Apple Search Ads - Everything You Need To Know About How They Work

Apple Search Ads - Everything You Need To Know About How They Work

App developers and marketers can’t afford to ignore Apple Search Ads. There’s just too much competition with over 2 million apps waiting to be discovered and downloaded. With Apple Search ads fast emerging as a new and effective way to acquire users, many app owners are now realising the importance of using Search Ads to stand out. In fact, according to Mobile Marketer, app install ad spend is predicted to surge to $64.1B by 2020.  Despite only being relatively new, Apple Search ads look set to take a $2 billion slice of that pie by 2020 according to Bernstein Analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

We appreciate that Apple Search Ads can be confusing for some, especially if you’ve never used it before.  In this article, you’ll find some useful and actionable tips and tricks that will help you conquer this new advertising channel.

What are Apple Search Ads?

Similar to how social media and search ads help you stand out from other content, Apple Search Ads are an efficient and easy way to get your app discovered by users browsing the App Store.

It’s relatively easy to begin creating your Search Ads campaign in Apple. If you’ve previously worked on Google Adwords campaigns, all of it will seem even more straightforward.

App Store ads look very similar to a regular search listing, but the only difference here is that it has a blue background along with a blue “Ad” icon on it. They show up right at the top of the search results when a user makes a query around a keyword (which is actually a phrase as much as it might be a single word!). The ad shown is targeted at the user according to what they have typed in and so will be relevant to what they’re searching for.

This means that your ad needs to target the keywords that users are more likely to make searches with. But additionally, to maintain high relevancy and drive more installs, you’ll need to optimise your app store listing page too.

Right from the app title, icon, description, screenshots and the promo text, everything needs to look relevant to the search made and compelling enough to nudge a download.  After all, there’s absolutely no point in creating a great ad to appear at the top of a user's search results, just for them to click through to a really terrible or mediocre page which is highly unlikely to lead to a download.

How to pick the right keywords

As a marketer, you know how important it is for your app to be recognised for what it does. That's why the keywords you choose for your Apple Search Ads need to be relevant to your app.

Simply put, your Apple Search Ads success is based on the keywords you choose. Any keywords you choose shouldn’t just take relevancy into account but also the competition that you’ll need to face in order for you to appear. By ‘competition, we mean the number of apps that are targeting the same keyword.

Once you start your keyword search, you might want to run a broad match, but you know in your heart that the exact keywords based on user search intent are the most likely to get you the right audience, leading to higher chances of your app being downloaded and actively used.

On the other hand, Apple’s Search Match feature intuitively understands which keywords apply to your app. Search Match is a default setting in all Apple Search Ad campaigns. This makes it simple to kickstart campaigns if you don’t have any experience in running keyword-based ad campaigns.

The thing to bear in mind is that if your ads don’t start show results in the first few days of running the campaign, you’ll need to change the keywords. This might be because the keywords that you’re using aren’t being searched for or are simply not relevant enough to your add. Or, it may be that you are being outbid by others if it is a particularly popular keyword such as ‘game’.

As Apple itself suggests, the trick to choosing the right keywords for your Search Ads is to:

  • Think like your customers - Consider the search terms they might use to look for your app type.
  • Try both generic and specific keywords - Pick general keywords relevant to your app to reach a wider audience, but at the same time choose particular keywords to narrow down your targeting to reach your ideal users.

The best thing about Apple Search Ads is that it gives you access to something called the ‘Relative Search Term Popularity Index’. This metric gives you insight into how many searches are being made on the keywords that define your app, or the keywords that you want to use for Apple Search Ads.

The Relative Search Term Popularity Index, it also recommends keywords based on your targeting which helps you identify the most important keywords for promoting your app.

However, search volume shouldn’t be the only factor to consider when picking a keyword to bid on. You’ll also need to consider the type of competition you’ll face for each keyword.

Another useful hint is to set up ‘negative keywords' for your ad campaign. This will ensure high relevancy of your Apple Search Ads and keep them away from showing up on irrelevant search results. After all, you don’t want to be paying to reach a user who isn’t going to download your app.

Understanding how Apple Search Ads appear

While the keywords you pick decide what searches your app will show for, it’s the relevancy of the app and the bid you place that determines if it will get the top spot on the search results.

For instance, if your app isn’t as relevant for the keyword you’re targeting, it won’t be shown to the user - no matter how high a bid you place on it.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that Apple Search Ads will charge you based on what your campaign is optimized for - taps or installs. The cost per tap model will charge you every time a user taps on your ad; irrespective of whether they download it or not. On the other hand, cost per install is when you get charged only for the number of installs that the Apple Search Ads have driven.

This means you should decide carefully how much you can spend on App Store Search Ads so that you can get a positive return-on-investment (ROI). Keep in mind that the market demand is what determines how much you pay for an ad.

It’s even more important to understand that relevance is critical to winning at bidding. As such, you must separate your Exact Match and Broad Match keywords so that they are not in the same Ad Group and don't have Search Match running in an Exact Match keyword Ad Group.

Advanced targeting controls

With advanced controls, you can run precise targeting and optimise your ads for keywords as well as user demographics.

The filters help you refine the audience you want your Search Ads to be shown to. It allows you to decide if you want your ads to be shown to your existing users, new users, users of competing apps or to everyone. Additionally, you also get to finetune the targeting based on gender, age, location and device type.

Demographic targeting

Demographic targeting will narrow down your audience base and show ads only to highly specific categories that you wish to see conversions from. You can run demographic targeting based on:

  • Audiences: New users, existing users of your app and users of other apps you own
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Device location

If you have a complete understanding of your ideal audience type, it’s beneficial to go as precise with targeting as possible. However, avoid going for precise targeting if you have a new app. With no idea of who your ideal users are, you will only end up limiting the reach of your Apple Search Ads.

Attribution and reporting

Reporting on how your ads are performing is vital to understanding where you are faltering and where you’re succeeding. From the Apple Search Ads attribution reports, you can understand which of your keywords are performing well. The report gives you insights into the impressions, taps and downloads that every keyword generated for your ad campaign, in an easy-to-understand format.


In summary

Apple Search Ads may take you a little time to understand and you may well end up targeting the wrong keywords initially.

To avoid losing your advertising budgets on common mistakes, you can take the smarter route to continually optimise your Apple Search Ads for better results. The Blackbox Platform is an app campaign manager that combines the power of automation with industry expertise to generate the best possible results for you.

All you need to do is tell the platform which app you want to promote, decide on how much you want to spend and who you want to target. Making use of Apple Search Ads best practices and proprietary technology, Blackbox platform ensures you remain at the top of the search results for your target users.

But with that done, don’t forget that the real hack to winning the game is to retain the users you acquire from Apple Search Ads in the first place.

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