in the game, people were coming back in it. 155 different in-game events per each user speak for themselves — we can talk about gamers high activity. Players were passing the tutorial, learning the game independently, inviting friends, trying different equipment for heroes and were completing the levels successfully.  

Another screenshot is here to show how Qmobi-brought users were moving through the “funnel” of levels and various in-game events:

37.6% of players completed the tutorial. Not a brilliant number, but pretty decent for a start-up project at the soft launch stage.

Game bugs were faced by 17.6% of players. That was why the soft launch had been scheduled, so that the developers could fix the bugs before the full release and the large audience arrival.

Now let’s have a look at behavioral metrics of another agency's traffic. Although they claimed to have had their own media buying department, it looks a lot like the offer had been put into a third party’s hands:

Only 12 players out of 365 completed the tutorial what represents just 3.2% out of the total amount of installs. Only 6 reported bugs in the game. Such a low in-app activity allows to suspect the agency in bringing the incent traffic, or, worse — fraud.

Having seen a significant difference between the campaign results, the client was reasonably frustrated and confused. After all, in the beginning of the cooperation, traffic providers had put reasonable grounds and promised excellent performance.


Not the first case in our practice, but it always distresses when app developers are being treated like this. Unfortunately, nobody is insured against meeting such traffic providers. They grime the mobile ad market and spoil the whole image of mobile ad agencies. And they are the reason for the popularity of such videos, like this one from the White Nights Conference:

How to protect oneself from the cooperation with the unscrupulous vendors? Here are some basic tips. Do not settle for the promotion if:

  • If the agency offers only CPC or CPM-based models and refuses to include KPI in the contract;
  • If vendors offer quality mobile traffic significantly cheaper than average the market price is;
  • If you are not asked to provide your guideline, corporate styles, fonts, and other things to create advertising materials (higher risk of misleading advertising);
  • If vendors can’t clearly define the result of the campaign using metrics (retention rate, DAU/MAU, etc.);
  • If vendors are not able to provide references from other clients;
  • If you are being asked for full prepayment.

We can explain, why we’ve chosen these tips as the basic, in the comments below.

Thank you!