The Most Underrated App Metrics For Game Developers

Posted by , CMO, Tapjoy
14th April 2015

Let’s face it—the number of reports available to help you measure the health and effectiveness of your mobile application is enough to make your head spin. Whether you’re tracking the user acquisition, engagement, retention or monetization of your app, there are so many metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at your disposal that it’s sometimes hard to tell which ones paint the most accurate picture and what are the metrics that matter the most.

The acronyms alone can make you feel like you’re swimming in an alphabet soup: ARPPU, DAU/MAU, LTV, CPA, CPI, ARPDAU and so on. Making matters worst, different parties encourage you to focus on different metrics: your marketing team wants the lowest Cost Per Install, your CEO the highest Return On Investment, while your investors might want to drive the most installs at the fastest velocity.

Those metrics are all important in their own way, and you should absolutely be tracking them. But there are several unheralded metrics you might not be measuring that could give you a better sense of how your app is performing. These metrics will point you in the right direction in terms of how to optimize your app to reach its maximum potential.

And so, in order to help you make sense of it all, we present the top metrics game and app developers should use to optimize each area of their app, along with the most underrated metrics within each category.

Acquisition Reports

New users are the lifeblood of your app, especially when you’re first starting out. But where are your new users coming from, and how much did you pay to acquire them? Which ad sources are worth re-investing in, and which ones delivered such low quality users that you need to cut them off immediately? What ad formats are most effective? How can you acquire more organic (unpaid) installs?

To answer these and other questions about your user acquisition campaigns, you’ll need to start out by looking at basic reports such as:

  • Installs
  • New Users
  • Active Users (Daily, Weekly and Monthly)

To optimize the organic installs from users that find your app through the app stores, you should be tracking:

  • Visitors to your app’s page and conversions to install
  • App ranking
  • App rating
  • Keyword ranking

If you are running ad campaigns, you’ll want to also measure:

  • Cost Per Install (Cost Per User Acquisition)
  • Cost Per Click (for pay-per-click campaigns)
  • Cost Per View (for video campaigns)
  • Cost Per Impression (for CPM campaigns)
  • eCPI (effective Cost Per Install)

Of course, it’s impossible to fully measure the impact of your marketing spend and user acquisition campaigns without also understanding how those new users are engaging and monetizing within your app. So once you start tracking the other metrics below, you’ll want to map them back to the referral source that they came from.

Unsung Acquisition Metric:

Your existing users are perhaps your best source of new installs. If your game is truly worth playing or your app worth using, they’ll want to tell their friends about it, who will tell their friends, and so on in an endless cycle of high quality new users. So we recommend carefully tracking and optimizing stats such as:

  • Invites sent
  • Invites opened and converted
  • K-factor (the measure of viral growth, as determined by the number of new referrals caused by a single player)


Engagement Reports:

Once they’ve installed your app, how engaged are players? Do they open it once and never return, or do they stick around and play it for a while? For our purposes, we’ll treat engagement and retention similarly and advise you to track metrics such as:

  • Number of sessions
  • Session length
  • Session frequency
  • Time spent per user per day (a total of all the session lengths per day)
  • Churn rate (how many users are leaving your app over a specified period of time)
  • Retention rate (how many users continue using your app over a specified period of time, usually measured as Day-1, Day-7 and Day-30 Retention rates)
  • DAU/MAU (the percentage of your monthly active users who are playing daily, this is a good indicator of how often people are playing your game)
  • Dormant users
  • Returning users
  • User lifetime (average number of days a user interacts with the app)

Unsung Engagement Metric:

While most developers will track some or all of the metrics above, one metric many developers are starting to track more closely is the frequency of play over a period of time—typically 7 and 30 days, which we characterize as an app’s FQ7 and FQ30 stats.

FQ7 and FQ30 indicate how many times your users have opened your app in the past 7 days/30 days. Keep an eye on these indices as they tell you how healthy your app is.

Check whether the portion of FQ7 users increases over time or not. Normally, games considered to be healthy have a big portion of FQ7 and FQ26-30 users that make up more than 50% of the total user base. In addition, the percentage of total revenue generated exclusively from the FQ7 and FQ26-30 user group is more than 75%.


Revenue Reports:

No matter how strong your engagement and retention metrics appear, none of it matters if your app doesn’t generate enough revenue to support the business and justify spending money to acquire more users. By looking at the proper revenue reports, you’ll be able to answer questions such as: How many of my players are making purchases? How much are they spending? What are they spending money on? How often are they purchasing? And so on. The top revenue-related metrics include:

  • ARPU (Average Revenue Per User)
  • ARPPU (Average Revenue Per Paying User)
  • LTV (Lifetime Value)
  • Daily Paying Users
  • Percentage of Paying Users
  • First-time Paying Users
  • Percentage of First-time Paying Users
  • ARPDAU (Average Revenue Per Daily Active User)
  • Weekly Paying Users
  • Monthly Paying Users

Unsung Revenue Metrics:

One of your biggest goals in optimizing revenue is to convert more free players into paid customers. So a critically important metric to track is your First-Selling Items. These items will often be different from your Top Selling Items, and they will help you understand which products get users over the hump from being a free player to paying customer. Once you know which products are most effective at this, you can promote them to non-payers and even offer special discounts and promotions on them to really entice those soon-to-be customers.


What’s Next?

Tracking these metrics is just the first step. You’ll want to use advanced cohort analysis and user segmentation to then deliver targeted campaigns that help improve each of these metrics.

Fortunately, Tapjoy can help you track every metric necessary to measure and optimize the health of your app, and our marketing automation platform help you serve the right message to the right user at the right time. Learn more by visiting our web site or dropping us an email at

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