How to Actually Monitor Your In-App Ads by Hannah Levenson

app ads

Hannah LevensonHannah is the Community Manager at Appsee. A UX and content strategy enthusiast, she has a great affinity for discovering and sharing unique insights and resources with the mobile tech community. Hannah also loves photojournalism, classic rock, and pretending that she’s the only one with a “foodie” Instagram account. (You can follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahLevenson.) Today she shares with us some insights on in-app ads, how they can affect the users experience in an app, and what you can do to monitor and improve the UX.

 In-App Ads

“Uninstalled this app. Stupid ads. A full screen slots ad popped up and I couldn’t exit out. Had to close the app and lose all my edits on my photo.”

“Do not download this app! Not safe for kids. My 12 year old was playing, and a female hotline ad appeared. Not appropriate whatsoever!”

Have you read or suffered from similar app reviews due to unsuitable in-app ads? Have you tried to decrease the amount of these negative reviews, yet they still seem to appear? You are not alone in your endeavor—these types of reviews can be found in large amounts across both app stores.

We get it, your app is free and you need to monetize in some way—so you’ve turned to the in-app ads model. Yet no matter how much your monetization tool and programmatic ad network “promise” that they provide the best control and transparency in the biz, it is oftentimes not enough.

When it comes to monitoring your in-app ads, there are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of, especially if your app has a large amount of impressions to fill. Once an unsuitable add weasels its way into your app, it can damage your brand name, ruin the UX, trigger app abandonment, and spur the fateful negative review. As refresher, below are the types of ads that can pose a threat to your app:

1. Abusive Ads (Eg. Ads that trick users with button placements and/or automatically subscribe a user to a service without the users’ permission.)

app ads


2. Technically Flawed Ads (E.g. A half screen banner ad that doesn’t have an “X” button.)

app ads


3. Low Quality Ads (E.g. An ad that is the improper size or resolution for a particular device. Especially common amongst Android due to the variety of devices. Can also occur on hybrid apps.)

app ads


4. Offensive Ads (E.g. A “risqué” ad that can be offensive to users in a distinct region of the world or a certain age group. This can cause your app to be deemed as not “brand safe” and lose partnerships with direct big brands.)

At the end of the day, you need to monetize, but you also need to maintain affinity for your app. Sounds like a bit of catch-22 huh? In what way can you do both? On top of that, how can you actually see how the ads are appearing to your users?

Luckily there is no longer a need to fret- the solution actually lies in the power of visual UX app analytics.

Understand What Your Users Sees

Let’s first draw a valuable connection. If an unsuitable/flawed ad appears in your app it directly affects the user experience. What does this mean? Well first when we say “User Experience” (UX) we mean the overall end-user’s interaction with your mobile app. UX can encompass factors such as usability, UI design, performance, and basically anything that affects your users’ communication with your app and their sentiments towards your product.

Imagine you are a user who is browsing through a retail app and you have found a couple of items that you are really excited about. You go through the funnel of adding the items to your “favorites”, and then from your “favorites” transferring them to your “cart”. After transferring them to your cart, you are clearly ready to make the purchase. Unfortunately, a full interstitial ad appears on your screen and you have no ability to exit out. You try swiping left, waiting for the ad to disappear, and even tapping where you believe an “X” button should be. Your efforts are futile and you eventually just have to close the app and restart. Surprise- you’ve lost all the items you had saved to your cart, and now when you try to add them again some are already sold out! How are you feeling? Frustrated, disappointed, angry? Your user experience has been damaged. Are you likely to use the app again or give it a good review? The chances have decreased dramatically.

This is a perfect example of how one small ad can make a BIG difference. In order to track ads, their appearance, and their potentially adverse effects, you need a tool that is dedicated to assessing user experiences and providing qualitative, visual data.

The UX visualization tool of user session recordings, like those of Appsee’s, can allow you to see through your users’ eyes how the ads (from banners to videos) are actually appearing on your app’s screens. This powerful visual data can reveal whether an ad potentially interrupted your users’ experience/journey, had a technical or quality issue, and/or led the person to instantly quit your app among many other results.

Example of Appsee’s user recordings.

Take for example, 365Scores, one of the biggest sports apps in the world with over 15 million downloads. 365Scores is a free app with a lot of impressions to fill. In order to monetize, it works with both direct deals and programmatic ad exchanges (ad networks). However, as soon as they began their ad monetization process they noticed a notable increase in user complaints regarding ads. Without any visual tracking of their ads, they were essentially blind as to which ads were causing issues and how they could troubleshoot effectively. They needed to actually see what was going on inside their app. According to Appsee, 365Scores was able to decrease user app store complaints by over 40%. This decrease also signifies an improved overall user experience, app affinity, and retention rate. 365Scores were also able to further boost their customer service initiatives by sharing those user session recordings with their support team. This allowed their support representatives to proactively reach out to users that had encountered an unsuitable ad and mend the users’ relationship with the brand. Ultimately, when it comes to maintaining and fortifying your app’s UX, nothing beats actually seeing what your users see.


Your need to monetize is certainly important, but you shouldn’t let it cloud your vision. A plethora of quantitative data will not provide you with the actionable insights you need to properly monitor your in-app ads. An effective way to track your ads and guarantee their quality is to see how the ads display to your users. At the end of the day you want your ads to be an unobtrusive, agreeable aspect of your app’s user experience, otherwise you won’t have any users to advertise to!