Apple Search Ads: What App Marketers Should Know

Apple Search Ads first released to much advertiser fanfare back in 2016, giving app marketers the opportunity to drive awareness and downloads directly from the App Store.

With iPhone devices making up as much as 45% of the US smartphone market, it’s easy to see why marketers would be interested in App Store search ads to connect with iOS users.

Here’s a brief rundown of what Apple Search Ads are, how they work, and how advertisers can get started.

“Apple Search Ads provides a new channel to connect with the large iOS market. This platform is still new and less well-known than other Search channels, meaning there’s an opportunity here for cheaper inventory to drive awareness and app downloads.”


camden andrews elite sem


-Camden Andrews, Senior Strategist, Paid Search at Elite SEM


What Are Apple Search Ads?


Apple Search Ads (ASA) are sponsored text ads for driving awareness and downloads for apps within Apple’s App Store.

The ads can appear on iOS devices, meaning iPhones and iPads, and are projected to generate up to $2 billion in revenue for Apple by 2020.

Today, 70% of Apple Store visitors use search to find an app. That stat can be overshadowed only by the fact that Apple search ads claim an impressive 50% average conversion rate for downloads.

For businesses where mobile applications are an important part of connecting with their audience, App Store ads may present valuable inventory for tapping into the iOS market.



Source: Apple


How to Get Started With Apple Search Ads


Establish Your Budget and Objectives


For starters, it’s important to understand that there are two packages available to app marketers: Basic and Advanced.


Apple Search Ads Basic features:

  • For monthly budgets below $10,000
  • Pay only for installs at a cost you choose (CPI)
  • Apple’s automation and machine learning takes care of the rest



Source: Apple


Apple Search Ads Advanced features:

  • For monthly budgets of $10,000 and greater
  • You can target keywords, audiences, regions
  • Ability to manage your own bids


apple search ads advanced

Source: Apple


In the Basic package, you can set it and forget it. The process is not all too different from Smart Campaigns where minimal effort and expertise is required to set up.

For more experienced marketers that have the resources, the Advanced package offers more control and flexibility similar to true search PPC campaigns.


Nuances of Apple’s Ad Platform


App Store Consumer Behaviors


It’s important to note that although Apple search ads may feel familiar to Google or Bing search advertisers, consumer behavior is much different on this platform.

“The strategy we’ve adopted to start is pretty close to our best practices for a typical Search campaign,” explains Andrews.

“However, it’s also very clear that the way users interact with the App Store Search is a lot different than the way users interact with a classic search engine. Some of our most successful keywords are one-word head terms that probably wouldn’t perform very well when served on Google or Bing.”


Creative Sets


In addition to search behavior differences, the ad platform has a different approach to creative customization for Apple Search Ads.

Creative Sets are ad variations based on keyword grouping or audiences that include selected screenshots and app previews that advertisers pull from the product page of their app on the App Store.


apple search ads creative sets

Source: Apple


Advertisers can select up to 10 different variations of “creative sets” for each App Store ad group.

“Paid marketers will need to work closely with whoever manages the organic listing within the App Store to find copy that will emphasize the key features of the product in a succinct way.”

“Thankfully, there will only be one ad that shows in the results, so you have a much better chance at grabbing ‘taps,’ even with Non-branded searches.”

You can read more tips about setting up Apple Search Ads from Andrews here.


The Final Takeaway


Apple Search Ads are a welcome addition to app marketers, especially with the explosion in mobile commerce.

While both packages offer the ability to engage iOS users searching on the App Store, the Advanced package offers more control over keywords, bids, and targeting — making it the best choice if in the hands of an experienced search marketer.

For businesses where app connectivity and downloads are an important part of the marketing and sales funnel, we recommend targeting prospects and existing customers.

In the same way you’d send a different email template to your prospect list from your existing customers, you can target these same segments with Apple Search Ads.


Want to learn more?


How to Set Up International Within Apple Search Ads

Apple Search Ads: Initial Impressions and Starter Tips



About the AuthorGreg graduated from CSU Sacramento with a degree in International Relations. After teaching English in Istanbul, he returned to California to pursue writing about tech and digital marketing. See all posts by this author here.