70% of App Store visitors use search to discover apps which is why Apple Search Ads are essential for developers marketing them. People spend more than 85% of their time on smartphones using apps, and the average person has at least 80 apps on their phone.
Apps are a primary focus of consumers’ attention, which is why Apple Search Ads are critical. However, there is limited space for search results, and it’s not as simple to use as other ad platforms, but it can be extremely successful when used correctly.
We have created this ultimate guide so you can learn all about Apple Search Ads, how to use them, why they are essential, the valuable benefits of using them, and how to develop a strategy for success. You can use the links below to jump to any section.
- What are Apple Search Ads?
- Why are Apple Search Ads Important to Digital Marketing?
- The Benefits of Apple Search Ads
- How to Get Started with Apple Search Ads
- How to Create a Strategy for Your Apple Search Ads
What are Apple Search Ads?
Apple Search Ads are search results on the App Store that come from paid advertising. They show up at the top when someone searches for an app, and what sets them apart is a blue background and the word “Ad.” Apple started its search ads in 2016 to help developers market their applications.
Apple Search Ads aim to match customers with the most appropriate app for their search criteria. Apple says more than 600 million people access the App Store weekly. Conversion rates on Apple Search Ads are typically much higher than with traditional advertising. The platform uses an auction-style system of bids, and the keywords with the highest number of bids show up on top. Relevancy also plays a significant role in how ads are ranked.
Marketers have two options. With Apple Search Ads Basics, you can spend up to $10,000 per app per month and advertise up to 50 apps — with intelligent automation doing most of the work. With Apple Search Ads Advanced, there is no budget limit, and you can promote as many apps as you want. You can also manage your bids, and target audiences, regions, and keywords. To be successful, you need to understand consumer behaviors on the App Store.
Apple Search Ads are different from other types of advertising, and it’s essential to know how it works and how people use them. Unlike traditional search engines, keywords are shorter and more exact for better matches on Apple Search Ads. Users typically search using a single word.
Apple Search Ads are a crucial tool in a marketing professional’s toolbox and can be highly effective in getting apps noticed and downloaded.
Why Are Apple Search Ads Important to Digital Marketers?
The app marketplace is highly competitive, and to be successful, you must stand out and promote your apps effectively. Digital marketing itself is hard enough, but marketing apps in an ocean of similar products can be overwhelming and appear out of reach unless you know the ins and outs. Today’s saturated market makes it that much harder to compete, but if you know how to use Apple Search Ads to your advantage, it could be the thing that sets you apart.
Marketing professionals use various ad platforms to promote products and services, including paid search, paid social, and retail media. However, these other platforms work very differently than Apple Search Ads, which target particular audiences who are on the App Store looking for ways to solve their unique needs with apps. Generally, they aren’t just “browsing.” They are prepared to buy. Therefore, Apple Search Ads conversion rates are much higher than other ad platforms. According to Cision PR Newswire, conversion rates on Apple Search Ads since 2020 have increased from an average of 50% to 62.22%.
A high conversion rate is an excellent reason to use Apple Search Ads, but other benefits are also worth exploring.
The Benefits of Apple Search Ads
The benefits of Apple Search Ads include higher-than-average conversion rates, more engaged users, an affordable way to market your apps, and an easy-to-use platform. Let’s take a deeper dive into each one of these benefits.
Better Conversion Rates
Apple uses a very advanced Search Match algorithm to match apps with users. Apple cares deeply about relevance and uses keywords to help people find exactly what they are looking for on the App Store. These methods keep users engaged and build trust with the Apple brand that you can piggyback on by hosting your app on the App Store.
Although you need to understand how bidding works and how to use Basics or Advanced, the Apple Search Ads platform is very straightforward and pretty easy to use.
Vast Market of Potential Customers
With more than 1.45 billion iPhone users worldwide, you can branch out into other markets and regions. The App Store reaches every user on their own device, making it easy for you to target specific audiences and inspire them to try your app.
What are the Two Types of Apple Search Ads?
When using Apple Search Ads, you can choose between two solutions: Basic and Advanced.
Apple Search Ads Basic
Apple Search Ads Basic gives you a budget of $10,000/month per app. You can promote up to 50 apps at a time. Apple Search Ads Basic works best for advertisers who want a simple setup and affordable pricing. With Apple Search Ads Basic, you don’t have to define your audience or keywords; Apple Search Ads will take care of everything for you based on your app pages. It serves up the most relevant apps with users looking for specific functionality.
