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Anton
Anton
September 08, 2023
13 min read

12 Apple Search Ads Best Practices to Maximize App Performance

In this article, we will disclose Apple Search Ads best practices and approaches that will maximize the return on your marketing spend.

12 Apple Search Ads Best Practices to Maximize App Performance

As you probably already know, Apple Search Ads are an effective channel for attracting iOS users, even in apps with in-app purchases.

In the previous article, we talked about different types of ASA campaigns, the nuances of setting them up, and effective ways to collect analytics.

It's high time to list the best practices for the Apple Search Ads channel.


#1 Keep your app up to date

 The first Apple Search Ads best practice is quite obvious, however, it's a basis.

Apple loves it when apps get updated. After each update, be sure to check your reviews and ratings. Negative reviews reduce the likelihood of installing an app in the App Store. Positive reviews not only help boost an app's organic ranking in the App Store but also increase the likelihood that ads for relevant keywords will be displayed.

Frequent app updates let Apple know that there is an active team working to improve the app.

#2 Optimize metadata before launching a campaign

Before launching an ad campaign, it's a good idea to review your app's current metadata in App Store Connect. This is important because the display of your ads depends on the current metadata and cannot be changed once the campaign is launched.

Note that Apple Search Ads will not necessarily show the same ad for every user. There are several types of ads that vary in terms of screenshots, preview videos, and app descriptions.

#3 Launch initial campaigns without a CPA target

When creating a campaign, you should set a daily budget, which is the average amount the campaign will spend each day for a month.

At the very beginning of launching such campaigns, explicitly specifying CPA may limit the number of targeted installs. Therefore, it is recommended that you first launch a search campaign without a CPA target and give it some time to learn.

Once you get an idea of the initial results, you can add a CPA goal and see how it affects the results.

#4 Combine and segment countries and regions

With ASA Advanced, advertisers can create campaigns that group countries and regions based on their similarities. This allows for optimization based on specific attributes such as language and customer value. The value of each country or region can be learned in advance by creating and analyzing individual campaigns.

#5 Set maximum CPT bids depending on the type of the campaign

It is also important to set maximum CPT (cost-per-tap) bids depending on the campaign and the type of keyword match.

You can apply aggressive bids for exact match keywords as they are the main performance drivers and most relevant to your campaign. Higher bids will yield more ad impressions.

For optimal effectiveness, most of your traffic should come from Exact match campaigns.

Make moderate bids for Broad Match and Search campaigns. Their purpose is to bring out relevant keywords. Also, don't forget to move high-performing keywords from Discovery campaigns to Exact Match.

#6 Reach all eligible users

When setting up a campaign, you have the option to show ads to all eligible users or focus on specific audiences, including device, customer type, demographic, and location.

To maximize your reach on the App Store, Apple recommends that you automatically target ads to the widest possible audience by selecting the Reach All Eligible Users option.

If you select the 'Choose Specific Audiences' option and refine the target audience, this may unnecessarily narrow the audience, because users who have turned off the 'Personalized Ads' option will not see the ads.

#7 Be aware of brand cannibalization

There is always a risk when running branded campaigns of paying for downloads that would otherwise be organic. While it's necessary to build brand protection, sometimes these measures can be overkill and you'll end up paying for your own traffic that would have been yours for free.

Test brand protection campaigns carefully and don't get carried away with excessive numbers of installs if it's not really necessary.

#8 Measure effectiveness after installation

One of the most important Apple Search Ads best practices is measuring effectiveness after installation. To measure the effectiveness of Apple Search Ads campaigns, you can use the Apple Search Ads Attribution API directly, or you can use a third-party solution such as Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP).

To see the big picture and track installs, in-app events, and individual campaign performance, you should choose an attribution partner such as Adjust, AppsFlyer, Kochava, and others. By engaging an MMP, you will be able to analyze the effectiveness of Apple Search Ads campaigns at a much more granular level.

#9 Use negative keywords

In addition to broad and exact match keywords, you can also use negative keywords.

Negative keywords tell the search engine advertising system to exclude those specific words from the set of targeted keywords you want to bid on. In other words, they ensure that your ads do not appear when users search for certain terms and are added at the campaign or ad group level.

They are a great way to make your targeted ads more specific and targeted to the right audience.

What's more, they can also help you optimize performance. From an advertiser's perspective, keyword negation should also be used to reduce ad costs and improve ad effectiveness. This can save money and improve the overall effectiveness of campaigns.

Make sure that any keywords added to a broad match campaign are listed as negative exact matches in a discovery campaign, and vice versa. This will ensure that you are not bidding against yourself.

