What is Apple SKAdNetwork 2024
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What is Apple SKAdNetwork 2024


Buse Kanal

If you’re wondering what Apple SKAdNetwork is especially in the year 2024, then you need to read this. As you may already know, the dynamic world of mobile app marketing is always shifting. However, in the past years, SKAdNetwork has consistently held its ground as the cornerstone of iOS advertising.

As a mobile app marketer, you probably have heard about SKAdNetwork, affectionately known as SKAN. As the industry’s go-to framework for mobile attribution, SKAdNetwork has not only weathered the storm but continues to evolve, cementing its relevance year after year.

Gone are the days of relying solely on the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for user tracking. With the advent of iOS 14 and its stringent privacy measures, Apple introduced SKAdNetwork as a privacy-centric solution. This framework, designed to measure ad campaign effectiveness while safeguarding user privacy, marks a paradigm shift in mobile attribution.

An effective app marketing campaign involves having a fundamental understanding of what SKAdNetwork is and how it works. For this reason, let us take a deep look at SKAdNetwork and what it means for the success of your mobile app.

What Is SKAdNetwork?

SKAdNetwork, which is short for StoreKit Ad Network, is a framework developed by Apple to facilitate privacy-safe mobile attribution for user acquisition campaigns on iOS devices. Introduced in 2018, SKAdNetwork, or simply Skan, provides advertisers with aggregated attribution data, allowing them to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts without compromising user privacy.

As the industry gradually transitions to newer versions like SKAN 4, which offers enhanced postbacks for improved measurement and optimization signals, Apple continues to innovate in this space, with SKAN 5 anticipated in the future. In essence, SKAdNetwork enables advertisers to measure conversion rates accurately while upholding user privacy, thereby serving as a vital tool for mobile app marketers seeking to optimize their campaigns on iOS platforms.

How Does SKAdNetwork Work?

With the rollout of iOS 14.5 and the implementation of the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework in April 2021, SKAdNetwork became the primary solution for attributing users who have not opted in to share their user-level data via Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

This framework operates by reporting deterministic aggregated attribution data, providing insights into app installs and in-app events without disclosing individual user or device-specific information.

When it comes to SKAdNetwork, there are 5 main participants in the Ad Attribution Process. These include the following:

  • Apple & the App Store
  • Publishing app
  • Ad network
  • Target app
  • Mobile measurement partner (MMP)

In general, the implementation and relay of attribution data works in the following manner:

  • Ad networks sign up with Apple to obtain a special ad network ID and use the SKAdNetwork API.
  • Publishers configure their apps to display ads from these networks.
  • SKAN attribution data is relayed from the device to Apple and then to ad networks, developers, and MMPs.
  • SKAN can be implemented independently by clients or with the assistance of MMPs like Adjust.

Apple is best known for putting a high value on the privacy of its users. Thus, it’s a great marvel to consider how Apple still allows its advertisers to measure ad performance without violating privacy. 

SKAdNetwork uses cryptographic techniques to encode attribution parameters such as campaign ID, ad network ID, publisher ID, and conversion value. This information is passed to the publisher and then to the App Store, where it is matched with corresponding app installations. SKAN ensures user data anonymity and limits advertiser access to aggregated information for optimizing ad campaigns.

What Are SKAdNetwork Benefits?

There’s a reason SKAdNetwork remained to be the primary tool to gather data attribution for advertisers. It doesn’t just benefit the marketers, but also users and the entire App Store. To better appreciate the SKAdNetwork, take a look at its various benefits:

Benefits of SKAdNetwork for Publishers:

  • Improved User Relationship: SKAdNetwork’s focus on privacy ensures the security of user data, fostering a positive brand image and transparent relationship with the audience.
  • Reliable Attribution Measurement: Publishers can accurately assess the effectiveness of their ad campaigns, facilitating data-driven decisions to enhance overall performance.
  • Continuous Improvement: With newer versions of SKAdNetwork continually enhancing measurement capabilities, publishers can expect ongoing improvements in campaign analysis and optimization.

