There’s a reason why mobile advertising has been lagging behind its web-based counterpart for the better part of the past few years, and it isn’t because brands don’t realize their consumers are heavily using mobile.

Advertisers aren’t blind to their target audiences, and given the more than 50% increase in mobile ad spend between 2012 and 2013, $1.2 billion to $3 billion respectively, the lag isn’t based on a lack of trying. Instead, the culprit here is much more basic: mobile advertising is really confusing.

Mobile advertising is only vaguely similar to web-based advertising, and figuring out its intricacies takes time and effort – even when you ask the right questions.

For example, when you buy a mobile ad, are you also buying an in-app ad? Sometimes.

Are in-app ads and mobile ads the same thing? Depends on what you mean by “the same thing.”

Can I track mobile ad clicks over to my app or vice versa? Not if your users are on an iOS platform. And Android seems to be following their lead.

And those questions only scratch the surface when it comes to the complexity behind mobile’s deep links, firewalls, responsive websites, cookie trails and iOS versus Android capabilities.

In 2014, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions has estimated that around $4.3 billion will be spent on mobile ads by agencies and brands. And since you don’t want to get left in the dust, here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your mobile advertising spend.

Mobile Ads Aren’t Responsive – Yet

In 2014, if you don’t have a responsive website, you are already behind. But don’t worry too much, because with multiple, customizable WordPress and Drupal responsive layouts, you can easily upgrade within 24 hours. Don’t use either of those? You can always check out the multiple HTML5 web tutorials or simply use Weebly to drag and drop your content, essentially building a responsive website without having to look at any code — seriously, not a single line.

As digital content expands and contracts to accommodate how users digest content, responsive websites have become the norm. But ads on those sites aren’t so quick to make the interface transition.

“We must embrace our new responsive capabilities to create innovative experiences that attract, enthrall and retain users,” Leslie Grandy, SVP, product and development, digital media at Discovery Communications said in an interview with Luxury Daily. “We must encourage them to stay longer and consume more content because it is easy, accessible and unfettered by their choice of device, browser or OS.

If we do that for consumers, then we must be able to do the same for our advertisers’ content as well.”

But that technology, though predicted to hit market in 2014, isn’t yet widespread. For advertisers looking to cash in on mobile spend, mobile first or in-app ads are necessary – and the two couldn’t be more different.

Apple Draws a Very Strict Line

In-app mobile ads can yield 20% higher engagement and 2,000% higher click-thru than regular mobile ads. Why? It all comes down to user experience.

In an app, brands can serve ads at the right time – targeting the consumer and gaining his or her attention without being annoying (read: during transitions and not while you are in the middle of reading content).

So why are ads still being served on both in-app and on non-app mobile sites? Because on Apple’s iOS, you can’t track a user across both native and mobile web. This means that if a user clicks on your in-app ad, the ad network can use the native Advertising Identifier like a 3rd party cookie to track users across apps within the same ad network. Of course, if that same user was in Safari before they came to your in-app ad, you won’t get any data about where they have been.

It’s like a firewall, and the iOS platform simply doesn’t allow marketers to track user data across both native apps and regular mobile Internet use – limiting the advertiser’s audience visibility.

Social Media is a Big Deal – As is Social Login

But big data platforms and services can help bridge that gap – without disrupting user experience. People spend 17% of their time on their mobile devices on a social media network, and that number only increases as your audience’s age decreases.

Using social login to track conversions to your site will follow users back to the original source and provide you with an in-depth view of who individual users are, including which brands they like best, their ad referrer, the tech in use when they saw the ad and how influential that user is on different social media outlets.

How does this help? It gives you, the advertiser, a 360-degree view of your audience. Better yet, it takes your mobile ad spend out of mobile sites and integrates it with in-app only spends, where the customer experience is seamless – and where your brand will get the most use out of the money you put in.

The old adage is true: go where your consumers are. And since everyone else is trying to get there too, beat out the competition by keeping your consumer informed, not annoyed. Seamless integration is the way to go – and since responsive mobile ads aren’t yet a reality, in-app mobile ad spend is your best bet.

Turns out it’s simple after all.