Apple Search Ads: Avoid These 10 Mistakes That Could Doom You To Failure

It’s so easy to get started with Apple Search Ads that most of the time digital marketers miss out on the much-needed details. They rush into creating their first campaign without giving much thought to as to where they could potentially go wrong.

Pressing the accelerator full-on as soon as you’ve started with Apple Search Ads isn’t much use. The smallest of things can have a significant impact on your campaign performance. For example, the metrics you choose to measure, the design of your app screenshots, your app store description, the promotion text you use or even the keywords you choose to target can all have a bearing on your results.

In this article, we’re taking a look at the 10 most common errors that app marketers are likely to make with Apple Search Ads and how they can avoid them.

1. Not optimising your App Store listing page

With over 2 million mobile apps waiting to be discovered on the App Store, optimising your App Store listing page is crucial. But the sad reality is that the majority of publishers aren’t doing this. Only the best Search Ads have managed to reap the benefits of optimising the App Store listing page.

This is essential because Apple uses your title, screenshots, app icon, and promo text to populate the adverts. Having these elements optimised in your metadata will also be beneficial for your ad’s keyword relevancy.

The better these elements are optimised for relevancy, the higher you’ll rank and the more discoverable you’ll be for potential customers.

2. Not setting up Search Ads attribution

It’s vital to know where your customers are coming from and to gain as much insight as possible. This is usually known as ‘attribution’.

Apple Search Ads App Attribution enables you to track the number of downloads from Search Ads campaigns. It lets you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and the lifetime value of the acquired users.

Apple Search Ads will only attribute a conversion when users click on your ad and then download the app within 30-days.

After all, it’s entirely possible that a user who’s in the process of downloading an app has likely searched for it more than once and interacted with it a number of times without actually clicking on the download button. This might be indicative of how your app screenshots and description need to convey the value better.

We strongly recommend setting up attribution because, without it, you can’t measure app downloads and re-engagements accurately. This also means that you won’t be able to find out how much return-on-investment (ROI) you’re getting out of your Search Ad investment.

3. Not knowing the difference between Exact and Broad Match for keywords

When undertaking any keyword research, It's really important to understand the differences between the keyword match types - Exact and Broad Match.

Broad Match is used to drive the maximum amount of user views. Let’s say you have a farming game that will appeal to a specific audience. If you choose a generic keyword, such as ‘Games’, your ad will appear even when users search for something like ‘Sports games’, ‘Kids games’, and ‘Strategy games’, and might go so broad to the extent that it appears even when the search wasn’t even remotely close. This runs the risk of you showing your ad to a lot of irrelevant prospects.

On the other hand, Exact Match keywords match user search terms that are the same keyword phrase you're bidding on, which means highly relevant searches even if the audience searching for that exact phrase is comparatively small. Depending on your goal - reach or relevancy - you’ll need to pick your keyword match type to reach that target. Of course, with exact matches, the aim is to research a list of exact matches that all bear some relevance to your actual app.

4. Using too many keywords for Broad Match

In Apple Search Ads, broad match is the default type for keyword targeting. Broad match basically refers to taking close, relevant variants of the keywords you want to target - singular, plural, misspellings, synonyms, related searches and phrases that might or include a part of the term you’re targeting.

While this type of targeting gets you an increased number of impressions, getting actual conversions can be tricky.

This is due to the fact that when your campaign uses broad match for keyword targeting, it is displayed for searches on even the close variants of the keyword - singular, plurals, misspellings, synonyms, related searches and phrases that might include the term fully or partially. So in some cases, words in a foreign language may also get matched to the searches if relevant to the app - even if they’re not your defined target user.

However, if ad impressions don’t match search query intent it can lead to a huge rise in your Cost per Tap. You don’t want to lose out on too much money, right? This is why having too many keywords on Broad Match can be risky.

Instead, we recommend aiming for at least 80% of taps on an ad from Exact Match where you can have more control over the searches. You can target a specific term and its close variants such as misspellings and plurals only. Even though these ads will get you fewer impressions, they are more relevant to the search intent.

