Articles4 min. read

Promoting apps | How to pick a traffic source

Julia Krasilnikova

Affiliate Manager, Appbooster

Defining the target audience

Before you initiate any advertising activity, you need to define your app’s target audience: the more accurate you do this, the easier it will be for you to pick traffic sources and set up targeting.

You can go with the following basic criteria for a start:

  • Geography
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Device (if your app is designed for a luxe brand online store, you may want to target owners of costly smartphones)
  • Interests

Having envisaged the user portrait, you need to study the traffic sources, audiences they cover, targeting options they provide, and advertising restrictions they impose: analyze every aspect to find a perfect source.

Start with considering major advertising platforms, since it’s easier — and cheaper — to find the right user among larger audiences.

Facebook + Instagram

Facebook and its subsidiary network Instagram together have a userbase of over 2 billion people in almost all countries, which makes them the world’s largest social platforms.

Bitly Science Team’s Facebook geography study

Amongst other features, Facebook furnishes broad targeting capabilities. You can narrow down your search by age, gender, GEO, and interests, or upload your own audience lists.

In view of all this, it’s clear that Facebook is a versatile advertising network that can be used for promoting almost any application. But this brings us to one important caveat.

To advertise your app on Facebook, you have to integrate Facebook SDK into it. There are some backdoors, but such non-compliance will drastically reduce your traffic optimization arsenal on the platform and may lead to your ad accounts getting banned.

Like any other major advertising network, Facebook strictly adheres to the corporate advertising policy. Depending on the app category and vertical, the network may even forbid promotion or allow it but with a number of restrictions and rules to follow. Also, the promotion of apps belonging to questionable verticals may depend on the legislation of countries which you are going to target. You can read more about advertising rules by following the link.


Owned by Chinese corporation Bytedanceglobal, TikTok is a relatively young social platform that keeps gaining traction. We need to deploy a disclaimer here: Since the network’s advertising capabilities are rapidly growing, the information provided in this text may have gotten outdated by the time you read it.

TikTok audience’s gender and age breakdown (TikTok’s presentation for Russian agencies)

CIS states can only advertise on TikTok as a placement platform, while western countries are also allowed to Vigo, Helo, TopBuzz, etc.

Placements available to various countries (TikTok’s presentation for Russian agencies)

Every ad undergoes manual moderation, so if any creative violates the network’s policy, it’s not allowed for publication.

The point of caution here is that TikTok only supports video ads, so the creative design will possible require much more resources.

Google contextual ads. Major formats are YouTube, in-app, Google Search, and Google Play. Like on Facebook, the coverage by GEO, gender, and age is very broad. Quite recently, Google has completely switched to automated traffic purchasing—having eliminated almost all manual settings except GEO and operating system. The system selects age, placement, and interests at its own discretion, and this may be both good and bad. When purchasing ads on Google Ads, make sure you are aware of—and take into account—Google’s advertising policy.


Snapchat is a messenger where users send video messages wearing virtual masks, using stickers, and adding other effects. The network did not win the Russian market, currently counting about 5 million people. Therefore, Snapchat cannot be the go-to network if you target CIS states.

But if you are going to market your app in the US, Canada, or Europe, Snapchat can be a good platform since around 130 million users, aged 13 to 24 on average, have accounts in that messenger.

Snapchat audience statistics

Do not forget to respect — and comply with — the advertising policy.


In-app ads are ads published as banners, video or text ads—inside the apps. Such a format of contextual advertising is available on Google Ads and Facebook Audience Network, but there are some networks that specialize in forming the base of applications. On one hand, app owners integrate the network SDK into their code and thus turn their product ready for earning on ad impressions. On the other hand, an in-app network presents a platform where publishers can create and configure ads.

Using in-app traffic may be very tricky: one needs a good body of time and budget to create a blacklist and a whitelist—lists of apps providing poor and quality traffic, respectively. Social media targeting capabilities may also be curbed: even the largest networks do not allow targeting by city.

On the brighter side, in-app networks are not too pick in terms of verticals, in contrast to contextual advertising on social media. Thus, in-app traffic becomes agonist the only way to promote for such categories as dating, gambling, and liquor distribution.

The market’s largest in-app networks include Unity, Vungle, Apploving, Minimob, and Appnext. Different networks impose different ad format restrictions, have different Android/iOS share ratios, allow different GEOs, stipulate different cooperation terms. Contact a network’s support to make everything clear.


For your convenience, we have compiled a consolidated traffic source table. When choosing a traffic source, obviously, you may want to judge from your actual needs and carry out a deeper analysis. However, a cumulative comparison can help you find your way faster.

Traffic Source Summary Table

Julia Krasilnikova

Affiliate Manager, Appbooster


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