[Part 3] Referral Traffic: How to Use iTunes Connect to Measure the Impact of iOS 11 on Your App Store

With iOS 11 now available for everyone, you’re probably wondering how the redesigned Apple App Store is affecting your app marketing performance. Okay, okay, “wondering” is likely an understatement.

Well, stop losing sleep!

Let us be the first to show you how to use iTunes Connect to collect and analyze your app store data and know when and how to pivot your app store marketing efforts accordingly.

First things first…

The only way to know the impact the new iOS 11 App Store is having on your app marketing performance is by using iTunes Connect to segment your traffic into three distinct sources for analysis: search traffic, browse traffic, and referral traffic. After segmenting your traffic sources, there are three metrics that should be analyzed in order to identify the impact of iOS 11 on each traffic source. These metrics include impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rate (CVR).

In this 3-part post series, we provide a step-by-step guide that will help you segment and analyze your traffic sources so that you can optimize your app store accordingly.

 

What is Referral Traffic?

Referral traffic includes all visitors that arrived to your App Store Product Page from app or web sources. We conceptualize and breakdown referral traffic by the following sources: social traffic (mainly Facebook), Google traffic, and network traffic (SDK platforms).

There are numerous plausible referral traffic journeys but all involve a visior clicking an ad or link, which leads to your App Store Product Page.  

Unlike search traffic and browse traffic, referral visitors are coming from external sources, outside of the Apple App Store. Therefore, iTunes Connect is limited in its ability to provide comprehensive data for analysis. Regardless, we will cover the metrics worth paying attention to and the services you can turn to where iTunes Connect falls short.

 

Analyzing Referral Traffic

In order to analyze your referral traffic, you have to understand the significance behind three important metrics, as well as know how to collect respective data for analysis. These metrics include impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rate (CVR). The relevant metrics that can be collected in iTunes Connect are depicted below. 

iOS 11 App Store Referral Traffic Journey

The  metrics shown above are the KPIs for discovery, interest, and conversion in the context of the referral funnel.

iTunes Connect enables you to analyze referral traffic, which is segmented by web referrals and app referrals. It also offers the option to further breakdown sources into web referrer url (for web) or app referrer name (for app). We suggest that you separate your analysis accordingly.

 

1) Impressions

An impression, within the context of referral traffic, is an indicator of your app’s reach through external sources.

 

Will Your Impressions Be Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store?

Theoretically, your referral traffic impressions should not be affected by the iOS 11 App Store redesign since referral traffic reach is controlled outside the App Store. However, referring users to a new operating system often comes with technical issues that can cause a change in trend.  

 

How to Collect Relevant Data in iTunes Connect to Determine if Your Impressions Volume was Affected by the new iOS 11 App Store

iTunes Connect: Referral Results Impression Data

  1. Go to iTunes Connect App Analytics
  2. Click on the “Metrics” tab
  3. Choose the “Impressions” tab
  4. Select “View By” as “Source Type”
  5. Mark off the checkbox for “App Store Browse” and “App Store Search”
  6. For the “Date” select Jul 1 until today’s date (a month and a half prior to the iOS 11 launch)

 

How to Analyze Data in iTunes Connect to Determine if Your Impressions Volume was Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store

iTunes Connect: App Referral Results Impression Data

The first step in analyzing your App Store analytics is to look at the trend of your total referral traffic. Then identify the time period when you first received iOS 11 user traffic. Compare referral traffic before iOS 11 to referral traffic including iOS 11.

In the example shown above, we can see that starting from the iOS 11 launch, app referral impression volume increased significantly.

In order to rule out the possibility of a technical issue or bug, you should investigate iOS versions. If the total impression rate for app referrals decreased back to normal when most users upgraded their iOS version from 11.0 to 11.1 then most likely the change in impression rate was a result of a bug

 

Action Items According to Analysis

Since you largely control the volume of referral traffic (by means of paying for ads for example), then you should know if an increase in traffic makes sense. If you did not increase your media spend, it is likely that the change in trend is the product of a bug.

To make sure, break down your analysis by app referrer. Identify one referrer source with a notable change in trend. Go to that app’s media acquiring platform and compare analytics from their platform to those seen in iTunes Connect. A large discrepancy signifies there is in fact a bug.

TIP:

Don’t panic! The bug has been fixed and you can simply exclude that timeframe from your analysis for that segment of app referrals.

 

2) Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The click-through rate (CTR) from web/app source link to App Store Product Page cannot be measured in iTunes Connect since the click takes place outside the App Store. This is why you will always see your referral traffic Product Page views equal to your referral traffic impressions in iTunes Connect.  

 

Will Your CTR Be Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store?

Your referral traffic CTR should not be affected by the iOS 11 App Store redesign whatsoever. However, you should always measure this metric in order to optimize your marketing efforts. After all, you pay for each click!

 

How to Collect Relevant Data

If you would like to measure your CTR—which we highly encourage you to do—you can turn to attribution services such as AppsFlyer, Singular, or Adjust.

TIP:

It’s crucial that you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, especially when you are spending money on advertising! Go with an attribution service—it’s worth the extra money!

 

3) Conversion Rate (CVR)

Conversion rate, within the context of referral traffic analysis, is the total number of visitors that downloaded your app from the App Store Product Page.

 

Will Your CVR Be Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store?

Yes.

First off…

If your app is a game, it is likely that a majority of your referral traffic is coming from network traffic (SDK platforms). About 90% of network traffic users are Decisive Visitors. That means 90% of Product Page Visitors, that came from a network source, decide to install or leave without ever engaging with the page. These visitors are only exposed to creatives that appear in the First Impression Frame (everything above the fold), and their first and only action is either tapping the install button or leaving the page altogether.  

