Does AdMob or iPhone Ads Make You Money? Not In My Test

Nov 28, 2008 • 7:06 am | comments (33) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Local Search Engine Tips & Optimization

ad mobAs some of you know, my company has been actively building out iPhone apps to sell on the iTunes App Store. Some of our apps are big hits and some are not.

Wednesday, we decided to try out AdMob, one of the most popular ad networks for the iPhone. AdMob can place ads within other iPhone apps, to help promote a brand, product or so on. We ran a $100 test to see what type of conversion rate we can get.

We picked the "App Store" from the "adverting goal" screen. The App Store will basically enable you to link the ad directly to your product on the App Store page. So that made most sense for us. The other options allow for linking to a web page, phone number, video (YouTube, I believe), audio (QuickTime), iTunes link, Maps or Canvas (I assume a picture).

AdMob Control Panel

So we picked App Store.

Here is the ad creation tool for the App Store. You have a title, description, graphic and app store URL:

AdMob Control Panel

Here is a closer look at the ad that showed up in iPhones:

BlackBook iPhone AdMob Ad

We made sure to include the price of the app, for obvious reasons.

We then targeted only US iPhone users, since the price of 99 cents was most likely only relevant there:

AdMob Control Panel

Then we set our bid to 50 cents per click, so we get a lot of traffic in a short period of time:

AdMob Control Panel

The results? Well, not so great.

The ad was live for about 30 minutes. It received 26,815 impressions, with 200 clicks resulting in an average CTR of 0.75% with an average CPC of $0.50.

On Thursday, I received the sales numbers for Wednesday's BlackBook sales. They were a disappointing 16 sales. We average about that or more per day for the BlackBook, without the ads. Since we sell the BlackBook for 99 cents, we only make 70 cents per sale. With 16 sales, we made $11.20. $11.20 minus the $100 in ads, turns out to an $88.80 loss on the campaign.

Now, there may be other factors why the campaign stunk. Maybe people in the US did not know what a Little Black Book meant? Maybe they didn't like some of the reviews, cause our competitor left some nasty reviews about our app - which is honestly way superior to our competitor's app. Or maybe AdMob is not a great avenue to advertiser iPhone apps? I am not sure.

I am sharing this because I received a number of Twitters from interested SEMs asking me how the campaign went. So here is your answer, not well!

Forum discussion at Search Engine Roundtable Forums.

Previous story: Google AdWords Provides Option To Advertise Based on Desktop vs. iPhone



11/28/2008 02:33 pm

I'm impressed by the number of impressions the ad got in 30 minutes. I'm thinking that when an iphone user opens an app with one goal in mind then its bad timing to try to take their attention away and sell them something. But the CPC model should help resolve that problem, people shouldn't click if they aren't interested - I wonder how many did out of simple curiosity or confusion/accident. Thanks for sharing your results.

Jean-Paul Horn

11/28/2008 03:33 pm

My experience with AdMob from a publisher point of view have been short and disappointed as well. Not only broke their JavaScript our iPhone navigation (wpTouch for WordPress by, but the earnings were the lowest of the lowest (1 dollarcent per click) with a fill rate of 90%. I guess this is because we're an European iPhone website (, approx. 40K visitors per day, 25K unique) and not many advertisers - like My Little Black Book in this story - also target for Europe. Any publishers with other experiences with either AdMob or Google Adsense on their iPhone-optimized website?


12/20/2008 05:36 pm

I had 2.8% CTR with 44000 impressions within a hour of doing my application. The next day I was disappointed to see zero difference in my revenue. I can not believe with 2500 opens you get not even 1 conversion. Something is not right here...


05/01/2009 06:05 pm

Yesterday we spent $800 for more than 2,300,000 impressions on AdMob to advertise our very popular UniWar game (reached #8 on the AppStore previously). This resulted in 26,118 click throughs and about ONLY 30 sales. This is about a 0.1% of conversion rate from click to buy. Needless to say that our ROI was very negative. We spent $800 to make about $90 in gross revenues (before Apple's cut).


06/17/2009 11:32 am

I tried this as well and can report similar results. I spend $100 over two days bidding at the lowest price I could. These were my results: - Impressions: 422,315 - Clicks: 1,986 - CTR: 0.47% - Sales: 4 over both days My sales actually decreased- essentially I believe that ads had no effect though.

Marty Goehner

08/18/2009 03:32 am

Same experience here. Paid $100 with a 3% CTR and zero sales. We sell iPhone replacement batteries.


