Apple Search Ads: Then vs Now

Partner Post - Gummicube Big Data Analytics for Mobile & ASO

Posted: September 13, 2018

In 2016, Apple introduced a new program called Search Ads that would drastically change the way users found apps. In fact, 65% of apps are found through app store search, meaning that Search Ads is an invaluable tool that developers can utilize to improve their app’s visibility.

While Search Ads continues to aid developers’ marketing strategies on a daily basis, it has changed for the better since its initial release. Apple has expanded available storefronts, developed additional programs, added variations to creative assets and more. Let’s break down Search Ads from its humble beginnings to its present state.

Search Ads in 2016

When Apple Search Ads was first released, many developers had questions on what was needed to set up a campaign. Unlike Google AdWords, they didn’t have to worry about going to the drawing board and creating a brand-new campaign just for the App Store. Instead, developers realized that their Search Ads campaigns would pull from their product page’s metadata. 

This meant that users would see one of few variations:

  • Icon plus first two lines of description
  • Icon plus first two portrait screenshots or portrait preview video (iOS 11 made it three portrait screenshots/preview videos)
  • Icon plus first landscape screenshot or portrait preview video

Despite Search Ads often being a bidding war on targeted high-volume keywords, Apple told developers that relevancy is key. Regardless of how much money they bid, if their app wasn’t relevant for the term, it wouldn’t appear in user searches. This indicated that developers would need to sit down and make sure that their App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy was helping their app become more relevant for all their targeted keywords.

Big Additions in 2017

While developers had to focus less on making brand-new campaigns, they were limited on where their ads would appear. Search Ads were initially only for the US App Store. That soon changed as Apple added more storefronts like the UK, Australia, and more. With the understanding that the metadata is used to create a Search Ad, developers had to make sure that their localization efforts didn’t go to waste.

Along with expanding to additional storefronts, Apple released two new programs: Search Ads Basic and Search Ads Advanced. These programs were released to help anyone from budding developers dipping their toes into the ad campaign realm to seasoned developers that had been using Search Ads from the get-go. Depending on which suites developers best, they have several options to choose from. They can either get a package of basic tools to glean insights on how well campaigns are performing, or use Apple’s full suite to create niche campaigns geared toward specific audiences and more.

Where Search Ads Stand in 2018

Despite being halfway through 2018, Apple has made little additions to their Search Ads platform. So far, they have released Creative Sets to help developers add more variations to their campaigns. Apple claims that Creative Sets will help developers align what they already have running with more targeted keywords and audiences.

Additionally, these variations will run separate from existing campaigns, giving developers more opportunities to reach a larger audience. They can create up to ten Creative Sets per ad group but will have to closely monitor their product page listing as they’re still pulling from the metadata.

Why are Search Ads Important?

Since Search Ads were first launched, developers have claimed to boost average mobile user conversion by 50%, and even elevate average revenues by 30%. Apple is continually making advances and updates to their Search Ads platform to ensure that developers are reaching their maximum audience.

However, a Search Ads campaign can only be profitable and effective if developers are leveraging ASO. They need to continually monitor user trends and behaviors to make sure that their strategies are properly aligned. Additionally, they need to always remember that relevancy is the key to their app appearing in more user searches. If developers don’t stay up-to-date on trends and take advantage of Apple Search Ads, they’re losing out on a great opportunity to expand their app’s reach.