Tetris – by far the best-selling game of all time – was released on 6 June 1984, just over 35 years ago. To simply say that video games, and the video game industry itself, have changed since then would be a serious understatement. In fact, it has been said that Tetris would actually fail as a premium mobile game in today’s market – and that was over five years ago.
Games have become increasingly technologically advanced, and their creation has become more complex and more expensive. This, in turn, has led to an increased focus on marketing and sales strategies. After all, why would game creators invest in a game if it has a measurable chance of not returning that investment?
Aside from games themselves changing, there are also simply more of them. In the September of 2009, there were 52,000 applications for games on the US App Store. Last month, in the September of 2019, there were 916,000 – over 17 times more in 10 years.
Though games have become more complex, the democratisation of game development has led to increased competition, and has therefore made it harder for companies to capture market share. Such a steady increase in supply makes it harder and harder for companies to get the market to notice and buy their games.
Today, video game marketers need to see in increasing detail what affects their campaigns in order to be able to make sound financial decisions amid fierce competition. Though there are various tools and measurements which enable marketers to generate a picture of performance, some of them are overlooked or misunderstood, perhaps none more so than organic uplift.
Let’s take a look at what organic uplift really is, and why you should be using it. To help us make the case, Natalie Turner, Business Development Director and Team Lead for App Support at Matchmade, will be lending her expertise.
“On average, only 20% of people who are going to take an action will click on a link.”
What Is Organic Uplift?
“Organic uplift should be a non-starter, something automatic,” says Natalie. “It’s something that causes a lot of people to misunderstand influencer marketing in general. There are instances where people say that measuring only a direct link didn’t work for them, but they must understand that, on average, only 20% of people who are going to take an action will click on a link. The rest will do it organically, either direct to a website, or direct to the app store to search.”
On a technical level, organic uplift represents the unattributed growth in organic installs. It can come as the result of store featuring, increased word of mouth, heightened brand awareness, untracked marketing such as adverts, or players simply seeing an advert online, not interacting with it, then searching for the product by themselves (Kramarzewski and De Nucci, 2018).
“On a more down-to-earth level, organic uplift is when you have a call to action, and people do something completely different,” says Natalie. “If, for example, you prompt someone to click on a link below a video, and that person doesn’t do that, but instead goes either straight to your website, or Google, or goes direct to the App Store, that’s organic uplift.”
How Does Organic Uplift Work?
Organic uplift measures organic traffic, measures user behaviour during campaigns, and then compares those measurements to generate insights. When used in the right way, it can increase the effectiveness of campaigns through a more realistic analysis.
If someone downloads an app in the Google Play store based on an organic search, that can improve the ranking of that app in the Google Play store. Over time, the app’s referrals can improve for organic searches, and that in turn improves the visibility of the app, which in turn can lead to a higher install rate. Importantly, with a higher organic install rate, the cost per install (CPI) rate falls for the advertiser.
During campaigns, marketers keep an eye on various forms of data in order to gain insights into how and why people make buying decisions. After campaigns, a control group can be compared with actual users in order to see how they responded to ads (or whatever means was used in the campaign). This comparison – expressed in the form of a percentage – paints a picture of a that campaign’s effect on organic traffic.
Natalie explains what causes organic uplift using a simple YouTube-based example.
“The majority of people – about 80% on average – watch YouTube on a mobile device. When you watch a YouTube video on mobile, you don’t see links underneath a video like you would on a computer, for example. On a computer, you don’t have to take any extra steps, but with the mobile app, you don’t see those links, so you have to click on the side and scroll down, and then you’ll see the link. That very tiny extra step is one of the reasons why people, in practice, don’t actually then do it.”
Alternatively, someone could be watching a video on their computer and simply execute a search on their mobile device. In this way, there a loss of connection to the actual video itself, and that link goes unregistered and therefore unusable by marketers.
How Do You Measure Organic Uplift?
The underuse of organic uplift could partly be attributed to how difficult it is to measure. As with every marketing tool, there are many factors at play, one of the most important of which is the base level of activity in any given marketing channel.
