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Apple Search Ads basics
In this first class in our course all about Apple Search Ads, learn why its fast become one of the most important channels for app marketers today. Matt Skurnick, Platform Growth Team Leader at ironSource Luna, dives into the types of campaigns you can run and how to best structure Apple Search Ads campaigns for success.
Hey guys, I’m Matt and I’m a platform growth team leader here at ironsource Luna. I work on our Apple Search Ads product and I’m here to talk a little bit about how Apple Search Ads work and how you can scale your campaigns. Luna is an Apple Search Ads partner. We have our own platform that you can use to manage and scale your Apple Search Ads campaigns. But the tips I’ll be discussing here are relevant for everyone, not just Luna customers.
So, welcome to the first episode of our LevelUp Academy’s course on Apple Search Ads. In the next few episodes we’ll explore what the hype around Apple Search Ads is and best practices on how to run and optimize your campaigns – all that good stuff.
What are Apple Search Ads?
First, let’s define what exactly Apple Search Ads is. Back in 2016, Apple developed Apple Search Ads as a way to give advertisers a way to sponsor ads within the app store search results. So each time someone searches for a specific keyword like “hotel”, users see a relevant ad for an app that has something to do with “hotels”. Let’s say you’re looking for an app that helps you find the cheapest flights. You might already have an idea of the specific app you want or just want to see what’s out there so you type in the search bar “flying”, “cheap flights”, or something like that. In the search results you’ll see a list of relevant flight apps. The first ads for apps that come up are… Apple Search Ads.
As opposed to display ads, Apple Search Ads is more subtle because users are engaging with the ad on their own terms – it’s a native user experience.
So why does it matter for you?
Now that we understand what Apple Search Ads is, let’s take a look at why advertisers are going all in on scaling this channel. In fact, in the last year, there’s been a dramatic increase in Apple Search Ads spend.
Here’s a couple of reasons:
Number 1: Apple Search Ads gives advertisers brand protection.
There’s almost 2 million apps out there competing against each other. Because the app store is so competitive these days- advertisers can use Apple Search Ads to bid on their company’s name to make sure competitors don’t steal their users when searching for them. Let’s say you’re the app, Zippy Scissors. To make sure the first ad in the search results that a user sees is Zippy Scissors, you’ll bid on Zippy Scissors’ name. If you’re worried about competitors stealing your traffic, don’t worry about that, we’ll get into it later.
Number 2: User growth.
Apple Search Ads gives you access to users you wouldn’t have otherwise. You immediately get a new user base beyond traditional channels like SDK networks and social media… the people who are searching in the app store. Another plus is that Apple Search Ads is now available beyond mobile. You get access to not only iPhone users but also to anyone who has Apple products like ipads.
Number 3: Users want what they want.
The users coming from Apple search ads are also high intent: because users are actually typing in what they want, they really care about finding the best app that matches their needs – whatever that may be. If the app they find fits, they’ll likely stick around for the long run because the app is something they actually wanted. Basically, Apple Search Ads cater to a user’s specific need – and that intent translates to a more intimate experience between advertiser and user.
Who is Apple Search Ads relevant for?
So what advertisers are Apple Search Ads actually relevant for? Honestly, any app looking to grow their user base, especially ones in a competitive space or with a brand that they want to protect. That goes for game advertisers all the way to health, utilities, and dating.
First Step: Basic or Advanced?
Before we talk about how to structure an Apple Search Ads campaign, let’s go back to one of the first decisions you’ll need to make when you start working with Apple Search Ads. Do you run an Apple Search Ads Basic or Apple Search Ads Advanced campaign?
But before we answer that, let’s start by defining what’s the difference between Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced.
Apple Search Ads Basic runs on a cost-per-install, or CPI, model. In this campaign, Apple’s AI does all the work for you like choosing your keywords and targeting your ad groups – so it’s hands off, but potentially less scalable.
Apple Search Ads Advanced on the other hand gives you full control over your campaigns. From the get go you’re picking keywords, defining ad groups, and updating visuals. If you aren’t seeing the ROAS results you want, you can adapt your campaign and play with new keywords. It also runs on a cost per tap or CPT model – you can think of it like cost per click.
