Apple Search Ads best practices

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Class 29 Apple Search Ads

Apple Search Ads best practices

Intermediate | 11 minutes

In this next class, learn how to find the most relevant keywords for your Apple Search Ads campaigns and choose the best bid price. You’ll get 6 strategies for analyzing your campaign results, so you can optimize accordingly.

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the second class in our Apple Search Ads course. To recap, in the last class we went over why more advertisers are running on Apple Search Ads today and how to structure your campaigns. Now, we’ll dive into how to find the most relevant keywords, choose the best bid, analyze your campaign results, and finally optimize accordingly.

Apple Search Ads keyword strategy

First things first. Keywords. When looking for keywords in this industry, we’re trying to tackle 2 problems. Think of it as two sides of the same coin. Number 1: not having enough words and knowing how to bid on them or. Number two, having too many words to effectively manage them all.

Keep in mind that there are multiple strategies for picking the right keywords for your campaigns. I’ll go into a couple of examples of what’s worked well for advertisers we work with, but it really depends on what campaign type you’re working on, as well as budget, geo, and keywords.

Strategy one:

If you’re just starting – and you’re conservative with your budget – you may want to create one campaign that mixes brand, competitor and generic keywords altogether. From there, after seeing how they do, you can play around with the words by either replacing them, completely removing them, or you can make keywords negative. More on what negative keywords are in a sec.

Strategy number two:

You can start a long list of any relevant keywords that you can think of, including words with typos, words in different languages, and multiple words or phrases. Once you start running your campaign, you can narrow down the keywords that work best.

Strategy three:

Start with only a brand campaign. By bidding on your brand’s keywords you can win back high intent users that you might be losing to competitors.

Last tip: break down keywords into the three different campaign types that we talked about in the last episode: brand, generic, and competitor. You may want to play with a limit of how many keywords you should have per campaign. You can start with 30 to 50 keywords max. If you can’t think of enough keywords to kick start the campaign, you can set the limited number you do have as broad match. This tells Apple Search Ads that you’re looking for not only the exact phrasing of your keywords, but also any similar keywords, which will result in more traffic.

Let’s take an example. Say you’re looking for keywords for a brand campaign. If your app is called ‘Off Road Rider’, your keywords are going to be as many variations of ‘off road rider’ you can think of like off road rider, and rider road. Keywords can also be misspellings of the name like with the word rider spelled R-Y-D-E-R. Basically, finding keywords for brand campaigns are the most simple; all you have to do is take the name of the app, the company, or a trademark term within the app, and make keywords out of all possible name combinations.

Let’s take a look at another example. This time, let’s see how we can find keywords for competitor campaigns. Here, you’re not only bidding on your competitors’ names but also the other keywords that they are bidding on. Basically, you want to mimic your competitors’ brand campaigns – so any keywords they use in their own brand campaigns you should add to your competitor campaign. I suggest researching your competitors to see who is performing the best by using analytical tools like sensor tower, appradar, and, formally known as appannie. Usually these platforms will also show you how many people are searching for that word, keyword traffic, iphone and ipad difficulty, ratings and so on.

Apple Search Ads also has their own recommendations page that can help you find relevant keywords and see how popular the searches are. The popularity ranking is from 0-5, 5 being the best. Ideally, you want to use keywords with a 5 star rating since they’d have the highest ability to scale, but don’t let that discourage you. Because a keyword with 1 or 0 can deliver high quality users. Think about it like this: even if only 10 people searched for that keyword, but 5 out of those 10 people converted, it means that the keyword can still be valuable to you. Even though it’s not a lot of people, you can still acquire a high quality user.

Let’s backtrack to the use of negative keywords. Negative keywords are keywords you exclude from brand activity if your brand name sounds like an irrelevant term. You can also use them in discovery campaigns to exclude keywords you’ve found already, as well as any keywords you’re actively using in your exact and broad match campaigns.

Apple Search Ads bidding strategy

Let’s talk bidding. How do you find the right bid?

Generally speaking – like with any marketing plan, you can choose between the aggressive approach or the conservative approach. Same as with keyword bidding. You can choose to start with high bids, get traffic quickly, learn what works well and doesn’t… all at a faster pace; And then adjust the bids accordingly. Or, you can come in with a low bid knowing you will be sacrificing traffic, but then increase bids only to the keywords that are within your target range.

Only after you run a campaign, you’ll be able to see the bid range and see if your bid did well or not. Once you see the results, you can take your next step. Apple Search Ads will even tell you if your bid is strong or not. If your bid was strong, but the performance was poor, you would decrease the bid. On the other hand, if your bid is low and the performance is good, you might want to keep increasing your spend because it’s clear you’re onto something. This will allow you to win even more impressions. You need to factor in reach and performance: if you aren’t getting a lot of impressions, that’s another situation where you would increase your bid.