Benefits of SKAdNetwork for Advertisers:

  • Assessment of Ad Campaigns: SKAdNetwork provides reliable attribution, enabling advertisers to evaluate campaign effectiveness and make informed decisions to optimize their strategies.
  • Contextual Optimization: Advertisers can experiment with contextual campaign parameters and optimize them without relying on user-level identity, enhancing targeting efficiency.
  • Alternative to IDFA: SKAdNetwork offers a viable solution for measuring ad campaign impact on iOS, bypassing limitations imposed by IDFA and ensuring continued tracking accuracy.

Overall Benefits of SKAdNetwork:

  • Enhanced User Privacy: SKAdNetwork anonymizes user data and requires user consent before sharing data with advertisers, respecting privacy regulations like GDPR and fostering user trust.
  • Efficient Ad Campaigns: By limiting tracking and ensuring user targeting efficiency, SKAdNetwork facilitates more effective ad campaigns while safeguarding user privacy.
  • Streamlined Integration: Developers have the flexibility to integrate SKAdNetwork natively or via SDKs like Branch, each offering unique benefits such as enhanced advertiser insights and granular conversion control.

In summary, SKAdNetwork offers a comprehensive suite of benefits for both publishers and advertisers, ranging from improved user privacy to enhanced campaign effectiveness and streamlined integration options.

As the industry standard for mobile attribution on iOS, SKAdNetwork continues to play a crucial role in driving forward the mobile advertising ecosystem while prioritizing user privacy and data security.

Difference between IDFA Attribution and SKAdNetwork Attribution

Before SKAdNetwork, there is IDFA. Because of privacy and security issues, SKAdNetwork was created as an alternative to IDFA.

The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), pioneered by Apple, serves as a distinctive and enduring identifier assigned to individual Apple devices. Designed to facilitate seamless tracking of user interactions across various apps and websites, the IDFA empowers advertisers and developers to deliver personalized advertisements tailored to user preferences and behaviors.

Here’s a quick look at the key differences between IDFA attribution and SKAdNetwork Attribution:

Matching and Granularity:

  • IDFA Attribution: Offers 1 to 1 matching with full granularity across various campaign variables, allowing for precise tracking and attribution of user actions.
  • SKAdNetwork Attribution: Operates on a group-based model, associating conversions with a unique ID and providing cluster-level insights rather than individual user-level data.


  • IDFA Attribution: Involves a sequential process where user clicks on an ad, MMP records IDFA data, user installs the app, and MMP matches and attributes the conversion based on recorded data.
  • SKAdNetwork Attribution: Begins with the user clicking on an ad and tracking an ID with up to 100 values. Upon app installation, a 24-hour timer is triggered, and if no updates occur within this timeframe, a postback is sent without IDFA or user-level data to attribute the conversion.

Postback Contents:

  • IDFA Attribution: Postback includes device ID (IDFA), transaction ID, and additional device data, providing detailed information for attribution.
  • SKAdNetwork Attribution: Postback contents vary depending on the SKAdNetwork version used. SKAdNetwork 4.0 postback, for example, includes source identifier, conversion value, source app ID, and source domain, offering essential attribution data within the framework’s constraints.

In essence, while IDFA Attribution offers precise individual-level tracking, SKAdNetwork Attribution operates on a cluster-level model with limited granularity but ensures compliance with user privacy regulations and Apple’s policies. Each method has its strengths and limitations, catering to different needs and preferences within the mobile advertising ecosystem.

SKAdNetwork Limitations and Challenges

Although SKAdNetwork proves to be a valuable framework, it entails several limitations that hold significance for both app publishers and marketers. Some of these limitations encompass:

  • Limited Granularity: SKAdNetwork presents challenges in terms of data granularity, restricting access to detailed user behavior and demographic information. With only aggregated data available, advertisers may struggle to gain comprehensive insights into their audience.
  • Restricted Attribution Window: SKAdNetwork’s attribution window is limited to a maximum of 24 hours, leading to underreporting of campaign performance as app installs occurring after this window are not counted. This limitation poses challenges for accurately measuring campaign effectiveness and optimizing strategies.
  • Delayed Reporting: The randomized delay in reporting install events makes it difficult for marketers to track campaign effectiveness in real-time. Without timely insights, advertisers may face challenges in optimizing their campaigns and maximizing ROI.
  • Limited Inventory and Campaigns: SKAdNetwork imposes restrictions on the number of campaigns per app, with a maximum limit of 100 campaigns. This limitation can be challenging for advertisers managing numerous campaigns or seeking detailed attribution data.
  • Ad Fraud Risk: Data transmitted through SKAdNetwork can be manipulated in transit, posing a risk of ad fraud and resulting in wasted budget. Advertisers must implement measures to mitigate this risk and ensure the integrity of their attribution data.

