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Android Ad Network Review: LeadBolt

My review of LeadBolt for ads in my Android apps has been a long time coming.  I started working with them over six months ago.  When the project I was working on didn’t quite match the ad units I investigated, my implementation of LeadBolt got stalled.

That’s too bad, actually.  I integrated their ad units into my last two apps, and after seeing the results I am rolling out LeadBolt advertisements to my other apps as well.  My lifetime average eCPM with them is over $2.00.  Not bad at all…

Hold up a minute – if you’re just getting started getting ads into your Android app you may need a little more information than we’re covering in this article today.  Don’t forget to check out my latest book, the Android Ad Network Primer (available in print and for the Kindle).

In fact, if you have a Kindle Fire and are a member of Amazon Prime, you can read the entire book for free (don’t wait too long – this expires soon).  Not a bad way to get a jump start on income from your Android apps.

Basic Details for LeadBolt

LeadBolt offers a number of different ad formats, including the common banner ad.  They specialize in unique ad formats, but their performance for simple banner ads is pretty impressive by itself.

Not all of their ads pay by the click though – see below for more on that.

Their SDK is fairly small and relatively easy to integrate.  You don’t even need to use it if you only use the HTML-based ad units.

As always, I check how payouts occur.  Payouts occur after $100 with net-15 terms, after the end of a month.  If you really want your money immediately, you can get it net-7 from the current day, at the cost of 20% of your payment.

Ok, so what is it like to use LeadBolt, as a developer?

Positive elements of LeadBolt for Android Ads

Well, the high eCPM is certainly the first thing that most of you will pay attention to.  Here is what I saw my first week:

Note the high cost per click (EPC), and growing revenue as I started directing more traffic to LeadBolt.  Also note the dip down to zero, which I’ll talk about in the next section.

A few more things make LeadBolt attractive, besides just pure revenue numbers.

LeadBolt offers a number of HTML-based ad formats, which makes integration much easier.  This also reduces permissions that your app needs to ask for, which might be of interest to you.

I have been using Leadbolt with the SDK and through MoPub, which is a snap for HTML-based ads.  No integration was needed at all for the apps that just use the HTML banners.

The net-15 payout is also a nice (and rare) feature.  It eases the annoyance of the $100 payout threshold.

Based on my an unscientific estimate from my own early traffic, I’d say it wouldn’t be unreasonable to hope to reach that payout threshold after 45,000 ad impressions.  Your results will likely vary, of course.

There are other features that make LeadBolt interesting, such as the wide range of ad types.

Since I’m a fan of testing, I like their multivariate testing.  Basically, some of the ad units (like the unlocker) allow automatic split testing of things like colors, background, opacity, etc.  This can simplify testing different things (with numbers, not guessing).  Pretty cool.

All in all, the LeadBolt dashboard is pretty slick and gets you the information that you need.

…The Bad

There are a few catches, of course.  First, while they use a mixture of CPC (Cost-per-Click) and CPA (Cost-per-Action) ads, I have seen mostly CPA ads.  That means that I initially saw ads with clicks, but no revenue.

See that dip after the first spike of income?  I was still sending traffic, and still getting clicks, but my revenue was zero.

That’s different than many banner-based ad networks.  Don’t get alarmed as I did – it’s normal to see some clicks without any revenue.

When the revenue comes in, it is sporadic but surprisingly high.  You might get $0.70 from one click, and nothing at all from other clicks.  If your traffic isn’t high enough, that might mean some good days, and some with nothing at all.

Also, as I mentioned, it can be tough to get your head around the workflow for some of their ad units.  Their documentation is really geared around a simple case, so you’ll have to puzzle it out if you want a custom workflow.

I aborted integrating their ‘unlocker’ ad format for my first app because it didn’t work the way I wanted to use it.

Of course, each revision of their SDK gets better and they added a few of the missing hooks after I first asked for help.  When I returned, I found a different way to use the unlocker and things went much more smoothly.

Conclusions

Leadbolt may – or may not – be the right ad network for your Android apps.  It can generate very competitive paychecks, but the income can vary from day to day by a huge margin.

Developers just starting out may not be able to stomach the ups and downs (and watching clicks go by without any revenue).  Developers with sufficient traffic and the willingness to ride out the swings will be able to see a very competitive eCPM for their ad space.

If Leadbolt isn’t the right ad network for you, be sure to check out my other articles on Android Ad Revenue, or get the crash course and get moving quickly with the Android Ad Network Primer.

If you’re not squeamish about using some traffic to find high-paying ads, sign up for LeadBolt now and see the performance for yourself!

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