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31 March 2009 @ 4pm

Development, iPhone

Tracking AppStore Conversions (part 1)

As developers we tend to live in our code bases. However, in order to make a living, so we can write more code, it is important to focus at least some of our time on the dreaded marketing side of app publishing. To be honest, just using some of the terminology weirds me out a bit. But if you’re going to make a run at app development be it iPhone, Mac, or whatever you need to get wet so why not dive in feet first.

If you’re like me you like optimizing things. Tweaking the sales of your apps upward is no different and can be accomplished through effective marketing (and a little luck). The key word here is “effective”. Without data to support our efforts we’re really just shooting blindly in the dark. In this series of posts I’ll outline a way that we can get raw data on the effectiveness of our online and in-app marketing efforts for iPhone apps. The technique to be discussed was originally mentioned on MobileOrchard and if you want a good overview of the process I highly suggest you take a look at the article. I’ll be doing a deep dive into creating the necessary links, obtaining the data, and finally analyzing it. We’ll start with details on collecting data and end with some real numbers for one of my iPhone apps.

Our ultimate goal, at least for this article, is to determine how many application sales result from a particular marketing effort. On the web this is fairly easy to do with the help from our friends at Google. However, on the iPhone the sales channel is obscured by the iTunes AppStore. Once a user clicks into the AppStore their actions enter a black hole and we can no longer determine if they bought our app. Or so we thought. There is in fact a way to determine if a particular user click resulted in a sale of our application. This mechanism is found in the iTunes affiliate program available through LinkShare.

If you haven’t signed up for the iTunes affiliate program through LinkShare go do it now. Not only will it allow you to track your app marketing efforts but you’ll get an additional 5% on each and every sale that you refer as defined by their program. This not only includes your own app but any other app, song, movie, or whatever the user purchases after clicking your link. Even better you will continue to garner 5% from all purchases of that user for the next 120 days or until someone else refers them back to iTunes (these are known as ‘Return Days’ in LinkShare terminology).

So the extra 5% is great but how does that help our marketing data efforts? LinkShare provides an additional mechanism known as ‘Signatures’ that thankfully Apple supports. Signatures are the missing link that will allow us to see into the iTunes AppStore and determine whether a particular user click resulted in a purchase of our application. This linkage will then allow us to calculate a Conversion Rate from which we can begin to understand how effective our marketing effort is.

It should be noted at this point that there are a few gotchas and the system is not perfect. In fact, due to some reporting peculiarities with LinkShare signature reports the data can really only be taken in aggregate over a longer period of time (say a month or more). From the LinkShare help manual, “Most reports are based on the transaction date—the date the transaction actually occurs. The Signature Orders report, however, is based on the process date —the date that LinkShare receives and processes the transaction data sent by the advertiser“. As it works out it happens to be the Signature Orders report that we’re looking to use. So, since the data slides slightly based on the process date we can aggregate the data over a longer period of time and any temporal issues should be minimized. With that being said I have observed that the data from Apple appears to be processed within a day or so (as in all things YMMV).

Now, it’s finally time to set up a LinkShare signature so that we can start collecting some data. It’s really pretty easy. The first thing to do is create the standard LinkShare referral link. Basically, all that you need to do is grab an iTunes link for your product and then paste it into the LinkShare link builder.

The LinkShare link builder is available after logging into your account on the ‘Links’ tab. From this tab I have been using the ‘Deep Linking’ feature to just plug in my iTunes URL, fill in a signature and generate the clicksynergy URL. If you already have clicksynergy links created never fear. All you really need to do is add a ‘&u1=<your_custom_signature>’ to the end of the url. You can also modify the signature value whenever you want without ever going back into LinkShare since it will get picked up and tracked automatically. The value of the signature parameter can be whatever you want but I do suggest making it meaningful since this is all you’ll have in the report to figure out what link was clicked on.

Well, that’s it for now. Next up we’ll get into using our clicksynergy link and getting at the data the signatures give us. Then after we know how to collect and process the data we’ll look at analyzing it. At which point I’ll show real metrics as gathered from one of my iPhone apps.


[…] the last post I talked about how to set up and track LinkShare Signatures in order to ultimately determine […]

Posted by
21 April 2009 @ 11am

I’ve been using this technique for a while. It does work. But be forewarned: LinkShare is incredibly frustrating. It’s buggy. Sometimes their analytics just won’t be available for hours at a time. Sometimes, for some reason, it works in Firefox but not in Safari.

The one gaping hole in this is that you can track how much was spent on iTunes purchases due to a click on your banner or other link, but you cannot tell how much of that was spent on your app and how much was spent on other products. From what I can glean by poring through individual transactions and seeing whether they bear any relation to my app’s price, most of the transactions are for other apps or songs. But we have no reliable way of quantifying that.

Posted by
19 August 2009 @ 10am

Great post! Thanks! But does this work for tracking free apps conversions?

From Dave’s comment I would guess not. Which would be a pity since this is what I’m looking for. If anyone has a solution, feel free to let me know: much appreciated! Thanks,

Posted by
19 September 2009 @ 4pm

Are you able to see the conversion rate from each individual affiliate? I am looking to share revenue with affiliates based on how many of their users clicked through and bought my app. Is this possible with Linkshare?

Posted by
Ouriel Ohayon
4 October 2009 @ 5am

we are currently building a solution for developer to track their conversion on the appstore via our smart short URL link soon to be released ( ) if you are interested in knowing more please shoot me an email to discuss ouriel at appsfire dot com

Posted by
5 October 2009 @ 12pm

Great post. Already putting it to good use. Anyone figure out if you can use LinkSynergy with Google AdWords to auto-track end-to-end conversions?

Posted by
LinkShare analytics at Under The Bridge
6 October 2009 @ 7pm

[…] Well, turns out there is a really complicated super secret way to manage that. And here it is: […]

Posted by
Edovia – Blog » LinkShare is like free money!
25 January 2010 @ 4pm

[…] can get an additional 5% from every sale and do some tracking conversions. You can find his posts here and here. Part 3 is still missing in action but you’ll do […]

Posted by
azoob – iphone and ipad applications
22 December 2010 @ 6am

[…] a couple good blog posts describing how to use linkshare for app store conversion tracking:…Insert a dynamic date hereView All 0 CommentsCannot add comment […]

Posted by
tap tap tap ~ App Store conversion tracking
15 February 2013 @ 7pm

[…] Tracking AppStore Conversions (part 1) […]

Posted by
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