Apple Search Ads: 4 best practices

Are you considering using Apple Search Ads? Read these Apple Search Ads best practices to figure out if this strategy is your way to go.

Published July 21, 2022

About the author
Bart Stemkens is a growth advisor for tech startups. He loves building online businesses and bringing them to live through bold ideas.

In 2020, Apple Stores were receiving half a billion visits every week from its users, and amidst the pandemic, Apple developers grew 24%, amounting to $643 billion of their total billings and sales. This data showed that the app market remained unaffected even after a severe worldwide crisis.

More developers would undoubtedly want to venture into the world of the Apple App Store, and Apple Search Ads should be the first thing these new developers must master.

Since the launch of Apple Search Ads in 2016, it has helped many developers reach potential customers. Currently, Apple has 34 million registered developers, and the demand for using Apple Search Ads continues to rise more than ever.

What is Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads, abbreviated ASA, is a user acquisition channel that can make your app more discoverable and visible to customers. Out of the 500 million app store weekly visitors, 70% use search to find their next app. 65% of all the downloads happen after a search. In addition to those data, Apple Search Ads guarantees a 50% average conversion rate.

The good number of conversions from Apple Search Ads should indicate its relevance to the advertising market. Moreover, you have to learn how to utilize ASA efficiently to get the most out of it.

Basic vs. Advanced: Which one is for you?

Before diving deeper into the best practices of Apple Search Ads, we must know the difference between Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced. It is for you to know which one fits your vision and capacity. 

In addition, choosing which version will open a path for you to employ ASA’s best practices.

Apple Search Ads Basic

This option might be for you if you are a beginner in this market and have not dealt with search ads that much. 

In the basic version, you have to provide the app, choose a country, set a CPI and a monthly budget, and then allow Apple to do the job.

Also, you can promote up to 50 apps with $10,000 as your maximum budget. 

Apple uses the Apple Search Ads algorithms to set your settings to match the best search results app promotion and deliver downloads at a predictable cost. 

Apple Search Ads Advanced

On the other hand, Apple provides a solution to people who wants to manage and be in control but can still utilize their technology. This solution is to use the Advanced version

The advanced version lets you customize your campaign structure, establish your CPT, choose your target keywords, characterize Ad groups, refine your audience, visualize and experiment with creative sets, and more.

Furthermore, the apps you can promote and the budget is limitless in this version. It also lets you campaign across many regions and will provide you with more data and metrics for a more intense review of your app’s performance.

How to get the most of Apple Search Ads using its best practices

1. Choose Apple Search Ads Advanced

While the basic is beginner-friendly, this feature is not the case for those who want more control with the advertising. 

Its limitations prevent you from curating an ad that you think would be the best for your app. Apple Search Ads algorithms are not a hundred percent on-point, and when mistakes happen, which could be more often than you think, you have no control over it.

Therefore, choosing Apple Search Advanced will give you an edge, and somehow, this is the first best practice to maneuver. 

In addition to the mentioned advantages, the advanced version might save you from overpaying and can help you save money by only paying when those most interested tap your ad. It is because Apple Search Advanced uses the CPT model. Most advertisers use the usual method, allowing you to bid competitively without overpaying.

2. Strategize the use of keywords

Keywords play a significant role in this process. The strategic usage of keywords can lead to more app discovery and more opportunities for app growth.

How will you strategize?

First, think as if you are the customer.

List all of the possible search terms your potential customers might use. Start with the name of your app with its description. Also, consider listing popular brand names related to your app because customers might download to try different apps with the same functionality.

Next, try using both general and specific keywords. 

General keywords aim to target the general view of the audience. These keywords are more popular and are more competitive. On the contrary, specific keywords will help your app appear in closely-related searches. 

Narrow down your keyword list by keeping popularity and relevance in mind. You can turn on Search Match to automatically match with search terms relieving the stress from thinking of other keyword possibilities.

Then, utilize the two different “match types”: broad match type and exact match type for best results.

The broad match type supplies a wider scope of searches most relevant to your keyword. It will help your ad appear in searches through keywords you have not even thought of and give you every possible keyword combination option.

On the other hand, the exact match type might have fewer options, but customer intent is more precise, and you can price keywords correctly to boost the number of impressions.

Lastly, identify negative keywords. Sort out the list of keywords you do not want to include in your bids. It will help you save yourself from paying to taps that are not convertible to downloads. 


3. Pick the suitable campaign composition

A strategic campaign composition could take you to places. Being able to set up a search results campaign intelligently creates an advantage for you to measure performance, optimize your keyword bids easily, and maybe expand the audience reach of your app.

How will you compose the right campaign?

You have to keep in mind that there are four keyword categories that you should split your campaign into Brand, Competitor, General,  and  Discovery campaign. 

These campaign types have different keyword themes and use specific match types, ad groups, and bidding strategies. 

  • Brand Campaign: This campaign guarantees that customers who are specifically looking for your app can find it easily as this focuses on keywords related to your app or company name.
  • Competitor Campaign: This campaign sets you to match yourself against a competitor. It focuses on keywords like yours that are within the same or related category.
  • General Campaign: This campaign targets non-branded keywords interested in your app features and category. 

For these three campaign types, set the keywords to the exact match type and turn off Search Match. 

  • Discovery Campaign: This campaign helps you reach a wider audience. It will also help you discover popular search terms. You have to use broad match keywords and turn on your Search Match.

One good tip while conducting the discovery campaign: Add all the keywords you come up with using the brand, competitor, and general campaign as negative keywords. It will avert you from bidding on the exact keywords you have already bid on elsewhere.

The campaign’s success also depends if you consider Countries and regions, especially when dealing with larger markets that require a dedicated budget. With ASA advanced, you can set up campaigns that group countries and regions based on their similarity. It will create a more in-depth optimization based on the nation’s attributes, such as language and customer value.

4. Know when to bid effectively

In businesses, money should be a problem. That is also the same case when it comes to Apple Search Ads. The goal of this setup is to fight against the bid of your competitors. But how do you know the ways of the opponent?

Apple Search Ads operates like an auction system. Every bid affects the CPT price. The more publishers vied for a keyword, the higher the average bid would be.

To start, use the Apple bid recommendations found on the recommendations page to know whether your bid is weak or strong. After that, you should know when to increase or decrease your bid effectively.

Increase your CPT bid when:

  1. Specific keywords from your discovery campaign have been performing well. Add the performing keywords to your other campaigns, raise your bid, and see if you can get more impressions or downloads.
  2. A keyword brings conversions below your target acquisition cost. Try to raise your bid repeatedly to see if you can reach your target.
  3. Popular keywords are not delivering impression expectations. When this happens, it might signal that your competitors are outbidding you. Increase your bid and test to see improvement. 

On the contrary, decrease your CPT bid when:

  1. A keyword’s tap is inversely proportional to its conversions. You should decrease your bid to keep acquisition costs low.

You can use Apple’s suggested bid range as a baseline for these examples.

We cannot deny that for you to succeed in this business market, you must master the art of Apple Search Ads. 

Even with Apple’s expert optimization features, errors always occur. Learning the collective methods will take more time and patience, but consistently implementing the best practices will bring high-value users. And who knows, someday you might take out popular competitions with this persistence.

Do you need help setting up a decent Apple Search Ads strategy for our business? Or not yet convinced wether ASA are an addition to your marketing mix? Feel free to reach out to us.