My Horrifying Experience with Google AdMob

AdMob for App Installs? No thank you…

I recently put AdMob ads into my free iOS app, You Doodle Plus. While the click rates are good the ECPM is absolutely terrible. Here’s a visual to give you an idea (click through to see full size).

AdMob earnings graph

AdMob is clearly not a viable way to support an iOS app. Now let’s compare the AdMob earnings to my iAd earnings:

iAd Earnings

The eCPM in iAd is decent, about 1-2 USD, however the fill rate is horrible and the final earnings are close to what I’m making with AdMob (I added AdMob a week after I added iAd).

This begs the question, how in the world are people supporting free mobile apps with just advertising? The apps would have to go viral and get tens of thousands of downloads a day just to justify paying a developer or two and maybe a designer. Maybe that’s why a lot of advertising apps show popups every time you do anything, but what a bad user experience.

While I’m not very happy with the results of placing ads in my app, I thought “with such low eCPM, I should be able to make my own campaign and drive thousands of users to my apps!”. So I decided to run a campaign on AdMob to see if this could work. Here are the results of my campaign:

Admob campaign results

Here’s the sad summary: I paid 15$ EACH for two installs of my FREE app, You Doodle. I was completely stunned when looking at these results. I know I am not an expert marketer and I am sure my screenshots could be improved and all that but TWO installs? For a FREE app? AdMob simply does not work for generating installs and I am going to have to find other ways to get downloads of my apps.

You can’t even transfer extra unspent campaign funds without emailing Google and waiting 5-10 business days for the funds to transfer. Looks like it’s by design that money flows to Google as easy as pie, but money going AWAY from Google is tied up in some ridiculous process. I emailed Google asking that not only should those remaining funds be transferred but that I receive a full refund for all spent campaign funds because their service simply does not work. I’ll post here with the result of that email once I get a response.

In short, stay away, stay FAR away from campaigns on Google AdMob and be prepared to live off scraps if you want to make your living from showing AdMob ads.

*UPDATE* 2013-03-26 – I haven’t heard anything after 10 days, not looking good…
*UPDATE* 2013-04-07 – Still nothing and it’s been three weeks, I am floored. Google is too big to offer customer service it would appear. I turned my campaigns back on with a bid of 1 cent and will let them drain the remaining 35$ in the account. Yuck.

14 comments on “My Horrifying Experience with Google AdMob
  1. Ricardo says:

    I am currently using admob and a couple other networks like moblyft,chartboost and my CPM has been over $6 which is pretty good for me.

  2. Doug says:

    Anyone at all that knows:

    I am thinking of buying the ownership rights to 130 already made free apps that are out on Google Play now.  The seller claims they currently make around $60 per month in admobs income and will grow to hundreds of dollars in ad income each month.  I am a PC person and a career programmer for larger enterprise systems, but do not even own a smartphone.  So I am a newbie to mobile apps.  Is the seller telling me the truth about the income and the outlook for the future income?




  3. MATRIX.REAL says:


    got same with my app … i have about 60.000 impressions and 300 clicks per day and i got only 10,55 dollars … that’s make me very crazy

    or maybe there are some tips to optimize the ecpm / companies ?

    here is my app if you want to see it

  4. Yemi says:

    I find this post and the comments that followed it helpful. I’m a product manager who is currently checking various marketing options to promote my newest project/product – Wardrapp, an iPhone wardrobe manager recently released on the App Store. So I’m considering the Apple iAd Workbench and I hope the campaign goes well. I will paste here the outcome of my campaign in the next 3 weeks.

  5. Yes, I have the same experience, except that I would add that the admob sdk really sucks bigtime. Many many bugs. It often doesn’t work on targetted devices. The ads might actually crash your app and so on.

  6. The numbers in the article are too low to make any revenue. I produced an app over 3 years ago which now has around 100,000 impressions every day. Its only at this point, one can really make a living and the Google Play store has literally changed my life.

    Magic recipes with limited budget? there are none. You must work, update, talk to your customers, localise and constantly try to make the product the best you can. Some see the app game as just that – a game or they see it as a quick buck. It can be if you break Googles guidelines but for those that are in this for the long haul and want to make a living, it takes years. It is worth it though and its one of those amazing businesses that can run alongside your day job. Keep at it, Admob does pay but you need 10 times the impressions you are getting at least. When the CTR is higher & you have more traffic you are more valuable and you are paid more. I have tried multiple ad networks and none of them now beat Admob as a revenue stream.

    You never fail until you stop trying.

