App Marketing

What is SKAdNetwork (SKAN)?

8 August 2023

by Tomasz Starzyński

What is SKAdNetwork (SKAN)?

Understanding the Basics of SKAdNetwork

Definition of SKAdNetwork: SKAdNetwork is an attribution framework introduced by Apple in iOS 14.5, designed to protect user privacy while still allowing advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their ads. With SKAdNetwork, instead of collecting user-level data, advertisers receive aggregated information about the success of their campaigns.

The Purpose of SKAdNetwork: The main purpose of SKAdNetwork is to strike a balance between user privacy and effective advertising. With the increasing concerns about data privacy, Apple took the initiative to create a framework that protects user information while still providing valuable insights to advertisers.

How does SKAdNetwork work?

SKAdNetwork works by leveraging the power of cryptography to ensure the privacy of user data. When a user interacts with an ad, the ad network sends a signal to the SKAdNetwork framework, which then generates a privacy-preserving attribution token. This token does not contain any personally identifiable information and is designed to protect the user’s identity.

The attribution token is then sent to the advertiser, who can use it to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. The advertiser can decode the token to obtain aggregated information, such as the number of conversions and the source of the ad, without accessing any individual user data.

Benefits of SKAdNetwork:

SKAdNetwork offers several benefits for both users and advertisers. For users, it ensures that their personal information remains private and secure. They can engage with ads without worrying about their data being collected or shared without their consent.

For advertisers, SKAdNetwork provides a way to measure the success of their campaigns while respecting user privacy. By receiving aggregated information, advertisers can still gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their ads and optimize their marketing strategies accordingly.

Challenges and Limitations:

While SKAdNetwork offers a privacy-focused solution for attribution, it does come with certain challenges and limitations. One of the main challenges is the limited amount of information available to advertisers. Since SKAdNetwork only provides aggregated data, advertisers may not have access to granular details about user behavior or demographics.

Additionally, the attribution process in SKAdNetwork is limited to a maximum of 100 campaigns per app. This limitation can pose challenges for advertisers with a large number of campaigns or those who rely heavily on detailed attribution data.

The Future of SKAdNetwork:

SKAdNetwork is still relatively new, and its full potential is yet to be realized. As Apple continues to prioritize user privacy, it is likely that SKAdNetwork will evolve and improve over time. Advertisers can expect more features and enhancements that strike a balance between privacy and effective advertising.

Furthermore, as the industry adapts to the changing landscape of data privacy regulations, SKAdNetwork may become a standard framework for attribution across different platforms. This would provide a consistent and privacy-centric approach to measuring the success of advertising campaigns.

In conclusion, SKAdNetwork is a significant development in the advertising industry, offering a privacy-focused solution for measuring ad effectiveness. By prioritizing user privacy and providing aggregated data, SKAdNetwork strikes a balance between protecting user information and providing valuable insights to advertisers. As the industry continues to evolve, SKAdNetwork is expected to play a crucial role in shaping the future of advertising attribution.

The Evolution of SKAdNetwork

The History of SKAdNetwork: SKAdNetwork has gone through significant developments over the years. It was first introduced in iOS 6 as a way for advertisers to attribute app installations to their ads accurately. This was a game-changer for the mobile advertising industry, as it provided a reliable and transparent method for tracking the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

As the popularity of mobile apps grew, so did the need for more advanced attribution methods. Apple recognized this and continued to refine and expand the capabilities of SKAdNetwork to address the changing landscape of mobile advertising. With each new iOS release, SKAdNetwork underwent improvements and enhancements to meet the evolving needs of advertisers.

One of the key milestones in the evolution of SKAdNetwork was the introduction of iOS 10. With this update, Apple introduced the concept of ad network attribution. This allowed advertisers to attribute app installations not only to specific ads but also to the ad networks that delivered those ads. This level of granularity provided advertisers with deeper insights into the performance of their campaigns and allowed them to optimize their strategies accordingly.

Another significant development in the history of SKAdNetwork came with the release of iOS 11. Apple introduced the concept of view-through attribution, which enabled advertisers to attribute app installations to ads that users had seen but not necessarily clicked on. This was a game-changer for brand advertisers who relied on visual impressions to drive app installations. With view-through attribution, they could now accurately measure the impact of their visual ad campaigns.

Recent Developments in SKAdNetwork: With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple made significant updates to SKAdNetwork, further solidifying its position as a leading attribution framework. One of the most notable updates was the introduction of the SKAdNetwork API. This API allows ad networks to register for attribution and measurement with SKAdNetwork directly, streamlining the process for both advertisers and ad networks.