This means that your First Impression Frame is exceptionally important for communicating the purpose and utility or your app and encouraging visitors to install.

The iOS 11 App Store redesign saw significant changes to the First Impression Frame that unarguably impact the Decisive Visitor experience. These changes are depicted below.

First Impression Frame iOS 10 vs iOS 11

For a comprehensive overview of changes made to the iOS 11 App Store Product Page and the impact on ASO, read this. To see how iOS 11 Gallery updates impact the First Impression Frame, you can also check out this nifty infographic.

If your app is a service with a website (e.g., Expedia, OkCupid, etcetera) and you use your website to refer users to your App Store Product Page then your website traffic is likely your main referral traffic source.

These visitors are already familiar with your brand and accustomed to your services . Hence, they are more likely to be weary of downloading your app since they are already utilizing your services without it.

The iOS 11 App Store updates that we project will have a significant impact on the CVR for this type of traffic include:

 

1. The Evaluation Panel

  • Since web traffic is more hesitant to download your app, the incorporation of an Evaluation Panel in iOS 11, provides a new opportunity to give your app a quality stamp and help convince visitors to download your app.
  • Ratings can now be reset upon each new version submission. This is particularly beneficial for apps with bad existing ratings. 
  • App Ranking can now be either your best or worst friend. If you are a top app in your category then App Ranking gives you a social-proof stamp that you didn’t have in iOS 10.

 

2. What’s New

  • In iOS 11, the position of the What’s New section depends upon whether the visitor has ever installed your app. If your visitor has at any point downloaded your app (even if they have uninstalled it), the What’s New” section will now appear at the top of your Product Page in the First Impression Frame. This offers a unique opportunity to refine your messaging to not only convince existing customers to reinstall the latest version of your app, but also to convince unsatisfied, former customers to redownload your app.

 

3. Video autoplay

  • Since videos now autoplay, they can be used to better convey an in-app experience (e.g., ease of usability, benefits, etcetera). Since web users typically want to stick to the web and are hesitant to switch to the mobile experience, leveraging video can be especially beneficial in converting this traffic source.  

 

In short, the new iOS 11 layout is highly likely to have an impact on CVR for all traffic sources since the First Impression Frame has seen significant changes.

 

How to Collect Relevant Data on iTunes Connect to Determine if Your CVR was Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store

iTunes Connect: Referral Results CVR Data

  1. iTunes Connect App Analytics
  2. Click “Metrics” tab
  3. Choose “App Units” tab under “Sales Category”
  4. Under the section called “Compare to” choose “Product Page Views” and select “Unique Devices”
  5. Keep “View By” as “Platform Version
  6. Select “Filter” as “Source Type” and choose “App Referrer” or “Web Referrer” according to the traffic source you want to analyze
  7. For the Date, select “Custom Range” from the dropdown menu and select the start date in which you began to receive a consistent amount of iOS 11 traffic

 

How to Analyze Data on iTunes Connect to Determine if Your CVR Was Affected by the New iOS 11 App Store

iTunes Connect: Referral Results CVR Data

Below the line graph that shows CVR per iOS version, there is a table that details Impressions, Product Page Views, and Ratio. Use these figures to create your own table like the one below.

Referral Results CVR Data (with iOS 11.0)

In the example above, we can see that iOS 11 caused a decrease in the CVR.

Note: If you noticed a change in your impressions trend, as described in the impressions section above, you should refrain from including iOS 11 in your calculations and simply aggregate 11.1 and 11.2 as demonstrated below.

Action Items According to Analysis

Unlike organic traffic, referral traffic visitors land on an App Store Product Page with an intent that is dictated by the marketing message used to get them to your store.   

Therefore, if you detect a change in your referral traffic trend, you will need to identify the specific referrer, then backtrack and explore that referrer’s funnel and messaging in order to better understand the discrepancy.

For example, if you used a video in a paid ad, the iOS 11 Gallery updates, such as video autoplay, can actually harm your funnel by conveying repetitive messaging.

Since you only have one App Store Product Page for all traffic sources (with their varying needs and biases) we suggest that you create a StoreMaven Test. You will be able to drive a blend of traffic to your test. From there, sequential testing will provide invaluable insights for each traffic source and will afford you the ability to develop the optimal Product Page (design and messaging) for each traffic source.

Take a look at WallaPop’s case study to see exactly how StoreMaven used sequential testing to create an app store that answered the needs of both buyers and sellers.

 

Summary

The only way to know how iOS 11 has impacted your app marketing performance is by using iTunes Connect to break down your traffic sources (i.e., search traffic, browse traffic, and referral traffic) for analysis. The most important metrics that should then be analyzed on iTunes Connect include impressions, click-through rate (CVR), and conversion rate (CVR).

From there you will be able to use iTunes app analytics to see precisely how the iOS 11 App Store has impacted your app marketing performance and, in turn, pivot your App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy accordingly.

Now that you know how to collect and analyze your referral traffic data, be sure to do the same with your search traffic and browse traffic. For a step-by-step guide on search traffic analysis read this, and for browse traffic analysis read this!

 

 

This article was co-authored by Helit Yair Pur and Shira Leffel.

Have questions? Feel free to write us below!

iOS 11.1.1 Update and App Store Optimization (ASO)
[UPDATE] App Store Increased Screenshot Limit: What Does This Mean for Your ASO Strategy?

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