Apple Search Ads Basic does all the work for you, but it also limits your ability to customize your ads. When setting up Basic, all you have to do is set your campaign goal and your budget. You can choose which countries to run your ads.
Apple Search Ads Advanced
Apple Search Ads Advanced offers more choices and complete control over your ads. You can target your audience on a granular level and use keywords that work for you. You can also control your ad groups, targeting, budgets, schedules, creative sets, and custom reports. You can promote your ads on the Search tab.
There are also other placements besides search results ads that you can use to reach users throughout the App Store user journey. Here’s more information about each placement option:
- Today tab ads let you reach people on the front page of the App Store, where users start their visit. Ads are fully visible when people first arrive, and feature your app name, icon, and subtitle. Each ad uses a custom product page you set up in App Store Connect as the tap destination. Your app name, icon, and subtitle must be approved for advertising before your ad can run. Note that Today tab ads aren’t currently available on the App Store in mainland China.
- Search tab ads let you reach users before they search for something specific, with an ad that appears prominently at the top of the suggested apps list on the Search tab.
- Product pages let you reach people while they browse apps on pages across the App Store, whether their journey started on the App Store or from an outside link. When interested users have scrolled to the bottom of product pages, ads appear at the top of the You Might Also Like list.
Although you get much more with Advanced, you also need to know what you are doing and have an excellent strategy to get the most out of your ads. If you are new to Apple Search Ads, you might want help from experts who fully understand the platform.
Apple Search Ads Advanced gives marketers the option of using Search Match or controlling their audience and campaigns themselves. It’s priced according to a cost-per-click (CPC) model.
Although you can use both Basics and Advanced, most marketing professionals choose one or the other. There is no advantage to using them simultaneously.
How to Get Started with Apple Search Ads
Although not overly complicated, Apple Search Ads will be easier to use if you understand the basic fundamentals of how they work. Let’s dive into each element and discuss how to use them to your advantage.
Keywords. Apple Search Ads allow marketers to bid on keywords the same way they would using PPC ads. Apple offers a default “broad match” search technique to reach the widest audience. The broad match system also employs foreign language tools to match keywords. You can also use the “exact match” option, which gives you more control over your keywords and how Apple will match search terms with your product. Advertisers can also use negative keywords to limit search results for their apps.
Creative Sets. Unlike other platforms, marketers cannot upload images or text for their ads. Instead, Apple offers creative sets where you can customize your Apple Search Ads. Creative Sets gives you a way to craft ads based on specific audiences or keywords you are targeting. You can choose up to 10 Creative Sets for each ad group. Apple Search Ads groups screenshots and previews of your app pulled from your product pages. It’s essential to manage your product pages closely to ensure that your ads accurately reflect what you want your customers to see, such as specific app functions. However, you are limited to 35 custom pages on the App Store.
Targeting Groups/Customer Types. Search results ads enable you to target groups of users based on types or their interaction with your app. For example, you can target new users who haven’t yet tried your app, returning users, or those who use some of your other apps. This feature is convenient for segmenting the right audience for your ads.
Bidding. Bidding works like other auction-based platforms; you choose an amount based on the highest you are willing to pay for a click. Typically, the highest bid (and most relevant) wins the auction and appears at the top of search results on the App Store. It’s essential to plan your bidding process strategically, and you can find dozens of resources online to help you do this.
Device Segmentation. Another handy setting is the ability to target users of specific devices, such as tablets. You can adjust your bids based on device type, and Apple Search Ads will automatically serve your ads to users of the correct device.
Location Segmentation. Often, advertisers want to promote a specific region. Using Apple Search Ads, you can target users in a certain country or region where you set the parameters.
Ad Tracking. Apple Search Ads only keeps track of downloads, not any in-app events. You will need to use a third-party metrics system for that.
Ad Scheduling. You have complete control over when your ad appears in Apple Search Ads using the scheduling feature. You can refine your schedule to include months, days, and the time of day.
How to Create a Strategy for Your Apple Search Ads
Although Apple Search Ads is an effective marketing tool, you must plan ahead and develop a solid Apple Search Ads strategy to get the most out of your investment.
Some tips for creating an effective marketing strategy include:
- Define your goals. As with any marketing campaign, the first step is to define your goals. What do you want to get out of your campaigns? How much do you plan on investing, and what do you expect for an ROI?