In addition to the API, Apple also introduced new privacy-focused features to SKAdNetwork. One such feature is the privacy threshold, which allows advertisers to set a minimum number of conversions before SKAdNetwork reports the data. This helps protect user privacy by ensuring that no personally identifiable information is shared until a certain threshold is met.

Furthermore, Apple enhanced the granularity of attribution data provided by SKAdNetwork. Advertisers now have access to more detailed information, such as the campaign ID, creative ID, and even the time of the conversion. This level of detail enables advertisers to gain a deeper understanding of their users’ journey and make data-driven decisions to optimize their advertising strategies.

Overall, the recent developments in SKAdNetwork have empowered advertisers with more control and accuracy in measuring the success of their campaigns. With enhanced attribution capabilities, improved privacy features, and detailed reporting, SKAdNetwork continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of mobile advertising.

How SKAdNetwork Works

The Process of SKAdNetwork: SKAdNetwork operates by collecting data on ad impressions, clicks, and conversions without revealing specific user information. When a user interacts with an ad, iOS generates a SKAdNetwork identifier, which is then sent to the ad network responsible for the ad. The ad network can use this identifier to track post-install events and provide aggregated attribution data to advertisers.

Key Components of SKAdNetwork: SKAdNetwork consists of several key components, including the SKAdNetwork framework, SKAdNetwork API, and a private auction mechanism. These components work together to ensure that advertisers receive accurate and privacy-conscious attribution data to measure their campaign effectiveness.

The SKAdNetwork Framework: The SKAdNetwork framework is an integral part of the SKAdNetwork ecosystem. It provides the necessary tools and resources for ad networks and advertisers to implement SKAdNetwork functionality within their apps. The framework includes APIs for generating and handling SKAdNetwork identifiers, as well as methods for tracking post-install events and retrieving attribution data.

The SKAdNetwork API: The SKAdNetwork API allows ad networks to communicate with the SKAdNetwork framework and exchange information. Ad networks can use the API to register themselves with the framework, receive SKAdNetwork identifiers from iOS, and report post-install events to the framework. This API enables seamless integration between ad networks and the SKAdNetwork ecosystem.

The Private Auction Mechanism: One of the unique features of SKAdNetwork is the private auction mechanism. This mechanism ensures that attribution data remains private and secure while still allowing advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Ad networks participate in a private auction where they bid for the right to receive attribution data for specific ad campaigns. This ensures that only authorized ad networks have access to the data, protecting user privacy.

With the SKAdNetwork framework, API, and private auction mechanism working together, advertisers can confidently measure the impact of their ad campaigns while respecting user privacy. The collection of data on ad impressions, clicks, and conversions allows advertisers to optimize their marketing strategies and make data-driven decisions. By using aggregated attribution data, they can understand which ads are driving the most conversions and adjust their campaigns accordingly.

Furthermore, SKAdNetwork’s focus on privacy-conscious practices ensures that user data remains protected. The use of SKAdNetwork identifiers instead of specific user information adds an extra layer of anonymity to the data collected. This approach aligns with Apple’s commitment to user privacy and helps build trust between users, advertisers, and ad networks.

In conclusion, SKAdNetwork is a powerful tool for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns while maintaining user privacy. With its framework, API, and private auction mechanism, SKAdNetwork provides a comprehensive solution for collecting and analyzing attribution data. By leveraging this data, advertisers can optimize their campaigns and deliver more targeted and relevant ads to users, all while respecting their privacy.

The Impact of SKAdNetwork on Mobile Advertising

Changes in User Privacy: With the introduction of SKAdNetwork, user privacy has become a paramount concern in the mobile advertising landscape. Apple’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding user privacy has compelled advertisers and ad networks to reevaluate their strategies and devise innovative methods to measure campaign success without compromising user privacy. This paradigm shift has ushered in an era of increased transparency and has set a higher standard for user data protection within the mobile advertising industry.

As advertisers adapt to the changes brought about by SKAdNetwork, they have been compelled to adopt privacy-centric practices such as utilizing privacy-preserving measurement techniques, implementing privacy-focused consent mechanisms, and embracing privacy-by-design principles. These efforts not only ensure compliance with Apple’s guidelines but also foster trust between advertisers and users, ultimately enhancing the overall user experience.

Effects on Ad Attribution: SKAdNetwork has brought about significant changes in ad attribution, challenging advertisers to rethink their approach to measuring campaign effectiveness. With SKAdNetwork, advertisers can no longer rely on granular user-level data that was previously available through traditional attribution methods. Instead, they now receive more limited aggregated data that safeguards individual user privacy.

This shift in ad attribution necessitates a shift in mindset for advertisers. They must now optimize their campaigns based on broader insights derived from the aggregated data provided by SKAdNetwork. Advertisers must develop new strategies to understand user behavior and preferences without accessing personally identifiable information. This requires a more holistic approach to campaign optimization, leveraging data points such as campaign reach, frequency, and creative performance to gauge success.

