What Is Contextual Traffic on Mobile?

By Vungle | March 3, 2022

In the post-IDFA world, the digital activity of non-trackable mobile app users is still highly valuable to advertisers — if you know how to leverage it.

Advertisers everywhere are feeling the pressure of Apple, and now Google’s, privacy changes. New techniques are emerging left and right to reach, engage, and convert mobile users without IDFA- or AAID-enriched data, but what sense can advertisers make of the non-trackable traffic itself? As more and more users opt out of tracking, it’s important to understand what their digital activity means and how to maximize the data they still generate.

In this article, we will investigate what contextual traffic is and isn’t, the impact it has on the industry at large, and why advertisers should care.

Jump to a section…

What is contextual traffic?
Behavioral traffic versus contextual traffic
Contextual traffic versus contextual ad targeting
How does contextual traffic impact advertising trends?
How to make contextual traffic part of your advertising strategy

What is contextual traffic?

In the mobile world, the term “contextual traffic” refers to the mobile app activity of users who have elected not to allow an app to track their behavior across the web and/or other apps by opting out. Also known as Limit Ad Tracking or LAT traffic, contextual traffic represents a segment of users that can’t be targeted based on behavioral data. Without access to their detailed identifying information, advertisers can only use contextual methods to target those mobile app users. In other words, contextual traffic is the activity of the approximately 95% of iOS users that have opted out of having their movements tracked online.

Behavioral traffic versus contextual traffic

In the mobile industry, behavioral traffic refers to the activity that most mobile app users generated before Apple released the iOS 14.5 update. Because users weren’t explicitly asked to opt in to tracking, most didn’t go out of their way to opt out. Their movements online were therefore trackable, and their activity (tied to IDFA) formed a detailed picture of their behaviors, hence the term “behavioral traffic”.

Retargeting campaigns are a good example of how advertisers can capitalize on behavioral traffic; with access to information about users’ past purchases, advertisers can reach out with relevant recommendations, discounts, and promotions that take into account what they already know about the user’s buying behaviors.

Contextual traffic, on the other hand, makes use of a more limited data set. Advertisers can only access certain types of information about LAT users. Examples of contextual traffic data types include:

  • App-level data: Details about the app a LAT-enabled user is accessing, like the App Store category and subcategory, publisher and developer information, and the version of the app the user is running.
  • User-level data: Information about how LAT-enabled users interacted with that particular app, like how long they spent using it in a single session and how often users clicked on a particular ad placement.
  • Device-level data: Settings and details about LAT-enabled users’ devices, like hardware version (i.e. the kind of iPhone they’re using), time zone, and the language-based keyboards they have enabled.

Contextual traffic versus contextual ad targeting

Although some marketers tend to use the terms “contextual traffic” and “contextual ad targeting” interchangeably, they identify different elements of the post-IDFA landscape. While contextual traffic is the activity mobile app users generate once they’ve opted out of tracking, contextual ad targeting refers to the techniques advertisers can use to connect those non-tracked users with relevant ads.

Also Read: What Is Contextual Ad Targeting?

Contextual ad targeting is the practice of using contextual information to display ads within apps that share some common subject matter or theme. The intention is that by aligning the contexts shared by the ad and the platform where it appears, advertisers will be able to improve campaign performance in the absence of IDFA or AAID. In that sense, contextual ad targeting is a method of delivering ads to non-trackable users based on the contextual traffic patterns they generate.

Contextual traffic is not a new phenomenon; users have always had the option to limit ad tracking. The current contextual frenzy comes from the ways Apple’s privacy updates since iOS 14.5 have exponentially increased the volume of LAT traffic — it now represents the majority of total traffic on iOS devices. This has caused a variety of shifts in advertising market dynamics across all industries.

At the same time that LAT traffic has increased, so has the cost of non-LAT traffic. That’s especially true in industries that have more room to make up profits, even when spending large amounts to show ads to valuable (trackable) users. That spending has caused the overall cost of advertising to trend upward as a result.

How to make contextual traffic part of your advertising strategy

Contextual traffic is rich in useful data if advertisers know how to leverage it properly. That data powers contextual ad targeting, allowing advertisers to maximize their ad budget even without IDFA or AAID. Most advertisers need a partner to help them turn that data into revenue opportunities, like bidding on high-value impressions and real-time ad spend optimization.

When Vungle saw this shift coming, we understood that maximizing the value of contextual traffic was going to require a new approach to targeting. Acquiring GameRefinery has allowed Vungle to provide supercharged contextual targeting capabilities through our creative ad intelligence platform. To learn more about partnering with Vungle to turn contextual traffic into real advertising results, get in touch today.