Apple Search Ads Best Practices

Apple Search Ads is an essential part of Apple Search Optimization. The main reason why Apple Search Ads is a great tool is that it is impactful, scalable, and measurable. In this article, together with mobile growth consultant Ryan Kelley, we will discuss how to maximize the outreach of the ad campaign, how to optimize Apple Search Ads, and how to improve conversion rates while lowering user acquisition costs. In the end, we will share with you some practical tips for maximizing your campaigns. So, let’s get started.

Apple Search Ads best practices to win ranking 

There are three main strategies that you can apply for Apple Search Ads: brand defense, brand offense, and improving the organic keyword rank.

Apple Search Ads best practices
Apple Search Ads best practices

Brand defense 

Apple Search Ads Brand defense campaigns have the highest lifetime value (LTV) and the highest intent. Brand protection allows you to save your spot and money for user acquisition so you won’t find yourself in a situation when your user searches for a brand in the app store and someone is there on the front page instead of you.

Between 90 to 99% of every search within the store is going to be branded in some way, so it could be either your brand or a competitor’s brand reaching users’ eyes. There’s a very small amount of searches that are non-branded or generic. Think about the last app you downloaded. What led you there? Usually, potential users learn about you through an advertisement or someone’s advice, which is why it’s important to have strong brand recognition.

Brand protection allows you to save your money for user acquisition so you won’t find yourself in a situation in which your user searches for a brand in the app store and another app is there on the front page. 

Brand offense 

Apple Store and Google Play are starting to look more and more like Google search results, where you see the advertisements at the top. This is unlikely to ever change, so in most cases, you can either put your budget towards it or accept defeat.

To outmaneuver your competitors, you can launch brand offense campaigns and bid for their brands. These types of campaigns are not always going to convert the best and the cost is quite high, so it’s important to strike a balance.

If you do this, be sure to invest in your Apple Search Ads creatives sets as well: better ads can win the download. 

Organic keyword rank

All the click-through that happens from the search ad counts as an organic click-through, so they ultimately improve your keywords and ranks. To have a better rank you need to support the keywords that you’re targeting with Apple Search Ads. Our advice here is to target 3-5 generic search terms.

Apple Search Ads best practices to schedule ASA Campaigns 

We have prepared an Apple Search Ads campaign structure template that’ll help you schedule and manage Apple Search Ads campaigns.

Apple Search Ads best practices
Apple Search Ads best practices. Apple Search Ads Strategy Template.

Download Apple Search Ads Strategy Template 

There’s a classic approach on how you can divide campaigns: brand, competitor, non-brand or generic, and discovery. Let’s take a closer look at parameters that you should use for each of them.

How to choose between an exact and broad match

  1. Set exact match for all campaign types except discovery campaigns 
  2. Use broad match on the discovery campaigns. It allows you to see which phrases are getting the most impressions and which phrases are getting the most installs  

How many Ad Groups and Keywords to use for campaigns

Try to keep ad group hierarchy simple: one ad group for brand campaigns and one ad group for brand offense campaigns, with 5-25 keywords in each of the groups. 

  1. For non-brand campaigns, the number of ad groups depends on the number of custom product pages so the ad group or the custom product page matches the ad group. 
  2. For discovery campaigns, it’s recommended to have one ad group and five to ten keywords. 

To track efficiency of your keywords, please use Qonversion keyword tool.

How to track Apple Search Ads campaigns 

To effectively leverage the results of the campaign, you need to manage them. Therefore, it’s sometimes recommended to turn them off and on. For example, at the beginning of the month, you can go to the analytics page and see which non-brand campaigns performed over the last 30 days and which didn’t perform. 

If it doesn’t meet your thresholds, you can turn it off and try to shift your attention to other user acquisition channels. The same logic works for the discovery campaign: if it’s already been running for six months or more, there is a low possibility that you are suddenly going to find something that you’ve never been able to discover before. So to simplify the process, you can turn it off entirely. 

All these operations could be easily implemented through Qonversion instruments. Qonversion accurately attributes ASA advertising data and shows you the relevant results of your campaigns. You’ll be able to respond to any changes in a timely manner and won’t miss the moment when your campaign needs to be turned off.

Apple Search Ads best practices for budgeting

Apple Search Ads best practices
Apple Search Ads best practices. Apple Search Ads costs allocation

Generally, you distribute your budget in the following structure: the largest amounts are allocated to brand queries that protect your brand. As a rule, these are the most effective and money-making requests. For other types of campaigns, money is distributed from what is being left of the budget. Such distribution is needed because there is a low probability that non-branded requests will bring you money. 

Therefore, it’s recommended to start non-brand campaigns with the most important keywords – for example, target keywords. Usually, there are around 3 to 5 target keywords that are really important for you to try and own.

Do not try to put more than 10 to 20% of your budget towards discovery campaigns. In practice, these types of campaigns can be funded from what is left from your budget (5-10%) and will still create value for you and bring you new users.

Depending on the size of your company and the importance of not being beaten by competitors, you can use daily caps. Exposing a very high CPT, you protect your brand from being targeted by a competitor. Don’t be afraid to place high bids. This is the cost of doing business

One trick is to set the CPT higher than the CPA. For some reason, Apple’s algorithm sees a very high CPT as a feature of a serious player; therefore, you can usually get the lower CPA. 

Apple Search Ads best practices: 10 actionable tips

Here are some overall tips for implementing a successful ASA campaign: 

  1. Keep it simple – four campaign types are enough. 
  2. Deprioritize retargeting. Retargeting is unnecessary and drains your budget without bringing good results.
  3. Deprioritize Search tab ads. The prevalance of search tab ads have made users almost numb to them, and they can result in the cheapening of your brand.
  4. Set the CPT higher than the CPA. This may decrease your volume, but you will get more quality installs. 
  5. Use discovery campaigns at launch, but don’t keep them on all the time. Try to find hidden gem keywords. Testing keywords provides data that can help you truly understand what the search popularity is and the number of impressions associated with certain words.
  6. Use custom product pages. This is a great tool widely spread among mobile experts. 
  7. Test your budgets. Don’t blindly follow Apple’s advice because you have a metric that is the complete opposite of theirs. You are trying to get better users at a lower cost and they are trying to get you to spend as much as possible – remember, their job performance is based on them getting more money out of you. Therefore, do your own testing.
  8. Send more traffic to the app stores. User journeys almost never begin in stores. Therefore, you have to go out and bring people to your app page. 
  9. Use ASA to support each new round of Apple Search Optimization. Keyword optimization is not going to give you more visibility unless you’re supporting it with ASA (if you’d like to learn more on it, it’s better to reach out dedicated ASO agency).
  10. Spend your budget on users, not on installs. What happened after the install is also important to know. So this is where Qonversion is coming in to really help to optimize campaigns towards those in-app events. 

Conclusion

Apple Search is a great user acquisition channel, namely because you’re advertising to a user who is already interested in an app. Following our advice, you will create successful Apple Search Ads campaigns, reach a wider and higher-intent App Store audience than you ever could organically, and bring quality installs.

With Apple Search Ads attribution, it’s easy to track the most important performance metrics for subscription apps, such as conversion rates, retention, churn, MRR, ARPPU, revenue, and refunds. You can easily get the right insights about your ASA campaigns and you can optimize your marketing strategies and reach higher results. 

If you find this article useful or have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you! Join our community on Slack to discuss subscription insights, tips, tricks, and growth tools.