5. Mixing Exact Match keywords and Broad Match together

Whether you plan on using Exact Match or Broad Match for Apple Search Ads campaigns, remember to not use both for the same campaign.

Since Broad Match is enabled by default on the Apple ads platform, many marketers unintentionally leave it on. Now if they’re running an Exact Match campaign in this case, their ads will also end up showing for words similar to the target keywords due to Broad Match.

This only results in confusion and not being able to identify if a specific keyword is getting you the desired number of impressions and installs.

Its good practice is to set up different Apple Search Ads to experiment with both the Exact Match and Broad Match type of campaigns. That way you can also monitor and identify which works the best for your campaign.

6. Using Web Search Keywords for Apple Search Ads

Users behave differently on different devices. They might not type in the same search query on Google Play as they do on the Apple App Store. Also, unlike web search, App Store search is a relatively lesser known territory to marketers. You can’t simply replicate your keywords from web search campaigns to your Apple Search Ad campaigns. This would only result in a decrease in ad keyword relevancy.

Branch actually studied the top 500 App Store keywords and identified that they were all either single words or related to brands. This only goes to indicate that there are very few users who search with long-tail keywords like ‘top 10 songs of the 90s’. The best way to find the right keyword is to think like the user.

7. Using Apple's CPA goal

While your ad campaigns will get you more impressions, there isn’t any guarantee of conversion - a user installing your app. Using a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) as your goal might seem like the best way to maximise your app downloads, but it doesn’t guarantee downloads.

Instead, use CPA to guide your campaign optimization. If the impressions of your Search Ads are very low, raise your cost-per-acquisition goal because if it is priced too low, you may not be able to enter the auction for your targeted keyword.

Since the Apple algorithm strictly takes into account the relevancy of your campaign to the keywords you’re targeting, choose taps as your goal to achieve higher impressions.

But if you still want to keep acquisition as your goal, steer clear from low converting keywords.

8. Not optimizing your daily budget

Apple Search Ads let you set a budget for your campaigns. But most marketers tend to set a daily cap and not revisit it until the campaign has exhausted the budget, is ended or it has been paused.

While you can’t decrease your budget, you can always add or adjust the daily spend cap at any time. Monitor the performance of your Apple Search Ads closely, identify the day-to-day trends that cause a spike or diffuse your performance. This will help you make the most out of your campaign budget.

9. Not checking Search Match traffic

Search Match is the default feature offered by Apple to enable you to get your ads up and running in no time. With Search Match, your ads are set to automatically be matched to search terms without the need for you to figure out all the keyword possibilities or even actively bid on them.

It’s easy to get carried away with the Search Match setting to win a huge influx of traffic in a relatively short time period. However, this is not one of Apple Search Ads best practices. It’s better to stop and think about the keywords that are actually relevant to your app.

As a best practice, find out how relevant the Search Match traffic is for your ad campaign. Sometimes, what’s good for the App Store doesn’t really spell quality, high-converting traffic for your ads.

10. Not testing different creatives

If you’re not testing your creatives regularly, you’re limiting the ROI you could reap on your Apple Search Ads. In Apple, you can experiment and create ads based on the app’s existing metadata and creatives with Creative Sets.

Creative Sets enables you to leverage your additional App Store assets to create multiple variants for your Apple Search Ads. Each set includes screenshots and app previews that you select from the App Store page. You can create up to 10 ad variations per ad group with this feature, which then run in addition to the current image and text ads that Apple automatically creates for your app.

This ultimately helps you create a winning ad set that gets maximum views and conversions. The best Apple Ads are those that have been continually tested for engagement and conversions.

In summary

They say that you should learn from your mistakes, and you’ll only win the Apple Search Ads game when you understand precisely where you can go wrong. Your Apple advertising strategy should be created in such a way that it doesn’t just address the current search patterns of your target users, but also is optimised for changing trends.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

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