To fully maximize the value of Apple Search Ads, the advanced campaign is usually recommended. Even though Apple Search Ads Basic is more time and budget efficient, you have more to gain with Advanced.
With that, let’s go into how you’d structure an Advanced campaign yourself.
What’s the structure of Apple Search Ads?
Now let’s talk about the structure of Apple Search Ads. We can divide them into three tiers: campaigns, ad groups and keywords.
Let’s start with campaigns. Generally, advertisers break down campaigns into four different kinds: brand, generic, competitor, and discovery.
The first one is a brand campaign. In a brand campaign you’re looking to protect your brand. So you would use keywords associated with brands that are either your brand name, or related to your brand. Think of it like a defensive strategy – maybe you want to protect the name of your company from competitors. Remember the example we gave before about protecting Zippy Scissors’ name? Boom. Brand campaign. Now it’s harder and more expensive for competitors to bid on Zippy Scissors’ name.
Next there’s the generic campaign. Here your strategy is to bid on general keywords related to your app’s genre or topic. Let’s take Zippy Scissors as an example again. Users looking for types of services Zippy Scissors has might search for keywords like “arts and crafts”, “tools” or “paper cutting”. You would want to bid on these and other relevant terms so that Zippy Scissors ads pop up first. Generic campaign keywords are harder to find but are important for growth. Because there’s so many options to bid on here, by default there’s many more opportunities to scale.
Then there’s competitor campaigns, where your goal is to bid on your competitors’ names or keywords that your competitors are bidding on. That’s because to control a market, you want to make sure that it’s expensive for your competitors to break in.
Finally, there’s discovery campaigns which have two options within this kind of campaign: search match and broad match. When you use search match, it’s completely automated. You don’t have to do anything – Apple Search Ads bids on keywords that it thinks is relevant. Broad match is a little different – you pick a couple of keywords and Apple Search Ads bids on similar words that are relevant.
Now that we have campaigns down, let’s move to ad groups. Under each campaign you can create several ad groups. And within each ad group, you can control three things: the audience, max bid, and keywords.
Let’s go over the three different parts – starting with audience targeting.
With Apple Search Ads campaigns, you can target by things like location, age, gender, user and device type. Let’s give an example. Say you know your app is popular with football players. For your audience targeting, you would want to make an ad group that includes college students. Better yet, if you know that students aged 18-22 is the demographic that you’re really trying to target, you can even set that as a specific ad group.
Next, you set your max bid – or what’s the most you’re willing to spend on this ad group. It’s best practice to bid higher for common themed ad groups and lower for less common ones.
Last part – keywords. Here maybe you would try a few keywords like “football players” or “drills”.
There are two types of keywords you can bid on for your ad groups: exact match and broad match. You can also exclude words which are negative keywords and we’ll talk more about that in the next episode.
An exact match is a keyword that is exactly what you type in the search bar. For example, if you type ironSource Luna, your results are going to only be ironSource Luna. The benefit of exact match is that it protects your brand. By being so specific with the keyword, it increases your chances on the top results ahead of your competitors.
With broad match, your ad can be found on close searches related to your keyword. If there are misspellings, words not in order, plurals or phrases that are close to your keyword, broad match has you covered.
Apple Search tab ads
Ok, now that we’ve gone over the core Apple Search Ads products – there is also Search Tab Campaigns, Apple’s latest offering. Let’s quickly define it, since it’s likely to grow a lot more in the future. A Search Tab campaign suggests your ad before a user even searches for it with no minimum spend. These ads run in any country where Apple Search Ads is available. The pricing model used to be CPM, but now it runs on CPT.
This offering is still very new but has a lot of potential so be on the lookout for future updates.
When you run your campaign, the Apple Search Ads platform gives you campaign- level reports where you can analyze things like CPI, cost per achievement, impressions, CPT, and more. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of this soon when we talk about best practices for scaling your ads in our next video.
Great! We’ve gone over what Apple Search Ads is, why they’re seeing so much traction today, and how to structure them – now, let’s move on to discuss best practices for scaling up. See you in the next episode!