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Getting started with Apple Search Ads

Getting started with Apple Search Ads

Apple recently announced that during 2020 the App Store ecosystem facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales in 2020, a +24% rise year on year. Now more than ever, getting your App Store Ad strategy right is vital. Afterall, there are more than 3 million apps available in the App Store, 93% of which are free, so competition for audiences is fierce.

There are of course similarities between Google Play and Apple App Stores. They share features such as app description, customer reviews, and fundamentally, media buying capability. However, both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store have their nuances, including unique ad models which require in-depth knowledge to run effective search campaigns. Here are a few tips to make the most of Apple Search Ads.

Keywords and goal setting

One of the primary differences between the two app stores is the use of keywords. With Google Universal App Campaigns there are no keyword-building capabilities. As part of the Google ecosystem, the algorithm manages the audiences to which ads are delivered, targeting is limited to demographics such as country and language. In comparison when managing Apple Search Ad campaigns there is a great deal of control.

When setting up an Apple Search Ad campaign, developing a keyword list is essential. Starting points are often brand, competitor, product, and behavioral keywords, researching which the most successful keywords will be. As with any media campaign, understanding the customer, their needs, mindset, behavior is important in order to anticipate search terms and keywords. Once keywords lists are established test & learn is the next stage in order to methodically analyze performance.

There is no hard & fast rule for the number of keywords with Apple Search Ads but clearly, the longer a campaign runs, the more performance learnings are gleaned, enabling optimization. For example, in a recent Apple Search Ad campaign, the average CPA was significantly above target initially, however, after several months of optimization the CPA decreased by over 200% while maintaining the same level of spend. This was achieved by focusing on two main goals:

  • Understanding the power of raising bids on popular/competitive keywords in high-volume markets since this leads to greater installs at a lower CPA.
  • Increasing spend while maintaining efficiency. Through continuously monitoring, analyzing, changing keyword bids and daily budgets based on market conditions to maximize volume and stay under CPA goal.

Keyword lists should be refreshed regularly to allow for any behavioral changes in the audience or other external factors.

Apple App Store optimization is an important part of media planning and buying to ensure your app reaches the right audiences

Location, location, location…and behavior

Time zones, location, and language matter. When running a campaign across countries and time zones media plans must reflect this. Often clients are running multilingual campaigns and in this instance, we’ve found search volumes can vary drastically across countries. Be aware of local cultural differences and customs that could mean keywords carry different meanings.

Each sector will have specific nuances. For example, if promoting a leisure app such as hiking, altered bidding strategies such as time of day, day of week, public holidays etc will be required. Remember, while time zones are important for measuring search volume, all countries are billed in the same time zone (UTC) on Apple Search only.

Allow time for testing & collaboration

The two app stores operate differently in terms of test & learn. With Apple, the system thrives on optimization so tweaking campaigns regularly, for example, a couple of times a week, is beneficial. The Google algorithm on the other hand thrives on stability and after a few months of testing various daily spend levels and maximizing CPA targets at the start of a new campaign, letting the algorithm take control is of benefit. This can prove challenging because the temptation is to tweak campaigns continually, getting goals right up front is important.

Get familiar with the tools available

Use the Discover Tool available in Apple to help find keywords and build out keyword lists. Search Match is also an excellent tool, enabling the discovery of new campaigns. The functionality allows you to set a max cost per tap, and then Discover finds keywords that people use, showing your ad accordingly.

Search Match enables the recognition of negative keywords, ensuring campaigns are not delivered on irrelevant searches and could lead to wasted budget. For example, if working for a gambling company it is best to avoid high bidding for broad search terms like ‘cards’ which may waste budget on irrelevant results, for example, birthday cards rather than blackjack.

These are clearly topline tips to get started, if you’d like to hear more about how we plan and execute App Store Ad campaigns to deliver profitable growth for your business, please contact us to find out more.