What You Need To Know About Apple Search Ads (App Growth Blog Series Part 5)

As we continue our analysis of the acquisition stage of the funnel, we’ll talk more about paid channels you can leverage to grow your app. Along with Facebook Ads, Apple Search Ads (ASA) is a channel worth considering for many reasons. In this part of our App Growth Blog Series, we’ll cover some ASA basics and dive into how to use ASA for app growth success in more detail. 


What is ASA?

Apple Search Ads is a keyword-based channel that allows you to bid and show your app’s ad for keywords that are relevant to your app. Since Apple Search Ads are always shown as the number 1 spot  at the top of search results, your app will appear first when people search for those keywords in the App Store.

Since Apple launched Apple Search Ads as a marketing channel in 2016, they have been constantly growing. As of 2019, Apple Search Ads allows you to advertise your app globally in 59 countries. 

Why are Apple Search Ads important?

1. Higher App Store ranking

Obtaining a high App Store ranking is crucial and Apple Search Ads is a prime vehicle to get you there. 65% of iOS app downloads come directly from a search on the App Store – and consider that only a certain number of those are using Apple Search Ads as their mobile marketing strategy. Apple Search Ads help contribute to your brand authority, which supports an improvement of organic performance and ranking.

2. Better Tap-Through Rate

ASA has a better Tap-Through Rate (TTR) and conversion rate than other channels.

TTR is a good indicator of how relevant your app is to potential users searching for those terms. This is considered the very first step in improving your ad relevance and increasing downloads. 

When evaluating the TTR, make sure to check the benchmarks per category. Tap-through Rates – as well as conversion rates – differ per app vertical and are a good starting point for measuring the performance of your keywords. Apple Search Ads are a great way to help you manage and analyze your TTR’s performance.


3. Brand protection

Apple Search Ads can serve as brand protection for your app or game. Bid generously on your branded keywords to ensure that your competitors are not taking this valuable space from you. Running branded campaigns also increases your chance of being found by visitors who specifically search for your app name even if your app isn’t ranked at the top.


4. Lower Acquisition Cost


Apple automatically places ads with higher rankings and better conversion rates on the top of the search page. These factors of Apple Search Ads will lead to more organic results and – if your app is of high quality – better ratings and a higher number of downloads. 


Once you’ve reached over a 4-star rating, you can submit a request to be featured by Apple, which will further boost your downloads and decrease your cost. By using these tactics – boosting organic downloads and decreasing your acquisition cost – you minimize your need to purchase downloads.


Apple Search Ads Campaign Set Up & Structure

Campaign Set Up

When creating an account for keyword bidding, we suggest separating your keywords into four campaigns: Brand, Generic, Competitor, and Discovery.


(image source: App Radar


Brand campaigns use keywords that are related to your brand name. For example, any variations of your company name.


Generic campaigns use keywords related to your app. For example, if you have an app about the news, you should include keywords like “newspaper” or “daily news” in this campaign.


Competitor campaigns focus on keywords that include the names or variations of the names of your direct competition.


Discovery campaigns are used to find alternative keywords not included in the keywords you have already inputted into the other campaigns. To avoid ranking for the keywords you’ve already included in the campaigns above (remember you want to use this campaign to find new keywords), insert all your keywords from brand, competitor, generic campaigns as an exact match negative keywords. 


However, to find close alternatives to relevant keywords, add all of those keywords as a broad match into one ad group. After this is set up, turn on the search match for this campaign. That will help you localize search terms for which your app is relevant.


Search match should only be used for Discovery campaigns. When setting up Generic, Competitor, and Brand keywords, the best thing to do is set up your keywords as an exact match with the search match setting on off.


Ad Group Structure 

After you set up your campaigns with at least one ad group, you can create more ad groups where you’ll target people based on age, location, or device. Then, you can create different keyword bidding strategies based on your prioritization.

Apple Search Ads Campaign Optimization

1. Metrics for optimization


The Tap-Through Rate (TTR), Conversation Rate (CR), Cost Per Action (CPA), and Return on Advertisement Spending (ROAS) are all metrics to focus on when optimizing Apple Search Ads campaigns.


The best way to ensure that you are on top of your game when it comes to these metrics is to research your competitor’s metrics. Once you know what the industry average for each measurement is, you can set your own benchmarks and manage your ads from there. If a ratio is too high or too low, explore possible reasons including: the screenshots aren’t attractive to the audience or your keywords are poorly managed (e.g. not accurate enough, bidding too low).


2. Managing keyword bids


To manage your keywords, set a budget that you don’t want to exceed. Monitor the keywords carefully. Apple Search Ads will also tell you the strength and range of your bidding both numerically and visually with a color bar next to each keyword. Once the cost of a keyword goes beyond your limit, decrease the bids or stop bidding on that keyword completely.


3. Managing discovery keywords


Analyze Discovery keywords every 14 days to explore new relevant keywords. After evaluation, place any words from search terms (that have enough volume) into particular campaigns and also allocate to your negative keyword list as needed. The negative keyword list will prevent your app from showing up for irrelevant terms.

Apple Search Ads Automation

When your campaigns get bigger, automation is inevitable. It’s a crucial part of a long-term and cost-efficient ad operation. At App Growth Network, we use automation to optimize your campaigns at scale. Based on your goals, various automation rules can be applied – like if a keyword is more expensive than X dollars, decrease the bids for that keyword. If CTR is lower than X% after X days, increase the bids by 10% keywords. This will save you both cost and time.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve covered several topics in the acquisition stage. Next, stay tuned into our App Growth blog series as we begin sharing tips on the user activation stage of the funnel. There’s more to come!

If you’d like a free one-stop resource to all of our App Growth tips right now, download our “How To Grow Your App” e-book here!

Jennifer Sansone

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