In addition, add all keywords selected for the overall campaign, brand campaign, and competitor campaign as negative keywords for the discovery campaign. This way, advertisers don't compete against themselves by spending money to find new keywords that exactly match their performance campaigns.

Words that app developers and marketers may want to exclude:

  • Low-ranking search queries
  • Search queries that include the word "free" (for paid apps and in-app purchases)
  • App names you don't want to compete with
  • Words you do not want your app to be associated with
  • Irrelevant search terms automatically suggested by Apple

#10 Optimize bids over time

It is critical for advertisers to regularly adapt their strategy to the ever-changing realities of the marketplace. This will help you stay profitable and show a consistently high ROI.

Bid monitoring allows you to keep track of situations where your current bids are no longer winning an auction. You can also use Apple's recommended bid to understand the approximate level of competition in the auction and how much you need to increase your budget to win the battle for users on certain keys.

What metrics affect the value of bids in an auction?

First, every bid affects the CPT (Cost Per Tap) price. The more app publishers are willing to bid for a keyword, the higher the average bid for that keyword will be.

It's also worth analyzing TTR (Tap-Through Rate), CVR (Conversion Rate), and CPA (Cost Per Action). These metrics vary depending on the type of campaign. For branded campaigns, the TTR will be lower, but the CVR will be higher. For general search campaigns, the TTR will be higher and the CVR will be lower.

When can you think about increasing your bids?

  • Your ads match relevant keywords and you're seeing a high CVR
  • You have keywords that are generating conversions below your target CPA rate
  • You are seeing low TTR, CVR, and impressions for high-performing keywords that are relevant to your application.

Now let's look at a situation where it makes sense to lower the bids.

It's a case where you have a keyword that has a high TTR but a low CVR. At the same time, the CPA is higher than your target.

By lowering the bid, you can lower the CPA. You may still win some impressions, but you may see fewer impressions for that keyword.

While bid optimization is important, don't forget to optimize keywords as well. Once you have identified queries that perform well in discovery campaigns, you can add them as new keywords in Exact Match campaigns. Then add these keywords as negative exact match keywords in discovery campaigns.

#11 Don't rely on search match alone

We've listed Search Match as one option for in-depth keyword research. However, don't use it as your only source of effective new keywords, because there are other ways and approaches to finding them - and you shouldn't miss that opportunity.

Search Match is a great way to find new keywords, but the reality is that you should use many keyword research resources, as we described in the previous paragraph.

#12 Combine ASO and ASA efforts

There is last but not least Apple Search Ads best practice. By combining ASO and ASA best practices, you can achieve even more impressive results.

For example, Apple Search Ads can be a source of useful information for an application's ASO: you can search for keywords and determine their search popularity, get insights into conversion rates for specific searches, the potential number of installs per key, and more. You can also see which keywords are the most effective based on the results of search campaigns and use them in your ASO strategy.

Also, when selecting the Search Match option, Apple's algorithms will focus on the existing app meta, and the better the preliminary ASO work has been done, the more effective it will be in finding relevant keywords in Discovery campaigns.

Visuals are also important not only for overall search optimization and conversions to installs but also for paid traffic. The right screenshots and app previews can affect TTR and CVR. Before launching a search campaign, make sure your app preview video and screenshots are ready and up to date.

Apple loves it when screenshots and videos are up to snuff. So make sure you've done all the necessary work on your end before you submit.

Here are a few more examples where the synergy between ASA and ASO can bear fruit:

  • Custom Product Pages (CPP): Implementing CPP in your ASA campaigns can lead to a better user experience and increased sales and conversions.
  • Improve Organic Ranking: Running ASA keyword campaigns allows you to appear in the top results for keywords for which your application does not currently rank well organically. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on your app's App Store visibility for those keywords.
  • Strategy and Keyword Research: Adding high-performing, high-converting keywords from ASA campaigns to your app's metadata (title, subtitle) will positively impact its ranking. This creates a win-win situation, as including important keywords in the metadata allows you to increase visibility for ASA.

Conclusion

Simply setting up and running Apple Search Ads campaigns is not enough. You need to continually monitor their effectiveness and make necessary adjustments along the way.

In a highly competitive advertising market, only a comprehensive and iterative approach using Apple Search Ads best practices will yield impressive results.

To improve the return on your ASA, you should also take advantage of the detailed, in-depth analytics available at Apphud. Sign up and get the most accurate subscription app revenue data. 

Good luck scaling your apps!

Anton
Anton
Head of Product at Apphud
10+ years in mobile. Anton started his career as a backend developer, last 3 years has been working as a product manager. He created a podcast dedicated to software dev. Successfully launched (and sold) his own apps.

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