4 Types of Mobile Attribution Windows | AppsFlyer
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4 Types of Mobile Attribution Windows

Avatar Shani Rosenfelder Apr 18, 2016

In mobile attribution, a lookback window is used to determine which source gets credit for driving an app install. It refers to the period of time in which a user’s action (click or view) that precedes an install counts as having an impact on the decision to download an app.

But in an ever-changing environment, there is often confusion regarding the different types of windows and what they actually mean (not to mention the different scenarios that re-engagement campaigns bring to the table).

That’s exactly what we’re here for, to bring clarity to the mobile advertising and attribution space. Here goes:

1) Click attribution window
  • 7-day standard: If a user clicks on an ad that’s part of the inventory of “Network X,” and then installs the app within 7 days of that click, “Network X” gets credit for the install — assuming there wasn’t another click that followed (under the last click rule).
  • 24-hour fingerprinting attribution: If a referrer or device ID are not available (for instance when on a mobile website), an install can be attributed based on a fingerprint ID. However, because we are talking about a model that’s based on statistical probability, a 100% level of accuracy is not possible. Also, the greater the amount of time that passes between an ad being clicked and an install occurring, the greater the chances of a new fingerprint being formed once a device setting is changed. But in the short term, fingerprinting is highly accurate and therefore its lookback window is open for 24 hours.
  • Facebook, Google & Twitter: The tech giants have their own windows in place: Facebook has 28 days, Google’s default is 30 days (non-configurable), whereas Twitter enables advertisers to choose between one, seven, fourteen or ninety-day windows. Because these companies mostly work on a CPC basis, the window is irrelevant, at least for billing purposes. But the window is very much relevant for proper data analysis and optimization, as all parties involved require attribution data from a measurement provider.Advertisers use it to compare the effectiveness of these media sources and other “standard” sources (for example, by looking at eCPI). The large tech companies, on the other hand, use it to understand whether the clicks or views they delivered led to an install or not (if the advertiser relies on the attribution provider’s SDK to measure installs), or if they were actually credited for the install — and optimize accordingly.
  • Configurable window: Flexibility enables networks to net the highest number of app downloads by extending the window to the longest possible timeframe. This is very important to advertisers who want to normalize their data so that they can run an apples to apples comparison when they perform their analyses. For example, since the duration of a window is highly correlated with eCPI, proper comparison is not really possible when comparing networks with different windows. A configurable window can also be of use when running campaigns that are limited in timeframe. For example, a taxi app’s 24-hour special campaign promising installers the first ride for free. In such a case, the greatest value comes from reports detailing the installs that occurred within that 1-day window.


2) View-through attribution window
  • 24-hour standard: Some agreements include giving credit to an install based on an ad view. In such a case the window is short – usually up to 24 or 48 hours. However, since the click is mightier than the view, it always wins (assuming it occurred within its own window of course). Facebook and Twitter will also charge advertisers based on a 24-hour attribution window.
  • Configurable window: A view-through window can also be configurable, usually from one hour to 48 hours in some cases. This can often be best utilized when looking at the quality of different ad types: for example a standard banner and a video ad. It makes sense to give the latter a longer window as it has greater impact and is known to deliver high quality users.

Let’s look at the following example to better illustrate the rules of attribution windows and how different actions translate into credit allocation:

install windowsWhich network wins? Network B.

How come?

  1. Network B had the last click within a lookback window.
  2. A click wins over view even if the latter is within its window.


3) TV attribution window

With TV budgets still leading in terms of advertiser spend, app install campaigns on television can have a major impact. Think about it, we all watch TVs with our phones practically in hand, just waiting to take action. Best of all, it can be measured – and we’re talking traditional TV, not smart internet-connected TVs.

How is this done? By opening a window between the exact time an ad was aired and any installs that followed (assuming they occurred where the ad was shown). This window is configurable but in most cases it is very short several minutes at most.


4) Retargeting (re-engagement) attribution window

The re-engagement attribution window works differently. That’s because re-engagement attribution credit is given when a user opens an app after engaging with a re-engagement campaign, which usually happens instantaneously. That’s why the lookback window is not the important window in this case.

In re-engagement campaigns the window that matters is actually a “look forward” window. Basically, it refers to the number of days in which an event can be attributed to a retargeting campaign. It starts when the actual retargeting attribution occurs (after an ad click and subsequent app open), and finishes at the end of the re-engagement attribution window. The default re-engagement attribution window is 30 days, but this can be configurable.

Retargeting attribution can get tricky when trying to understand how it interacts with Install attribution. Let’s explore the following example:

reengaement window

The re-engagement campaign will be credited for re-engaging the user after he/she clicks and opens the app. When the user goes on to purchase items, the LTV of both the UA and re-engagement campaign increases, as follows:

reenegaement table


If you are wondering about duplication, you’ve got a point. That’s why any events that occur within the re-engagement window can be marked as ‘Primary’ to enable simple de-duplication.


To sum up, mobile attribution windows can be confusing. But understanding how they work and how they are connected to one another is a crucial part of the business — for both billing and optimization purposes.

Have any questions or thoughts about mobile attribution windows? Leave a comment and join the discussion in the section below.