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Apple Search Ads: A Quick-Start Guide

Published: January 24, 2017

Author: Kevin Vlcek

Apple finally entered into the paid advertising space in their infamous App Store late in 2016, and most brands have yet to invest in the new platform. I’ve written up a guide for everything you need to know to get started.

Image courtesy of Apple

Campaign Set-Up

Campaign set-up is pretty basic in terms of options available. Your options are limited to your app name, campaign name (at 3Q, this would be Alpha/Beta), a budget, a daily cap, and any campaign-level negative keywords you don’t want your app showing up for. It’s important to note that once the campaign budget is established, it can’t be reduced; it can only be increased. From there, you can control the amount of spend through the Daily Cap option.

Ad Groups and Ad Set-Up

Ad groups in Apple Search are where you determine pricing goals and where/to whom you want your ad to show. If you prefer to show your ads on select Apple devices, you are able to segment between iPad only, iPhone only, or both. In addition to device targeting, you have the option to make Ad Scheduling adjustments, similar to AdWords and a CPA goal. (We recommend that you start off without a CPA goal until you have enough install data to hit that target.)
At this point in the platform, creative control is in the hands of Apple Search and is based on the metadata contained within your app. As the platform grows, I anticipate more creative control to be given to the advertiser.

Keywords and Targeting

After you’ve set all of your ad group settings, you can choose to use Apple Search’s proprietary “Search Match” feature, which isn’t keyword-based and uses various resources to match your ad to relevant searches in the App Store automatically. Most of the matching uses the metadata from your App Store listing, information about similar apps in the genre, and other search data.
The other option you can use is good old-fashioned keyword targeting. Keywords should be grouped via theme as a multiple keyword ad group set-up and grouped by match type, broad, or exact. It’s important to note that the default match type for keywords is broad, so be sure to perform a solid QA before setting your campaign live. From there, you can set bids at the keyword level, as expected. I used the top performing keywords in AdWords, since it was an easy copy and paste, but Apple Search also provides a list of recommended keywords based on terms it believes to be relevant to your app with significant search volume.

Audience Options

The final few settings you can manipulate at the campaign level are your customer types, demographics, and location targeting. Customer type options include: All Users, Have not downloaded the app, Have downloaded the app, and Have downloaded my other app. The recommended and most used option here, of course, is “Have not downloaded the app,” since the goal is to get new users to install your app. (Of course if you wanted to get your audience to reengage with your app, you can use some of the other options.) Finally, you can target specific gendersand& ages and show your app in select locations.

My Setup and Initial Findings

The campaign set-up I initially used for testing was the below:

  • Exact Match Brand
  • Broad Match Non-Brand
  • Broad Match Competitor
  • Search Match

Overall, I expected there to be a lot of variance in cost-per-install (CPI) among branded, non-brand, and competitor keyword (and this may vary across verticals), but I have found the differences between branded CPI and competitor CPI to be less than $1. This may be a product of lack of competition within the space compared to other platforms, but it’s a very surprising initial result. I’ve also used the Search Match feature as a very efficient campaign in my initial testing and as a catch-all for any keywords I may not have coverage on. Overall I’ve been super-impressed with the results of Apple Search Ads and believe the platform to be a much more efficient way of going after iOS app installs than the products provided on Google AdWords.
One final note. If you’re using a 3rd-party application to track in-app actions, you’ll need the iAd Framework built into the application by your client for data to automatically populate into whichever platform you’re using.
Happy testing!

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