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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Search Match

October 6, 2017

Apple’s Search Match: Friend or Foe?

Apple propose that the Search Match functionality is the default feature that makes it easy to get your ads up and running in just a few minutes. Search Match automatically matches your ad to search terms that Apple deem relevant to your app. Apple uses metadata from the App Store listing, information about similar apps in the same genre and other search data, to determine the relevancy of user searches; meaning that, in theory, your ad will show for appropriate search terms without the need to input an extensive keyword list.

However, like many friends, Apple’s Search Match needs to be, occasionally, reined in to stop it becoming a foe!

Search Match: Foe

We have found that Apple’s Search Match, unfortunately, can be very broad. Search Match is the broadest match type in Apple Search Ads, followed by Broad Match and Exact Match; which, unlike Search Match, work at the keyword level. We have seen ads show for: searches related to irrelevant apps by the same developer as the campaigned app; irrelevant apps in the broader app categories (e.g. Lifestyle); and apps that share the same developer as a relevant app.

During the testing phase, the Search Match Ad Group is likely to have a lower Conversion Rate (CR) than Brand, Competitor and Core Ad Groups. We have seen Search Match Ad Group CRs range between 22.3% and 49.6% for Search Ads campaigns that we have optimised. If a high Default CPT Bid is coupled with a low CR, the Ad Group’s Average CPA will be very high. Not only that, but the higher the CPT Bid, the more auctions your app is likely to win (see Figure 1.), and the more likely the budget will exhaust quickly with very limited learnings.

Figure 1. A Graph to visually describe how increasing the CPT Bid, increases the number of bid auctions won.

Search Match: Friend

Search Match should be used to generate cheap and relevant search terms that can be inputted as keywords. Apple’s Search Match functionality works at the Ad Group level and therefore, Search Ads campaigns should have a separate Ad Group labelled ‘Search Match’ and the Ad Group should not contain any keywords.

In the initial learning phase of the campaign, the CPT Bid should be set low and then incrementally increased until the search terms are generating conversions at your target Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA). The CPT Bid for Search Match is based on the Default CPT Bid of the Ad Group. While the Default CPT Bid is increased, the Ad Group should be reviewed and monitored daily; and, irrelevant and expensive keywords should be added as negative keywords to stop the Ad Group continually bidding on these terms.

Case Study: Trending Competitors

An example of when the Search Match feature can pick out keywords better and quicker than an app marketer is when a new app is trending; and recently we saw just how effective this can be.

Our client’s campaign consisted of a Brand, Competitors and Core Ad Group as well as a Search Match Ad Group. The Search Match Ad Group had a low Default CPT Bid with all the campaign keywords added as negative keywords on Exact Match.

When the competitor app was trending, the Search Match Ad Group generated 248 downloads, a 320.3% increase compared to the average number of daily downloads in the previous week (see Figure 2.). Searches related to the trending app generated a total of 232 downloads, with an average CPA of £0.19.


Figure 2. The impact Search Match can have on the Daily Number of Downloads generated.

Overall, when used correctly, Search Match is a vital tool for capturing effective and efficient user searches. For tips on how to maximise learnings from Search Match, see our Top Tips below!

Redbox’s Search Match Top Tips:

  1. Set up a ‘Search Match’ Ad Group – with no keywords

Follow Apple’s Advice! Search Match works at the Ad Group level, not the keyword level. Therefore, having keywords in the Ad Group will not affect the Search Terms that Apple will show your ad for. Additionally, by having a separate Ad Group for Search Match, you are able to add search terms as negative keywords once they have been added as keywords in the relevant Ad Group.

  1. Start with a low Default CPT Bid

The higher the Default CPT Bid, the more auctions the app is likely to win, which can lead to a very high initial CPA and wasted testing money. Instead, if you start with a low Bid and add irrelevant or high CPA keywords as negative keywords as you go along, you will waste less money on irrelevant keywords in the initial testing phase and as a result, you will discover more search terms for the test budget.

  1. Negative keyword (Exact Match!) all keywords from the other Ad Groups.

All the keywords in the other Ad Groups should be added as Exact Match negative keywords to avoid your Search Match Ad Group bidding against the campaign keywords. Top Tip: Add keywords as Exact-Match negative keywords to avoid blocking new search terms that partially include your keywords.

  1. Add Search Match generated Search Terms as keywords in the relevant Ad Groups

Once you have identified efficient keywords, which generate a good volume of download at a low cost, place each keyword on Exact Match in the relevant Ad Group. Enter CPT Bids of keywords slightly higher than the Average CPT generated from Search Match because this simply represents an average and CPTs vary depending upon market fluctuations; in other words, to maximise your impression share for the search term.

  1. Monitor the Search Match Ad Group!

Regularly review the Ad Group to capture efficient search terms and add irrelevant search terms as negative keywords.

Get in touch with Redbox Mobile to find out how Search Match can boost the visibility of your app in the App Store!

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