Three ad monetization A/B tests every game developer should try out

With ironSource’s monetization A/B testing tool, developers can test different monetization strategies and compare results  - allowing them to choose and implement the winning strategy every time.

What can you A/B test with ironSource?

Just about everything - from rolling out new ad units and making adjustments to placement level rewards, to changing capping and pacing settings, the possibilities are quite endless.

While it’s tempting to run tests that are quick and easy to execute, it’s best practice to focus on the tests that will have the biggest impact on your long-term KPIs.

Take waterfall tests, for example. They may seem simple, however they can be unpredictable depending on the source, due to advertising budgets, waterfall positions, deals in place, etc. In other words, running a waterfall test may yield one result one day, but when tested again a few weeks later, will yield a completely different result.

Here are three tests we recommend that will ensure your KPIs reach their full potential.

1. Introduce a new ad unit

Savvy game developers use a healthy mix of ad units, ensuring the strongest monetization strategy that combines, for example, user-initiated ad units like rewarded video and offerwall with display ad units like interstitials and banners.

To find the perfect balance, add a new ad unit to the mix and determine if it improves KPIs. If that specific ad unit doesn’t work out, simply try another one.

Why test ad units? Different ad units appeal to different types of gamers, and users respond differently to, say, an offerwall than they would to a rewarded video.

Developers should consider splitting their monetization strategy between rewarded and non-rewarded ad placements. Why? Rewarded ads are incremental whereas with non-rewarded ads developers need to find the ideal balance between placement and frequency, pushing ARPDAU high enough to sustain the drop in retention, essentially optimizing ARPU.

For example, if you haven’t already, try implementing an offerwall and analyze its effect on revenue generated by users who make IAPs vs. non-paying users.

What can you expect? Ideally, you’ll see non-paying users convert into paying users, and not the other way around. Those who already make IAPs will continue to do so, but an offerwall reward may nudge a non-paying user to make an in-app purchase for the first time because they’ll get a taste of the premium features they’re missing out on. Look at it like a free gift with purchase, something often done in the retail world to encourage consumers to convert.

2. Test capping and pacing

Play around with capping and pacing, a feature in the ironSource mediation platform that allows publishers to control the number of times a specific user sees an ad within a session, as well as manage the spacing between the ad impressions.

Exposing users to a high frequency of ads leads to a drop in CTR and sometimes user retention. That’s why testing pacing and capping is important for developers, as it helps reduce ad fatigue.

Perform pacing and capping tests on all ad units - but perhaps most importantly on interstitial ads. Because interstitial ads are system-initiated, the probability of users getting frustrated with seeing these ads is higher.

When game devs know the optimal number of ads to show, they will ensure that they’re generating as much revenue as possible from this lucrative source without risking user churn.

3. Experiment with ad content

To serve competitors ads, or to not show competitor ads - that is the question. While there has been a lot of debate on whether or not games should show the ads of their competitors, Rovio recently explained to us that users who install competing games actually have the highest retention rates of all of their users. Interesting, right?

Take a page from Rovio’s book and perform the same A/B test. See how competitor ads affect retention. Ideally, you’ll find that showing competitor ads will have a positive impact on revenue, but won’t damage the retention of users. That’s because when developers show ads of their competitors, they’re showing ads that they know for a fact their users like, leading to more engagement, higher eCPMs, and more revenue. Meanwhile, showing competitor ads doesn’t hurt retention because users remain loyal to the original game.

You can also experiment with the timing of the X button on interstitial ads. For example, developers can test if the X button of an ad comes after 3 or 5 seconds. A/B testing the timing will help developers find the sweet spot - ensuring that players have enough time to engage with the ad, but not too little time if they want to click away and get back to the game. Developers should ask themselves: what will generate the most revenue but not frustrate users and damage retention?

Wrapping up

With the proper monetization A/B tests, you’ll be able to obtain the insights needed to ensure that your revenue keeps growing, without affecting retention and maintaining a positive user experience.

Interested in learning more about A/B testing best practices? Head to our Knowledge Center for more information.

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