08/27/2009 07:23 pm

Guys, I can't BELIEVE some of your posts! You are not seeing profit from using admobs because you guys are spending $100 on a campaign to sell a product that costs $0.99!!! That is insane! So at $0.50 a click and spending $100, you already knew you were only going to get 200 clicks right? Let's say your campaign had an "out of this world" conversion of clicks to sales at 40%. That would be 80 sales and that is great and unheard of but your product only costs $0.99 so you will have only made $79.20. So does it make sense to promote a product that costs $0.99 using a $100 campaign where you already know you are going to get 200 clicks?? Absolutely not! You've gotta be smarter than your business or you'll get wiped out. I spent $100 over two days, received over 3,000 clicks with only 5 sales. But I get $44 per sale so that is $44 x 5= $220. Doesn't that make so much more sense guys?


09/08/2009 06:29 pm

Ya I agree with the guy above me, this article is ridiculous and the way you are promoting it through admob is filled with error. I cant say much because most has already been said but you should try again with a more expensive product. Speaking of which I am doing a 60$ test campaign right now with admob and a 24$ per sale item, I also get money per month on every sale I get so it adds up. I set the bid to the lowest amount so I can get the most bang for my bucks starting out. I will tell you all how it goes.


09/13/2009 09:08 pm

Are you guys serious? Sometimes I wonder why people try to market when they obviously have little clue. I reach those numbers with less impressions and fare less cost. Tsk tsk on your marketing guy.


11/13/2009 09:50 pm

admob sucks


11/13/2009 09:50 pm

just look at their name ad mob, yes sucks


12/03/2009 12:14 am

Dave's comment is dead on; spending $100 at $0.50 is ridiculous for an app that costs $0.99. Also, ads will only draw attention to your app... even the best ads in the world won't sell a shitty app.

Raul Moreno

02/09/2010 01:00 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience. As more brand advertisers join mobile advertising, it is going to be even harder for game/app developers to bid low CPC rates and get a good ROI on ads. Dave does have a point, but remember we only know the conversation (downloads/clicks) after we have spent/bought CPC. As co-founder of Presiso (, we are working on an advertising platform for the iPad/iPhone that let's app developers share appstore revenue with publishers. Meaning that you don't pay for advertising---you only pay for downloads. You pay publishers agreed percentage of the app price. We are welcoming developers/publishers to participate in our pilot campaign if anyone is interested. I can be reached via twitter @moreno_raul. Thank you for sharing your experience---hopefully our system can avoid similar experiences.

David Croudace

02/26/2010 02:58 pm

I've also run test campaigns on £4.99 and £1.79 apps. During the Admob campaign I saw negative sales growth (did Admob drive away sales?)!! Therefore my test campaign was 'suck'essful - I discovered Admob doesn't work. The irritating part is I'd spoken to an Admob representative who states Admob customers generally see 2% conversion rates (sales - not CTR) on ad campaigns for paid for apps.

04/24/2010 11:13 pm

Google breaks AdMob even by 2014; makes a $6B killing by 2020 says a report. Link to the full report and analysis:


05/05/2011 07:05 pm

For your notes, competitors seem to always play an unfair game... Especially if their apps crash but ours don't. But: Thank you - all of the commenters - for sharing your experiences. We have some dud bombs on the store as well and we thought about doing ads for them. We'll better leave it as is...


05/13/2011 04:24 pm

Well, a least you got 16 sales, I had a campaign that got over 3000 clicks, but didn't get not one sale and the product was not that expensive only $17 bucks for the download, and the product teaches how to create a iphone app.


05/23/2011 12:59 pm

People who are exposed to ads are mainly those who run free versions of other apps. So I guess it's not that suprising that they are not willing to shell out on your app either!


07/27/2011 12:00 pm

You should have bid 10 cents. ..


08/28/2011 04:06 pm

Mobile ads just suck... Ad Mob low CTR is likely to come from accidental clicks.


10/02/2011 01:11 pm

All you guys who failed at Admob should really read up on marketing techniques and SEO... I mean come on, buying a $0.50 CPC ad for a $0.99 product? Do you even know how real world marketing actually works in the first place? Geez...


10/13/2011 07:42 am

Horrible, horrible results here.  We have a very popular, 5 star rated iPhone game.  Decided to experiment with a $50 campaign at $0.04 per click.  Resulted in 2 installs over 1250 clicks.  That's an average of $25 per install for a $0.99 app.  We probably won't be wasting any more money on this.

