How to set up retargeting for mobile app ads with Yandex

The original Russian article can be found here

If you’ve invested a lot of time and resources into developing a mobile app and building a sizeable userbase, the last thing you want is to lose your audience. Setting up retargeting for mobile app ads is one way to bring back wayward users and convert them into customers.

In this article, we’ll explain how to use retargeting for mobile apps in Yandex.Direct. You’ll learn how to set them up and why deep links are an important component of your retargeting efforts.


Smartphones have become an essential part of our lives. We use them to check our bank balance, find out how many calories we’re consuming, read the news, and play word games. People are obsessed with mobile apps: the second quarter of 2019 set a record for the number of installations worldwide (with more than 30.3B initial installations), and users spent around $22.6B on apps (20% more than during that period in the previous year). In 2018, the number of downloads exceeded 194B.

However impressive these figures are, mobile product owners know very well that the installation is only the beginning of the customer journey. Even if your app is popular today, there is always the chance that users will switch to one of the new ones that come out every day. It doesn’t matter what task your app helps users solve, you still need retargeting to retain your customer base.

How retargeting helps

LitRes is a popular e-book library in Russia that offers users a lot of free functionality. They used retargeting to encourage users to make their first purchase and increase purchase frequency. The results speak for themselves: retargeting helped LitRes reach 2/3rds of their potential audience. Traffic from apps and mobile sites included in the Yandex Advertising Network (YAN) converted at a rate of 67% for reattributions (i.e. users who had previously installed the LitRes app, but then deleted it or never opened it). Likewise, 22% of YAN traffic converted to paying customers. To see what steps we took to achieve these results, read our case study.

Efforts to encourage purchases in-app only comprised part of our strategy. We also used these methods:

  • Sending reminders to users who had downloaded the app but hadn’t used it in a while
  • Encouraging those who deleted the app to re-install it
  • Upselling goods and services to loyal users

We were able to save money by focusing on users who were already familiar with LitRes, as it is always more cost-effective to target warm leads.

With Yandex.Direct, you can use retargeting criteria to serve ads on the YAN and search to users who’ve already interacted with your apps.

Now we’ll discuss exactly how to do that.

Find your optimal audience

Which is more effective: retargeting on YAN, search, or both? To start, formulate your task and put together a relevant segment of users to retarget your mobile app ads.

Search ads respond to a user’s current questions and meet their immediate demands. Network ads, on the other hand, correspond to a user’s interests and online behavior. The latter allows you to target impressions by combining various retargeting criteria and segments. Additionally, over half of Advertising Network users are not members of the Yandex search audience, so retargeting on YAN sites allows you to reach users who are not searching for anything at the moment, but may nevertheless be interested in your offers.

There are several methods for determining who should be included in your target audience. The easiest and most convenient way is to connect AppMetrica (the analytics system for apps). It integrates seamlessly with Yandex.Direct and Yandex.Audience and there is a separate report for retargeting campaigns. If you haven’t used AppMetrica yet, this detailed guide will tell you where to start.

AppMetrica gathers anonymous data about app users (for example, it knows how many prefer the old version and are reluctant to update). Based on AppMetrica data, you can generate new segments for retargeting in Yandex.Audience.

How to set up retargeting for YAN and search

Let’s take a look at some basic retargeting tasks for mobile app ads. For example, let’s say you want to contact your existing users because you just launched 200 new features and want to make sure they know about them. Retargeting on YAN sites can help you accomplish this. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Save the most relevant segment in AppMetrica. In our example, this would be all your current app users. Then select this segment in Yandex.Audience:retargeting for mobile app ads - AppMetricaFor help setting up segments, read the Audience Help.
  2. Create a retargeting list in Yandex.Direct. Click “At least one fulfilled” and select the segment made up of your current app users:Retargeting list for mobile app ads
  3. Create a new ad campaign in Yandex.Direct, or go to the parameters of an existing campaign. Create an ad and set the option to serve impressions “Only on networks.” Then set your other ad placement parameters.
  4. Target your ads to the contacts on your retargeting list:

Retargeting on search works a little differently: ads are triggered by search queries that contain the keywords you set (as long as the users who enter them are part of the segment you selected). For example, you might serve an ad for a luxury office chair to users of an e-commerce apps who are searching for office furniture. When they click on your ad, they will land directly on the product card for the office chair in the app.  A prominent ad will help your users shorten their path to making a purchase.

How to set up retargeting on search:

  1. In Yandex.Audience, select all the app users that AppMetrica gathered.
  2. Set up a retargeting list. Select “None fulfilled” to get all users without the app:Retargeting on search for mobile app ads
  3. In the Yandex.Direct campaign settings, set the “Only on search” criteria, add your keywords, and set other placement parameters.
  4. Exclude impressions for users who don’t have the app by setting a bid adjustment of minus 100%:Bid adjustments

You can use this same process to place ads on YAN sites. Your ads will be served to users with the app who have certain interests (i.e. to users who may be interested in your app, but are not searching for your product or service right now.

Of course, retargeting is not only useful for e-commerce, but also for other types of businesses. For example, banks can advertise their products to app users looking to take out a credit line, cleaning services can tell clients about their new package deals, etc. We’ve written about various use cases for retargeting in an earlier article and information about settings and bid adjustments can be found in the Yandex.Direct Help.

Deep links for various tasks

Don’t forget to add deep links to your product or sign-up page to ensure that clients land in the most relevant section of your app when they click on your ad:

  1. Set up deep links in the app and make sure that AppMetrica is tracking them (AndroidiOS).
  2. Enter the appropriate deep links in the settings of your remarketing tracker for Yandex.Direct.
  3. Add the tracking link to your Yandex.Direct ad.

If you need help, refer to the instructions for setting up tracking for remarketing campaigns in AppMetrica.

How to measure performance

All the necessary statistics to analyze the results of retargeting campaigns in AppMetrica are contained in a special Remarketing report (in Russian). It includes statistics on clicks, opens, and the number of conversions linked directly to your campaign.

Only offer the best

The average user spent 3 hours a day using mobile apps in 2018 (50% more time than in 2016) and opened 40 different apps in the course of a month. Your goal is to make subscribers think that your app is better and more convenient than those of your competitors. In this ultra-competitive environment, you must go beyond just investing in the initial development of your app — you must continually convey your app’s benefits to users (through ads and other means). Take some time to experiment, think of new scenarios, and look for the targeting combinations that meet your business goals most optimally.

There are so many options that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Try launching a retargeting campaign in Yandex.Direct for users who haven’t opened your app in the last week. Offer them a promo or some other bonus. Track how your remarketing efforts works in practice so that you stay in contact with your audience.

And don’t forget to share your success stories with us!