Currently, there are more than 1 billion active iPhones in the world. Naturally, this makes Apple and its iOS platform highly lucrative for mobile app developers looking to expand their user base.
However, the competition is stiff. Around 2.22 million mobile apps are available on the App Store, each fighting for visibility and, ultimately, downloads.
So, how do all these apps get found? According to Apple, 70% of App Store visitors use the search function to find their next tool, and 65% of downloads occur after the users actively look for a particular application. With such significant numbers, it’s easy to see why Apple decided to launch a customer acquisition platform specifically for the search function.
Yet, since Apple Search Ads is relatively new, many developers aren’t sure if it’s a suitable investment for them, and they don’t know how to get started. That’s what we’ll talk about today.
What is Apple Search Ads?
Once you’ve passed the App Store review, you’ll be looking forward to growing your user base. For this, you need visibility, and that’s where Apple Search Ads can help.
Apple Search Ads (ASA) is a platform launched in 2016, allowing developers to advertise via sponsored ads that appear on top of the App Store’s search results page. All in all, it serves to improve application discoverability and increase the user base by generating downloads.
ASA works much like Google Ads. A user performs a search, advertisers bid on keywords and win the auction gets the ad spot. Thus, it provides app marketers with an opportunity to contact the user at the exact moment when they are looking for a similar application and need it.
So, you probably understand the importance of advertising on ASA, but let us share a couple more reasons:
- ASA’s average conversion rate for ad banners is 50%
- You reach a highly motivated audience
- ASA boosts your organic listing
- It’s easy to get started
And just to highlight, Apple Search Ads works independently from SKAdNetwork, and deterministically attributes users. According to the latest Performance Index report, ASA also gives a higher retention rate of attracted users.
How to Use Apple Search Ads
Apple Search Ads are pretty easy to set up. Depending on your budget and needs, you’ll have to first choose between basic and advanced options. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look at them below.
Apple Search Ads Basic
As the name suggests, ASA Basic is the simplest version, designed for those just starting with mobile apps and advertising. It is easy to set up but has a few limitations that may be deal-breakers for some publishers.
- Minimal management needed
- Quick and easy set up
- Automatic optimization
- Payment for app downloads at the cost you specify
- Inability to manage keywords or targeting
- A simple dashboard with only basic metrics
- Maximum budget of $10,000 per app/month
- Can only promote up to 50 apps
If you choose to run a Basic campaign, Apple will automatically match your ad to interested users of your app, selecting the keywords and the audience. All you have to do is set a cost, and then Apple does the rest. But this approach has serious risks: Apple may miss targeted keywords, so you can lose your bid and miss high-quality leads.
Apple Search Ads Advanced
The advanced version of ASA is the one that offers the most comprehensive array of options. It closely resembles ad networks by allowing marketers to choose the keywords and audiences their ads will run on and providing more metrics for monitoring campaign performance. With Advanced, you can choose keywords and audiences, and you pay per tap on your ad rather than install. Advanced is ideal for developers or agencies who want more control of their campaigns.
- Flexible campaign management
- Keyword and audience editing
- Advanced targeting
- No budget limit
- No limit on the number of apps
- Detailed reports for main metrics
- More complex setup
- More time required for management
Key Metrics to Track Within Apple Search Ads
Now that you know what Apple Search Ads are and the different versions available to you, it’s time to discuss the key metrics you should track.
The Tap-Through Rate (TTR) indicates how many people actually click your ad after viewing it.
TTR = number of taps / number of impressions
It’s essential to stay on top of the TTR as it informs you of ad performance. If your TTR is too low, consider reworking some elements of your listing. After all, if people are seeing your ad but aren’t clicking it — there’s a problem.
Unfortunately, a “good” TTR is highly individual for each app category, so it might be worth testing multiple listing variations when you’re just getting started.
Cost Per Tap (CPT) is the core pricing model of ASA. Within the platform, you only pay when a user taps on your banner. Hence, the CPT metric indicates how much each tap costs you.
CPT = ad spend / number of taps
While the CPT doesn’t tell you much about campaign performance, it is an excellent metric to monitor for making sure you outbid your competitors while not burning through your entire budget.
Average Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) helps mobile marketers determine the cost of user conversion actions. In short, it tells you how much you pay, on average, for the user to download your application.
CPA = spend / number of actions
For an ASA campaign to be profitable, your CPA should be lower than the revenue generated from each action.
The Conversion Rate (CR) is relatively self-explanatory, and it tells you whether the people who tap your advertisement proceed to download the application.
CR = number of conversions (downloads) / number of taps
It’s important to note that by default, ASA doesn’t track in-app purchases. Instead, it considers downloads and re-downloads as conversions. As you can imagine, this makes performance monitoring a little tricky.
As previously mentioned, post-install events aren’t shown in ASA. So, you can’t see in-app purchases, subscriptions, or other valuable events within your ASA dashboards. Yet, they are extremely valuable for mobile app publishers and marketers who rely on detailed statistics to inform campaign planning. After all, you are losing money if your campaigns are bringing in downloads, but they aren’t converting into trials, subscriptions, and in-app purchases.
The good news is, there’s a way to gain access to post-install insights. You’ll just need to connect your Apple Search Ads with app attribution partners. By doing so, you’ll be able to measure both the basic metrics, and post-install events like opens, purchases, conversions, and the like.
As you can see, things start to get even more interesting once your application has made it to the App Store and is ready to grow its user base with Apple Search Ads. Of course, the platform can’t do everything for you, and you’ll still need to ensure you’ve got a converting paywall and that your subscription pricing is at the right level. However, ASA is definitely worth a try for anyone looking to compete with the other 2.22 million apps on the store.
At Qonversion, we understand the importance of knowing where your marketing dollars go and how each campaign is performing. Hence, we are thrilled to expand our offering with an Apple Search Ads attribution that helps mobile app publishers get revenue-related insights on ASA campaign performance. So, don’t hesitate to reach out our team if you’d like to learn more.