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If you use our attribution to track installs by media source, you might notice that there are two types of installs described there: Reported Installs and Tracked Installs.

What’s the difference?

    • Reported Installs are installs that an ad network claims to drive to your campaigns. It is the number of installs that have been reported by each ad network based on their concept of attribution.
    • Tracked Installs, on the other hand, are installs that an unbiased 3rd party attributes to an ad network. It is the number of installs that can be tracked by an independent measurement firm.

Why are there differences between Reported Installs and Tracked Installs? Are the networks trying to scam you by overcharging for installs? No, probably not. In very few cases are the ad networks running any kind of scam. The problem stems more from their inability to see ad data across campaigns in other networks you’re simultaneously running.

Tracked Installs represent a holistic view — the metric is based on all simultaneous campaign data, ones that you’re running on multiple networks. The Reported Installs metric, on the other hand, is calculated in a vacuum by each of the ad networks and is based only on what they can see in their own data.

Let’s look at a concrete example. Say you’re running campaigns on two ad networks, Facebook and Google, at the same time. You set the CPIs to $1.00 for each campaign on each ad network. A unique user clicks on your Facebook campaign first, then later that same user clicks on your Google campaign before going on to install your app. How is everything tracked for that user?

Since Facebook and Google don’t talk to each other, there is no way for them to reconcile the unique user interacting with both ad campaigns on separate networks at the same time. As a result, the Reported Install count for Facebook would be “1” and the Reported Install count for Google would also be “1.” Not only would this be a bad way to compare ad network performance, but it’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of ad spend since a single unique user can only be acquired once.

So what’s the solution? By using a 3rd party attribution provider like Tenjin, we place the user into a campaign that makes the most sense based on the user’s interaction history with your ads. In this case, since Google’s campaign was clicked last, the “Tracked Install” would go to Google. That way, the unique user who first clicked on Facebook and then later clicked on Google would be associated with Google’s campaign and NOT Facebook’s. In this example the count for Tracked Installs and Reported Installs would look like this:

This is exactly what attribution is for. You want to “track” the user in the appropriate ad campaign for downstream analysis. This way can you measure your ROI on an apples-to-apples basis.

The point of attribution ISN’T to make Tracked Installs = Reported Installs. In fact, sometimes attribution is supposed to do the the exact opposite. The point of attribution, in many ways, is to take a holistic view of your users and ALL the campaigns on various ad networks you’re using at the same time — and make sure that you’re paying for Tracked Installs, not Reported Installs. Only an unbiased 3rd party can do that.

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