    Jason, Developer, Zabamobile Ltd.

    • jjxtra says:

      Hi Jason!

      You Doodle is getting 150K impressions these days and usually gets about 0.5 USD ECPM which translates into about 60-100 USD a day. Not bad, but definitely not support your family type income. Been working on You Doodle for almost two years now and it is slowly growing.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  7. Gordon Greig says:

    Hi mate,

    Good review.

    Agree with your comments, and the reply.

    One other thing to note is that you Click Through Rate (CTR) is very low (0.89%) therefore companies are having to display a lot of adverts before they are actually pressed.

    The lower the CTR, the less money you get for a click, as you are less desirable.

    I have a few games, and make $10 – $20 a day.

    My CTR is over 5% on that game. So in short you need to work out how to get that number up. Full screen adverts, even one advert when the game loads would probably get you more money and not impact user experience too much (I think full screen are better and banner as they don’t appear during the game play itself, only between levels)… depends on your app! Also, different adverts give you different revenue, so there is an element of luck as well, I find weekends are more profitable than week days!


    Good luck!!

  8. Thomas says:

    I’m in the same boat currently with a free game. It’s really hard to get these tens of thousands of downloads you’re talking about with a low or no budget for advertising.

    I researched that problem quite extensively in the past four weeks and came up with the following conclusions:

    – You cannot make money on the Android market without a good marketing plan

    – You have to have a few thousand Dollars at your disposal for running good advertisement campaigns. I read somewhere that the most successful apps on the market have an average marketing budget of $30,000 US at their disposal. That gives you an idea of the order of magnitude where you have finally control over the commercial success of your app.

    – Professional reviews and positive ratings are not really key to driving downloads but they are a nice to have. My game got very good professional ratings. However, this did effectively very little.

    – Classic banners and ads are useless as you experienced. Forget AdMob, forget AdWords and so on. They can be an additional nice to have when you have sufficient funds for running advertisement campaigns to be just “visible” all over the place. Repetition can be key here to make users change their minds. Just take a look at the sheer amount of “Candy Crush Saga” that are spread all over the (mobile) web.

    – Incentivized and promoted downloads through app discovery services is the only model that seems to drive downloads in a controllable manner. The big companies use it, too. So don’t feel bad about it. Go to Flurry, Tapjoy and so on and set up a campaign. But do *not* use the cheapest campaign possible which is “install, run and deinstall it” just to up your download count. Use a “pay per action” campaign and make users do something with your app. That way you force people to get a more in-depth look into your app and they may decide to keep it. That worked in my case. A little more than 1/3 decided to keep my game. Which isn’t too bad considering a user base that is primarily interested to use your app because they want to get some in-app item in another (more popular) app.

    – Add clearly visible “share this with friends” and “like on Facebook” buttons and similar social features to your app. Make use of posts to walls on Facebook. That’s basically free advertising and your app may go viral through recommendations of networks of friends. But only post on walls at the user’s will. Automated posts are spam and will get your app blocked on Facebook if overdone.

    – Use cross-promotion ad networks such as Appflood. They say you can be promoted for free by other apps if your own app promotes them. I bet there is some pyramid scheme involved. After all they are running a business and want to make money. I’m about to integrate that network and let’s see how it performs.

    – Use the market’s search feature by optimizing product title, tag line and description. That means you have to change these things in anticipation of what your users may be searching for. You could change the name of your app to something more descriptive like: “Draw on photos”. The more descriptive and closer to actual search phrases, the better, because that gets you on top of search result lists. Localize these things. Use your analysis tools and look for your top countries that already use your app in order to get an idea.

    – Hire marketing professionals for analyzing everything

    – Ultimately, given that your app to promote is not sub-par, it all depends on your marketing budget and consistently running campaigns as long as you can afford it.

    • jjxtra says:

      Thanks for your well thought out response Thomas. I agree, I think an incentivized install is the best to force people to actually use the app. Lots to think about…

      • Balint Farago says:

        Though I’m late for the party but
        1. You don’t need to have a marketing plan at all. This is bullshit.
        2. You don’t need to have a $30,000 budget. If I had that budget, I would establish a company or buy a car.
        3. Don’t hire marketing professionals. They cost a lot and they don’t help the way you expect.
        The other tips are fine.

  9. Chris H says:

    Wow sorry to hear about your experience. I’ll definitely avoid using them for campaigns.

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  1. […] recently tried using iAd workbench for my app, You Doodle. After my last terrible experience with Google AdMob, I was very skeptical that this would work, but maybe Apple has something here that Google […]

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