Cost Analysis of 1000 Android App Downloads via Google Ads [Case Study]

Are you a passionate product developer? Or are you someone with an Android app idea, planning to launch on Google Play Store soon but are afraid of spending too much on CPA advertising? I've been in this place and I know what you're thinking right now. In this case study, I'll be revealing how I got 1000 downloads for an app through paid Google advertising and how much it cost me to reach this milestone. 

Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

I purchased a Google Play Store license last year and I decided to create a passive income stream for myself. I had little knowledge about app development back then but I knew I had to start somewhere. I began exploring popular Android app categories and the list of Android apps available on the internet. 

To my surprise, getting downloads for any app wasn't as difficult as it seemed if you had a few bucks to spend on advertising platforms. The difficult part was to retain the users. I published 3 apps and spent some dollars before I learned this. 

You can make an Android app in any category and advertise it on Google and you will most likely get few downloads for the dollars you spend. The competition in the Android market is high so you might have to spend more money but eventually, you will get some results. 

The important question, however, is which categories should you expand in as a beginner? 

Categories I Explored Before Making My First Android App

When I decided to hire a developer to make an app for me, I didn't know which category was going to be most effective for me. So I decided to do some research on Google and I found the following categories to be quite popular on Google's Play Store app. 

  • Tools
  • Games
  • Productivity
  • Trivia
  • Business

These categories are arranged randomly in a list and their position does not reflect their ranking or popularity. The most effective category, however, was "Tools" for me. Without waiting any longer, I started exploring tool-based apps for Android and instead of coming up with a new idea, I decided to experiment on existing concepts first. 

After days of research, I found VPN apps to be a low-hanging fruit for multiple reasons. Some of these reasons are listed below:

  1. VPN apps have a high usage rate.
  2. Good quality VPN apps can retain users easily.
  3. VPN apps are downloaded globally for different use cases.
  4. VPN apps on the top of Google Play Store's search result page will have a very high chance of being preferred by users.

Due to the above-mentioned reasons, I decided to get a VPN app developed. During the initial experimentation stages, I decided to get the app developed only for the Android operating system. The goal was to test the digital app industry on Android and then later expand to IOS.

Publishing My VPN App on Play Store

After days of hard work, I finally published a VPN app on my Google Play Store channel. I named my VPN app "Captain X: Premium VPN Service". The name and concept of this app were inspired by Marvel movies and did it go well? You'll find out soon. 

To my surprise, 4 days after publishing this VPN app on Google play store, I got my first 5 organic downloads. This was a very motivating push for me and I decided to spend some money to boost downloads of my app. My goal was to make Captain X the best Android VPN app. 

I hired a graphic designer to get a creative ad designed for my app. Within 5 days I had 3 unique ad designs. The next step was to choose a platform for advertising. As you would've guessed by the title of this post, I chose Google ads to begin my advertising journey with. 

Getting 1000 Downloads Through Google Ads

You've finally reached the part that you've been waiting for. Getting 1K downloads for my VPN app through Google ads. Before moving toward the details, let's first have a look at some important snapshots that will give you an insight into the overall performance of our Google ads campaign.

Impressions, Clicks, CPC & Cost

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I spent a total of PKR 18,700 (equal to $66.79 as of today: 29th April 2023). By spending this amount, my ad was displayed to more than 179K viewers out of which 6.84K viewers explored by clicking on the ad and more than 1300 users downloaded my VPN app.

The average CTR was more than 3% and the conversion rate in terms of total clicks was more than 18%. These are quite decent figures for a new Android app. The average cost per download was calculated to be PKR 14 ($0.050 as of today: 29th April 2023). 

Ad Performance by Network

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As you can see in the image above, most conversions I got were through display ads with the lowest CPC. On number 2 stood ads displayed on YouTube. Google search turned out to be an expensive method of gaining downloads with a high cost and low conversion. The same was the case for Search Partner advertising. 

Display ads were the most effective method of getting more downloads at a low conversion cost. By using this data, I planned my other app ad campaigns, and similar results were noticed. 

Ad Performance by Device Types

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The two device types used for my app ad campaign were smartphones and tablets. It is not a surprise that the smartphone campaign took a heavy lead on the tablet-based campaign. As you can see in the image above, the campaign carried out on smartphones won on all three metrics: Cost, Impressions, and Clicks. Almost all conversions captured came from smartphone campaigns.

What Keywords Did I Use in My Google Ads Campaign?

Now comes the part where you will learn the right keywords to promote a VPN app on Google ads in order to get more downloads. To find the right keywords for my campaign, I first analyzed the free competitor apps available on Google Play Store. Next, I used Google Search itself to see which keywords displayed which results. 

Finally, I used Similarweb to get an overview of the popular VPN apps for Android. By following these small but important steps, I was able to collect enough data to earn myself some quality downloads. Some of the key phrases used in my app campaigns are listed below:

  1. Stable, Secure and Premium VPN
  2. Premium VPN Proxy Servers
  3. 20 Premium Servers Free
  4. VPN Proxy App, Stable and Free
  5. Unlimited Bandwith and High Quality VPN Service

These are some key phrases that I used while designing my app ad campaign on Google Ads. All of these phrases were helpful as each of them earned a number of downloads for my VPN app. Moreover, I used 5 different search descriptions using the concepts mentioned in the above description. 

To make your Google ad campaign effective and maximize its benefits, I suggest you use as many creative assets as you can. The more assets you use, the more combinations Google has to experiment on.

What is the Average Retention Rate of Users Acquired Through Google Ads?

It's time to burst a bubble now. Many new developers believe that the total number of downloads shown on an app's Google Play Store page is equal to the number of users who are using the app currently. This is not true. The total number of downloads shown on Google Play Store is an estimate of the total Android devices the app was installed on. The actual user data is shown on the app's Google Play Console dashboard. 

You will be surprised to know that on average, the retention rate for an app can be between 15% and 20% only. This, of course, depends on the type of app you're offering to end users. In my case, the VPN app that I launched currently has a retention rate of about 17%. This is not a very optimistic figure but it can be improved with the right future strategies. 

Ending Note

Publishing an app on Google Play Store is not very difficult nowadays. Acquiring new users organically and retaining them is. If you're a new product developer with some budget to spend on ads every month, you can gain paid downloads quite easily by following the right strategies. 

In my experience, choosing the right keywords and designing the right visuals for your app campaigns is the most important part of designing the overall campaign. If you're able to do this, you can get thousands of quality downloads with acquisition costs as low as pennies.

I hope you found this case study helpful. For more reality checks and practical knowledge, keep visiting us regularly. Until next time!

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