- Research how your customers search for apps. Customers on the App Store are not searching in the same way they search on Google or other search engines. Typically, they use shorter keywords and a more direct approach. People might search for software reviews or how-tos on Google, but when searching for an app, they behave differently, sometimes using only a single keyword. Understanding this and structuring your campaigns around your customers’ behaviors is essential.
- Review your app’s metadata. The ad will use your metadata from your app listing. Therefore, before you begin any campaign, make sure that the information reflects what you want new users to see. You cannot change it once the campaign has already started. It’s also important to note that Apple Search Ads may show different versions of the same ad to different users.
- Ready your app. Make sure your app is ready to go before running an ad campaign. Make any last-minute adjustments and configure in-app tracking and other settings before you launch your engagement. Once it has begun, it is too late to change things.
Setting up search ad results campaigns in Apple Search Ads Advanced
- Choose between Basics or Advanced. As you learned above, there are distinct differences between Apple Search Ads Basics and Advanced. If you are looking for a low-maintenance option with fixed pricing, Basics might be the best choice. If you want complete control over your ads and campaigns, then you will want to choose Advanced. Research both options and pick the one that works best for you.
- Pick your keywords (including negative keywords) and decide whether to use the discovery feature. You will want to spend time working on your keywords. Don’t forget to make use of negative keywords as well; they can be very helpful in segmenting your audience. Do you want to use the Discovery feature or not?
- Set up your match types. When setting up ads, you have the choice of using a “broad match” or “exact match” for your keywords. Broad match works off relevancy and will show your ad to people who use your keyword or variants, including misspellings, synonyms, and related searches. Exact match will only show your ads to users who type in your exact keyword. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each type. Research them and pick the one that will work for you. You can use both for the best results.
- Creative Sets vs. custom product pages. Apple Search Ads uses creative sets to pull images/screenshots and content for your ads. However, you can also craft custom product pages to highlight features of your app and enhance your ads with specific images, text, and graphics.
- Refine your bid strategy. A solid bid strategy is necessary to win the auction and have your ads selected and shown to customers. Balance your investment with the payoff and bid as high as possible for campaigns critical to your marketing plan.
- Schedule your campaign. Consider the best month, day, and time to promote your apps. You may have different schedules for ads targeting other markets around the globe. One of the great things about Apple Search Ads Advanced is you can schedule your ads whenever you want.
Where will my ad show up on the App Store?
The App Store ads appear at the top of search results with a blue background. If you use Apple Search Ads Advanced, you can also see your ads appearing in the suggested apps search tab.
What is an ad group, and how does it work?
An ad group is a targeted group of users you want for your ad. It might be a demographic group (males aged 18-25) or a specific country or region. Once you set up your ad group, those users who fit the profile will be shown your ads.
How does Apple Search Ads bidding work?
It works like other auction platforms or PPC tools. You set a maximum bid amount for how much you are willing to pay per click or download, and if yours is the most relevant, Apple Search Ads will choose and display your ad in search results.
What is Search Match?
Search Match is the default feature in Apple Search Ads Advanced. The feature automatically matches your ads with the most relevant users. It takes all the guesswork out of coming up with effective keywords and targeted audience groups. Search Match uses metadata from the App Store listing, competitors’ ads, and other search criteria to make it work.
What type of metrics can I expect to see with Apple Search Ads?
Your dashboard will allow you to see how your ads perform and check things like:
- Average CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions)
- Average CPT (cost-per-tap)
- Average CPA (cost-per-acquisition)
- TTR (tap-through rate)
- CR (conversion rate)
The chart displays the last seven days of activity, but you can change the time period to see more data.
Are you maximizing your Apple Search Ads program?
Today’s marketers are as busy as ever! It’s important to have the right tech foundation in place to help you quickly scale your campaigns, leverage automation to take on repetitive tasks so your team can focus on more strategic functions, and generally make it much easier to manage big programs.
As part of Skai’s omnichannel marketing platform, our App Marketing solution helps your app stand out among millions in the top stores with Apple Search Ads, Google Universal App Campaigns, and more. Skai leverages an advanced algorithm based on AI and machine learning to ensure your ads reach your target users. Increase installs and user acquisition with streamlined automation, optimization, and reporting.
Client results include:
- 280% increase in installs for DraftKings
- 314% increase in registrations for C-Date
- 20% decrease in cost per acquisition for eToro
- 2x increase in conversions for Epix Now
To learn more, please schedule a quick demo with our helpful team.