“If you’re a big company, and you’re talking about 100,000 downloads a day, and you post a video, and you spend €5000 on it, you’re probably never going to be able to measure your organic uplift, because your marketing channel is going to be way too noisy,” says Natalie.
On a technical level, the general formula used to calculate organic uplift is:
Organic installs = baseline + organic uplift × measured installs
Organic uplift = (total installs – organic baseline – measured installs) ÷ measured installs
= (organic installs – baseline) ÷ measured installs
Or, as a simple example:
More practically, there are creative ways in which marketers can measure organic uplift. “One company I previously worked with performed a test at a launch,” says Natalie. “They did it solely with influencers so that they could measure the directs and the organics, then they used that as a go-to. For every person that went direct, four people went organic, and whenever they did influencer marketing, they measured with this. So, if you’re about to launch something new, that could be a good way to measure.”
Another method is to measure ad impressions. “Let’s say someone googles ‘ASOS’. They will have an advert underneath the search, and when that advert comes up, that’s classed as an impression. They measure impressions, and you can get that data from Google Analytics and look at your average daily impressions. If you produce a video and make it go live on a Friday, then you can observe an increase in ad impressions for the next two hours – there’s a spike – and you can attribute that now to your video.”
Direct searches can also be used as a proxy for organic uplift. “If you type ‘www.asos.com’ into a search bar, then, again, you’re measuring averages. Ask yourself, at the time of the video, is there a spike? You can do an even deeper dive into the data, because from influencers we can get the audience, and from that audience, we know whether it’s someone from Germany, female, watching from an Android, and if you deep dive into that, and go to the website at that time in the spike, you can say more confidently that this is the audience, these are the people who came in and accounted for that spike, and these are the people that we can attribute to our influencer campaign.”
Why Should You Be Measuring Organic Uplift?
Organic uplift isn’t “one simple trick” that subverts the normal way in which marketing works. On the contrary, it is a tool that should be baked into the marketing process. It isn’t a way to obtain perfect information – and, sometimes, posts simply do underperform – but it is a way to obtain the clearest picture possible.
Essentially, measuring organic uplift can lead to seeing the true ROI of a campaign. Marketers can measure campaigns in terms of how users respond to ads, and then use the gathered data to make predictions about future campaigns – saving time and money.
“Influencer marketing budgets are usually the lowest out of the marketing team’s,” says Natalie. “Influencer marketers always have to fight for the right to be valid, and for their right to get more money from their managers, and if people take the time to measure organic uplift and to understand it, then it increases the likelihood that campaigns are successful, and then they can go to their managers and have a better case for asking for more budget.”
At the end of the day, marketers want to maximise organic traffic because that is more likely to lead to permanent traffic. Links to your site have the potential to create a positive engagement chain reaction, and so organic searches are simply a good long-term strategy.
“If you just measure direct, you could be missing out on some useful data,” says Natalie. “In one particular study, they measured thousands of campaigns and found that for every one, there are three that go in organically, on average – sometimes it can be as much as 10 people, so if you’re expecting to just pay an influencer on the direct tracking, they could be missing out on 80% of their revenue, and who would do that?”
Some have made observations that there has been a decline in the use of the organic uplift over the past few years, but Natalie sees this as being down to it getting harder to measure, or even that people are not measuring it properly.
“You’ve got to imagine that you’re running a Facebook ad at the same time as a Google ad, at the same time as an Instagram-sponsored post, and then if you add an influencer campaign on top of that, then it’s so much noise in your marketing channel that of course it’s hard to find those people. What makes it harder still is that they’re very similar people – this is where touchpoints come in. It’s quite a standard business model for people to need a certain number of touchpoints before they buy a product. Sometimes, however, marketers expect that if they post one particular video, they should get a certain amount of return, and that that should just be the standard. They’re not factoring it in as part of the overall marketing – it’s being kept separate. I don’t believe organic uplift is on the decline at all, I believe that we’re not bothering to measure it properly, or that it’s way too noisy and too complicated to actually do it.”
Kramarzewski, A. and De Nucci, E. (2018). Practical game design. Birmingham, UK: Packt Publishing, page 380