Perplexing Advertising Numbers

I’m still doing a lot of testing around how this iPhone Apps stuff works but yesterday I ran an experiment to see if mobile advertising would help boost sales of my game.

The results were very odd.

Firstly, I have been running various ad supported websites for about 8 years now so I’m pretty confident about how the revenue has been working for websites using Adsense.  I have also run quite a few AdWords campaigns so I’m familiar with how much that traffic usually costs.

Very quickly after launching an ad campaign on AdMob I blew through the $10 test budget at $0.03/click which netted 334 clicks with a click through rate of about 0.5%.  That’s pretty cheap traffic in comparison to my experience with AdWords which are often 10x to 100x more expensive.

Immediately following the campaign I could see that more people were playing the game.  More people had scores show up in the leader board, and I was seeing ad impressions from the in-app ads.  Ad impressions spiked roughly 20x compared to previous days so I was expecting to see significant sales.

Then I started seeing revenue come in from the ads.  It was shocking that every time I refreshed the page there would be a few more cents of revenue.  People seemed to be clicking the ads at roughly 20% CTR.  As of right now I can see four times more ad clicks than people who have bought the game!

Today, if the trend continues I expect my ad impressions and revenue from AdMob to exceed what I make with AdSense across all my websites combined!  This is crazy.  In the last week I have sold 30 copies of the game.  I can attribute 7 of those sales to the ad campaign I ran.  Before running the ad campaign I had 5 days of zero ad clicks and an average of roughly 10 ad impressions per day.  in the 24 hours following the ad campaign I saw ad impressions spike to nearly 1000 with 175 clicks.

Something doesn’t seem right.  These numbers are wacky compared to what I’m used to seeing with ad revenue.

Update: Found out that a hacked version of my game was uploaded to a forum at roughly the same time I started the ad campaign.  That explains it.