How you manage your bids isn’t an exact formula. It’s more of a balancing act between risk and opportunity. Keywords that put your profitability at risk need to bid lower. Keywords that are driving good results are your opportunities for growth. You have to constantly be analyzing the data in front of you, all the different types of correlations between factors like performance, reach, spend and impressions. That’s what’s going to guide how you move forward with your bids. Now, let’s talk about the kind of data you can analyze.

How to analyze your Apple Search Ads campaign

Apple Search Ads’s funnel data lets you see things like the impressions, taps, installs, new downloads or redownloads. For every one of these metrics you can see the cost, and conversion rate – for example, cost per tap, installs conversion rate, cpm, installs per mille, CPI, etc.. All this data is a great starting point, but to scale up, it’s helpful to consider additional downstream metrics such as registrations, payers, revenue and their CPAs, CRs and ROAS, or even post attribution installs and CPIs. For that, you’d have to use an external platform, like Luna, which takes your Apple Search Ads data, data from your MMP and anything additional you might have (like from your internal BI systems), so you see the full user funnel. Then you’ll be able to see all your post attribution metrics that support even deeper analysis and optimization capabilities.

How to optimize your Apple Search Ads campaign

We have our data, now let’s get optimizing. Here are a few tips on how you can analyze bid and keyword performance so you can then optimize your Apple Search Ads campaigns.

Let’s start with analyzing bids. Number one: The most important KPI for me, is cost per achievement, so lets start with that. Cost per achievement is a metric that shows the progress an acquired user made in your app: how much am I paying for someone to download my app from the ad and then for example, get to level 2 or book their first taxi ride. By looking at cost per achievement, I can tell how many quality users I have because they’re actually engaging with the app. A low cost per achievement shows me that users are both downloading my app and engaging with it. If my cost per achievement is high, I’d want to lower the risk by decreasing the bids.

Next, if I see some keywords underperforming, I want to see what’s causing it. First, I’ll look at the bid and see if my bid was strong enough. Like I mentioned before, you can see this information when you use the Apple Search Ads platform. You’ll see the average bid range and if your bid is stronger or up to par with your competitors – basically where you stand in the auction. But note that sometimes I don’t necessarily want all my bids to be strong. It really depends on the target of your campaign. Remember that the suggested bid range that Apple Search Ads provides is based on pre-attribution data, like ipms, clicks, and installs. For example, let’s say I’m targeting app installs and want my CPA to be $20. I’m not going to add a high bid because it’s going to increase the cost of my installs. You can always change and optimize your bid according to the keyword’s performance.

Number three: I want to look at the cost per tap or CPT and from that, see whether I want to be aggressive with my bid or not. I ask myself two questions. Do I want to pause the keyword completely… Or do I just want to try lowering the bid? Lets say your keyword is underperforming: should you Pause Or decrease? My recommendation?.. first decrease the bid around 20-25% and see if it improves. If it’s still not improving, I’ll think about pausing the keyword but at the same time I’ll want to look for one of my high potential keywords, and increase my bid there. Overall, I want to analyze my low performing keywords and see whether I should fix or remove them while at the same time analyzing my high performing keywords and see if I can scale them.

Now let’s move on to analyzing keywords. As a base line – it’s really beneficial to analyze the keywords in an aggregate view. In other words, what is the performance of a certain keyword across all the ad groups or campaigns that it’s running in? This is a great way to learn about your keyword’s overall performance and not how it’s performing within a specific limited audience or ad group setting. The Apple Search Ads UI doesn’t provide a cross campaign view for keywords, so I’d suggest either exporting this data to a spreadsheet, merging it with MMP data, and then pivoting by keyword, or use a 3rd party tool that’s designed for these kinds of tasks. First, I’m going to look at the click through rate, how many people are clicking on the ad, and conversion rate, how many people are installing the ad after they clicked on it. Click through rate, or CTR, shows me if my ads are appealing or not to potential users. This is really important because our ad is our first interaction with them. I’m trying to find keywords that give me a higher CTR. Meanwhile, conversion rate is more impacted by the App Store product page.

Next, let’s look at impressions. Impressions show me how many people are searching my keyword. If I see that I have a lot of impressions, maybe I’ll decrease my bid to see if conversions will remain stable at a lower cost.

Lastly, keep an eye out: a keyword’s performance is not always going to stay the same. You have to always look at your keyword activity and find the balance between things like your keywords’ spend, performance, and reach. For example, let’s say I increase the bid on a keyword and the next week instead of $66 media spend, its $500: increasing the bid may cause my performance to scale down. Essentially, even though it’s at a higher scale, it’s not performing as well as it did on a lower scale. But, incremental increases are going to act differently at different levels of scale, so defining marginal ROI is a good way to find balance.Keyword activity is always changing. Make sure you adapt also.


Awesome! Now that we’ve gone over best practices for optimizing your Apple Search Ads, in our next episode, we’ll tackle Custom product pages, an Apple feature that can help boost your campaigns. See you then.

Time to put these tips into action. Get started with Luna’s all-in-one solution for Apple Search Ads