Scott Bailey

11/04/2011 09:37 pm

I imagine trained google monkeys (or even chickens) pecking away at ads on phones to tally clicks. The sad thing is that math is really easy. And who among us would be thrilled to give these bloodsuckers half or more of our actual 70% revenue that they caused. It would be mob-like extortion if they said "we'll get you 100 sales this week for our 50% cut." Who among us would agree to that? I know I would. I heard Flurry operated this way so I reached out to them. I spoke to someone there yesterday. You have to pay Flurry for downloads. No download, no pay. Only they ONLY advertise FREE apps. So you pay them to help give away your product. Why? Because in-app purchases and ads is where the income is. I understand (hearsay) that 8 out 10 of the top grossing apps are FREE APPS or apps with free lite version. I tested AdMob like many of you. I tested the conversions and clicks with the product priced at $1.99, and $.99 and FREE and with ADS that SAY the price and avoid saying the price. The stats are to sporadic to trace any rhyme or reason. 1 out of 100 clicks buys our app. That's pretty good if I was paying .05 per click, but they require 8 times that, which makes it a ridiculously foolish waste of money. Sadly, we'd been told that this would work. Make you not wanna trust people like this, eh? Check out my App. I'll check out yours! Scott @ KaleidoVision


02/19/2012 01:55 pm

give a brother some tips... barry.


02/19/2012 01:56 pm

give a brother some tips... barry.


02/22/2012 02:00 pm

LMAO  well im no expert but i can tell you what you did wrong... first of all your copy sucked!  Most people will see that copy and think "WTF is little black book? Who Cares???"  Your ad has not effectively created ANY INTEREST whatsoever... Good ads serve the purpose of INTERRUPTING the user and GRABBING their attention like snatching candy from a baby.  This would explain your horrible CTR. Secondly,  you are totally WRONG about putting your price in there.  Honestly, that did more harm than good.  Sure some people like to know the price up front... but IF YOU HAVE NOT EVEN SOLD THE CLICK YET, THEN DOES THE PRICE EVEN MATTER? The purpose of the ad is NOT to sell your product... its to SELL THE CLICK.  Just get them to click, that is all! Third, another huge mistake you made was bidding .10 cents to .50 cents - WTF?? This AINT ADWORDS DUDE... its mobile!!  You don't need to pay more than 5 cents for a click!!!  Lastly, the final deadly mistake was your targeting.  You didn't TARGET anyone specific.  You need to target more than just by location (US)  you need to target by interest, keyword, category, age, and as many other factors as you can. Hope these tips help! Cheers Jason

Barry Schwartz

02/22/2012 02:01 pm

I am not advertising. I have no clue what you are saying. This is a publisher thing.


02/22/2012 02:02 pm

oh, and i forgot one more thing.   Honestly, 99cents is chump change for most people... in fact it might even make your app seem cheap.  If your app is worth it,  you should charge 2.99.   You will probably get the same amount of sales anyway but make 3 times as much.  Sometimes that is the difference between a losing and failing campaign! Cheers Jason Lee

Pradeep V

03/01/2012 05:46 pm

Why didn't you try various campaigns over a week or so, where you could utilize the results of one campaign as tweaking for the next? Change targeting parameters, CPC, ad creative etc? With your $800, you could have done this in a very effective way.


04/05/2012 12:58 pm

We currently use AdMob to put ads in our apps.  We notice the choice is "create ads in Sites & Apps".  We can use our same AdMob account to put ads on our website, too?   But we don't see any "site" choice when we pick "Sites & Apps" though.  Only various Apps OS choices.


08/26/2012 11:14 pm

Im a student and built a small quiz app which is what i think a bit different from most quiz apps ( ). The game is totally free. Just to get some downloads, I ran a campaign on admob. The first day, it got me 98,000 impressions with 960 clicks, but only 6 downloads (which is what i get even without any advertisements). Can somebody help me with what i am doing wrong ? is there a possibility that my ad is more appealing than the app itself, and the user is tempted at first, but then changes his mind after landing at the Google Play page ?


08/30/2012 01:30 pm

Guys, anyone here who has used admob to advertise a freemium game ? the impression stats are impressive, but how many downloads would one get if his app is free.

Andrii Vintsevych

01/15/2014 05:41 am

$17 bucks for app store user is huge money. Even 0.99 is huge price for them. That's why most iOS game are f2p.

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