Although the transition to SKAdNetwork’s aggregated data model presents challenges, it also offers opportunities for advertisers to refine their targeting strategies. By focusing on understanding the impact of their campaigns on a larger scale, advertisers can gain valuable insights into the overall effectiveness of their marketing efforts. This shift encourages advertisers to think beyond individual user interactions and consider the broader impact of their campaigns on target audiences.

In response to the changes in ad attribution, advertisers are increasingly exploring alternative methods to complement the insights provided by SKAdNetwork. This includes leveraging contextual targeting, predictive modeling, and other advanced techniques to enhance campaign performance and achieve desired outcomes. By combining the aggregated data from SKAdNetwork with these supplementary approaches, advertisers can continue to drive meaningful results while respecting user privacy.

Implementing SKAdNetwork

Steps to Implement SKAdNetwork: Implementing SKAdNetwork requires careful planning and coordination between advertisers, ad networks, and app developers. It involves integrating the SKAdNetwork framework into the app, configuring the ad network settings, and aligning the campaign measurement process with SKAdNetwork guidelines. Advertisers need to follow Apple’s guidelines and best practices to ensure proper implementation.

Integrating the SKAdNetwork framework into the app is a crucial step in the implementation process. This framework provides the necessary tools and functionality to track ad attribution and measure campaign performance. App developers need to understand the technical requirements and ensure that the framework is properly integrated into the app’s codebase. This may involve working closely with the development team and conducting thorough testing to ensure everything functions smoothly.

Configuring the ad network settings is another important aspect of implementing SKAdNetwork. Advertisers need to collaborate with their ad network partners to ensure that the correct settings are in place. This includes setting up the necessary postback URLs and configuring the conversion value rules. It is essential to establish clear communication channels with the ad network to address any technical issues or discrepancies that may arise during the configuration process.

Aligning the campaign measurement process with SKAdNetwork guidelines is crucial for accurate attribution and campaign optimization. Advertisers must understand the limitations of the new attribution model and adjust their campaign strategies accordingly. With limited data available, advertisers need to focus on optimizing their creative assets, targeting, and messaging to maximize the impact of their campaigns. Additionally, they should explore alternative measurement methods, such as incrementality testing, to gain deeper insights into the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

Common Challenges and Solutions: The implementation of SKAdNetwork can pose challenges for advertisers. These challenges may include adjusting to the new attribution model, optimizing campaigns with limited data, and ensuring accurate tracking of post-install events. Advertisers should stay informed about industry updates, seek guidance from ad networks, and continually adapt their strategies to overcome these challenges.

Adjusting to the new attribution model can be a significant challenge for advertisers who are accustomed to the previous measurement methods. With SKAdNetwork, the granularity of attribution data is limited, making it crucial for advertisers to rethink their measurement and optimization strategies. They may need to rely more on cohort analysis and other statistical models to understand the impact of their campaigns on user acquisition and retention.

Optimizing campaigns with limited data requires advertisers to be more creative and resourceful. They need to leverage the available data points, such as campaign IDs and conversion values, to gain insights into user behavior and campaign performance. By experimenting with different targeting parameters, creatives, and messaging, advertisers can iterate and optimize their campaigns to achieve better results.

Ensuring accurate tracking of post-install events is essential for measuring the success of campaigns and making data-driven decisions. Advertisers should work closely with their app development team to implement the necessary event tracking mechanisms within the app. They should also regularly review and validate the post-install event data to ensure its accuracy and reliability.

Future of SKAdNetwork

Predicted Trends in SKAdNetwork: As the digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, SKAdNetwork is expected to play a pivotal role in privacy-conscious ad attribution. We can anticipate further enhancements to SKAdNetwork, such as expanded event tracking capabilities and improved measurement accuracy, to meet the evolving needs of advertisers and users.

The Role of SKAdNetwork in the Future of Digital Advertising: SKAdNetwork sets the tone for the future of digital advertising, where user privacy and effective ad measurement coexist. Advertisers and ad networks will need to adapt to this new reality, focusing on delivering quality and relevance while respecting user privacy. SKAdNetwork paves the way for a more transparent and privacy-centric digital advertising ecosystem.

Closing Thoughts

Conclusion: SKAdNetwork represents a significant shift in mobile advertising, prioritizing user privacy while still delivering valuable insights to advertisers. Advertisers need to embrace the changes brought about by SKAdNetwork and adapt their strategies accordingly. By using the features and capabilities of SKAdNetwork effectively, advertisers can navigate the evolving landscape of digital advertising while maintaining a high level of user trust and engagement.