Most of my mobile application are available on the App Store for free. When I started developing these apps, I decided to upload them to the App Store without even trying to earn money. Obviously, free apps are more likely to be downloaded than paid apps. Fellow developers will agree that it is a fantastic feeling to regularly see people downloading your applications. The payment can therefore be seen as paid in emotional currency instead of 💰💰💰.

A few months ago, however, I decided to start monetising a few of my applications. Even though the initial intent was to keep them available for free, there are surely other ways to earn a few dollars. The idea: Provide an ad network with designated space inside the application using banners and so-called interstitial (full-screen) views. After a brief analysis, Admob by Google seemed to be the most suitable platform. The installation and development part was rather straight forward. In order to avoid deep technical descriptions (however, do reach out to me if you have any questions relating to the technical part), I will cut this story short: I simply created views on several screens and tested if the ads actually appeared. So far, so good!

Now, every time a user sees or taps a banner on my app’s screen, I get paid a tiny amount of money which would add up depending on the amount of app users. This is the first revenue stream inside my previously free application.

App users know this: If you see ads, there is generally the possibility to pay a small few to hide all ads inside an app. This is smart stuff! Adding In-App purchases to “Remove Ads” for $1,99 suddenly becomes the second revenue stream. Within a few days of analysis and development, the initially free app, now contains two modes to make some small bucks.

So, how did it go so far?
In this post, I don’t want to get into the monetary details, but there is one thing that I had to learn the hard way. But firstly, yes I did make some money through the In-App purchases. Apparently, quite a few users got annoyed by the ads and chose to remove them by paying a few dollars. Great!

The payment generated by ads through the Admob Network, however, work slightly different. Since Admob is owned by Google, the latter firstly collects the payment for the developer (me!) and wires the payment to my bank account once it reaches a certain threshold. My threshold was set to $70. Now, when I reached the $70 I suddenly received an email by Google saying that they have allegedly detected some fraudulent activity on my ad account and that they would shut down my account. Wow!

The problem: you cannot just call Google and talk to an assistant on the phone explaining the situation. They merely provide a complaint form which, to cut a long story short, they never replied to! Suing Google or Admob is also not a great idea considering the fact that we are talking about $70… So, I guess, smart move, Google!

When I did some research on the “fraudulent activity” that I have allegedly done, I found that I, as the developer, may have tested the banners too much myself. Sure, before releasing a product, I want to make sure that the ad logic works correctly. Well, Google may not have liked this. Which I don’t like, however, is that they did not warn me once and waited until my threshold was reached before shutting down my account. By the way, what happened with the money that Google made by providing my app’s space? It’s probably still in their pockets.

Bottom line: it was a good idea, I did make some (little) money with the In-App purchases but never received any money from Google even though I provided them with space in my app.

By the way, I did try to create another Admob account and, this time, test the logic less to avoid fraudulent activity. Well, Google blocked and deactivated my account a few days later. Really sad!

November 4, 2018