Overcoming SKAdNetwork Limitations

In response to the constraints posed by SKAdNetwork, both Apple and app developers/marketers have devised strategies to mitigate these limitations. Here are several approaches they’ve adopted:

  • Utilize Alternative Data Sources: Advertisers can leverage other sources of data, such as app analytics platforms or user surveys, to supplement insights gained from SKAdNetwork and overcome limitations in data granularity.
  • Implement Predictive Analytics: Employ predictive analytics to forecast campaign performance and optimize strategies, mitigating challenges associated with delayed reporting and limited attribution windows.
  • Collaborate with MMPs: Partnering with Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) like Airbridge can provide access to preset conversion value schemes and simplify campaign management on iOS devices, helping marketers navigate SKAdNetwork challenges effectively.
  • Optimize Campaign Strategies: Conduct A/B testing, utilize retargeting campaigns, and leverage programmatic advertising platforms to optimize campaign performance and increase ROI despite the constraints of SKAdNetwork.

In conclusion, while SKAdNetwork offers a privacy-focused solution for attribution, it presents several challenges and limitations for advertisers. However, by employing strategic approaches and leveraging alternative tools and partnerships, advertisers can effectively address these challenges and optimize their ad campaigns on iOS platforms.

Exploring the Anticipated Features of SKAdNetwork 5.0

The mobile industry is currently in the process of adopting the fourth edition of SKAdNetwork, yet anticipation mounts for an even more advanced iteration. At the WWDC23 event, Apple made waves by announcing the imminent release of SKAdNetwork 5.0, signaling a continued commitment to innovation and evolution within the advertising ecosystem.

While the official release of SKAdNetwork 5.0 is still on the horizon, speculations regarding its features have been circulating within the industry. Here are some assumptions we can draw about this upcoming edition:

  • Enhanced Re-Engagement Postbacks: SKAdNetwork 5.0 is expected to introduce capabilities for measuring conversions that occur after users re-engage with the app by interacting with an ad.
  • Introduction of Privacy Manifests: Third-party SDK developers are likely to be required to submit privacy manifests, offering specific statements elucidating the rationale behind their data collection practices. This transparency aims to further uphold user privacy standards.
  • Stringent Requirements for APIs: Apps utilizing APIs will undergo heightened scrutiny from Apple, necessitating comprehensive justifications for each API integration. This measure aims to ensure greater transparency and accountability in app functionalities.

While further details and features of SKAdNetwork 5.0 remain under wraps, these anticipated enhancements reflect Apple’s ongoing commitment to privacy and transparency in mobile app advertising. Stay tuned for updates as more information becomes available.

Enhance Your App Store Ad Campaigns with SKAdNetwork Optimization

Elevating your app’s visibility through paid ads on the App Store can significantly amplify its discoverability. However, ensuring optimal performance requires meticulous attention to detail, particularly in configuring SKAdNetwork and other essential data parameters. This task can be daunting, especially for those lacking expertise and experience in the realm of mobile advertising.

Fortunately, ShyftUp stands ready to assist. As a premier user acquisition agency, ShyftUp possesses the proficiency to guide app owners, developers, and marketers towards achieving their business objectives effectively. With our proven track record and industry-leading expertise, we can help you orchestrate App Store ad campaigns that yield maximum positive outcomes.

Don’t let uncertainty hinder your advertising success. Take the first step towards optimized App Store ads by scheduling a demo with ShyftUp today. Elevate your app’s visibility and unlock its full potential with our comprehensive solutions.

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