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Google App Install Campaigns: a Quick Guide to Your Options

Published: July 11, 2016

Author: Michael Shore

We get this question all the time from our clients: how can I use Google advertising to get more app installs? The platform has developed a good number of options, so we’ll explore the campaign types available to you, then break down ad types.
Let’s jump in.

Search Network App Install Campaign

This campaign allows us to show text app install ads on the mobile Search Network, within Google Search, Google Play Store search, and other Search Partners. Like traditional search campaigns, the Search Network App Installs Campaign is keyword-targeted. Showing ads in search results means that the person who sees them is actively looking for an app like yours. App install ads only show on mobile devices and are focused on potential users.
Example Screenshot from mobile Google Search
Example screenshot from Google Play Store

Display Network App Install Campaign

This campaign type allows us to show text or image app install ads on the mobile Display Network and within other apps. Being able to show app install ads to people while they’re using other apps that are similar to yours can increase awareness of your app and attract new app users.

Display Targeting Options 

  • Installed app categories: Show ads to people who have downloaded other apps in the category that you’re interested in.
  • New mobile devices: Show ads to people who have recently activated phones and could be interested in adding new apps.
  • Mobile app categories: Show ads in apps within certain categories (e.g. “games” or “health”).
  • Demographics: Show ads to people in specific age or gender groups.


Universal App Install Campaign

This is the all-in-one app install campaign type. With simple text ad copy, Google can run ads across search, display, and YouTube. Google pulls in and resizes images from the Play store to create engaging text, interstitial, and banner creative that can be run across all mobile inventory. Similar to traditional AdWords campaigns, we input a starting bid and budget and specify targeted locations and languages.

App Install and Engagement Ad Types

Depending on the campaign type we’re using, these are the ad formats and uses that are available to us (note: they may show up in different sizes or formats based on the apps, websites, or devices where they appear):

  • App Install Ads: These ads are automatically generated using your app icon and reviews of your app in the Google Play or Apple App store. These ads can look different depending on the websites or apps where they appear. App install campaigns use these ads to drive downloads, with much of the customization done by Google. These ads include an “install” button and link to your app’s listing on Google Play or the Apple app store. You can run these ads across Search, Display, and YouTube.
  • App Engagement Ads: These ads act as a secondary step in building a loyal user base for your app. These ads encourage existing users to jump back into the app and take action. These ads include a CTA button that deep links into your app; this means people can open your app straight from your ads. If someone doesn’t have your app and sees one of these ads, they’ll be cued to download it before continuing to your deep link. Note: These ads can only run on the Search and Display Networks.
  • Image App Install Ads: These are created by uploading an image and filling in text to create a custom app install ad using your own graphics. These are unique to the Display Network.
  • Video App Install Ads: Video ads on the Display Network are either created using a link from your YouTube account, or automatically generated from your app images, icons and reviews. Note: YouTube app install ads measure View-through installs and are paid on a cost-per-view model.

This is just scratching the surface of ways to get your app discovered and installed, of course. But for companies who are more than familiar with the Google platform and UI, it’s a good place to start.
Any questions? Drop a comment.

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