One of the most exciting experiences for a digital marketer is experimenting with a new channel from its infancy. We are doing just that with Apple’s Search Ads platform, which Apple launched at the end of 2016. We’ve been running iOS Search campaigns for several months to gain an understanding of the platform, its capabilities, and expected performance, and we’re able to provide a set of insights and tips to help you maximize your app advertising campaigns.
Back to the Basics: What are Apple Search Ads?
Apple rolled out a new search platform that resides solely in its App store last October. This platform allows you to target consumers while they are searching for and downloading apps on their iPhones, making it the perfect way to promote to Apple users. Ad targeting is based on search keywords, or you can allow Apple’s Search Match to match to relevant queries for you (similar to Google’s Dynamic Search Ads campaigns).
All ad creative is dynamically pulled from the app’s images, ratings and description, which means you have very little control over the content of your ads.
How Does this Fit Into Your App Strategy?
So far the Apple Search Ads platform has demonstrated more search volume than you might expect, and initial CPIs have been very strong. Many studies show that iOS users are more active online than users of other platforms, which makes Apple Search Ads a critical advertising platform for targeting engaged app users and encouraging them to download mobile apps.
Despite strong early performance, we still don’t recommend you put all your eggs in the Apple Search Ads basket. One of the largest indicators of a highly-engaged user is search intent, and Google’s ads in the Google Play store have, up until this point, monopolized the App search space. In fact, Google has been allowing advertisements in the Google Play Store for years. An ideal strategy is to ensure you have full coverage of people searching for your product with both AdWords Search App Install campaigns and iOS Search Ads.
If you’re excited to give Apple Search Ads a try, use these tips as you start managing your own campaigns within the platform:
- Build your Core: Use your AdWords app campaigns as a resource by taking your learnings and applying them to the iOS platform. Be sure to have coverage on top-performing keywords in the Google Play store, as well as other keywords that tie closely to the service your app provides.
- Keep It Simple, Silly: App searchers generally won’t be searching for long tail and highly technical keywords. Start with 1-3 word keywords if you can, and use the Search Query report to expand from there.
- Get Competitive: With any new platform, early adopters can gain an edge by targeting their competitors. Chances are anyone searching for a direct competitor will be a qualified download.
- Gotta Keep ‘em Separated: Similar to AdWords, don’t mix your data to the point of dilution. Keep your brand keywords in a different campaign than non-brand keywords, and keep your core non-brand keywords in a different campaign than your Search Match query mining campaign. Doing so will allow you to evaluate the performance of different keyword categories and shift budget based on performance.
- Overzealous Negativity: With any new platform, broad match keywords can be very broad. Make sure you nip any keyword cannibalization in the bud by adding your existing keywords as negative keywords to all other campaigns. Don’t be nervous about adding pre-emptive negatives in your initial campaign launches. This will prevent you from double dipping by showing for the same search terms across multiple campaigns.
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Adding in negative keywords is a HUGE part of campaign management on this platform. For the first few days after launch, and then every few days after that, you should check-in on search queries and add negative keywords to exclude irrelevant search queries.
- Get Analytical: You can start out broad in your targeting to get a gauge of your potential iOS audience, but from there you may want to start narrowing down to your ideal demographic, especially if you have tight CPI goals. Search Ads has very clear and concise reporting abilities to allow you to define what demographics are performing well, and you can sculpt your traffic to achieve qualified downloads and efficient CPIs.
- Expect the Unexpected: Data varies drastically from day to day, so make sure you allow enough time to accrue data before you draw any conclusions.
- Dig Deeper: Not every install is of equal value, and therefore CPI may not be the best goal for your advertising efforts. Search Ads integrates with quite a few third-party app tracking systems. These will help you understand how frequently downloaders engage with your app by creating an account, making a purchase, or taking some other action. Once you understand which campaigns are driving downloads that produce revenue for your company, you can continue to grow those areas of the account.
- Be Cognizant of Budgets: Within the platform, the budget can only be increased and never resets. This means you need to look at ‘All Time’ spend to ensure there are no unexpected stops due to you hitting your budget for the campaign.
The Apple Search Ads platform has already shown some strong preliminary results, and shows great promise for advertisers looking to drive app downloads.