Apple Search Ads has been evolving since 2016, but how has it become even more valuable to app marketers, and how have new placements impacted campaigns?

We sat down with the marketing team at M&C Saatchi Performance, a leading growth marketing agency for digitally - driven brands, to get their take on best practices for your campaigns, key tasks to automate, and how to harness the full potential of Apple Search Ads.

Why is Apple Search Ads a valuable tool for mobile marketers?

Apple Search Ads excels in capturing users with high intent through keyword (KW) targeting, ensuring that ads reach individuals actively searching for specific apps or content. 

This is a powerful user acquisition channel as you can find users searching for your specific app, stave off competition, and tap into general terms. Recent improvements in metrics and expanded ad options within the ecosystem, including placements in the Today tab, search tab, and product pages, enhance the platform's versatility. This expansion allows advertisers to engage potential users at multiple touchpoints during their search journey, increasing overall visibility.

"Apple Search Ads provides robust analytics and user behavior data, enabling advertisers to understand how users discover and interact with their apps."

- Search & Social Team at M&C Saatchi Performance

Apple Search Ad’s flexible campaign types, operating on Cost Per Tap (CPT) bid basis, provide advertisers with many entry points to the platform. Notably, enhancements to recommendation features, KW bid strength indicators, and KW discovery tools empower advertisers to optimize campaigns for driving downloads and boosting visibility effectively on the iOS platform. 

The continuous evolution of Apple Search Ads underscores its role as a powerful and adaptable tool for user acquisition in the dynamic landscape of the App Store.

How does ASO impact Apple Search Ads?

App Store Optimization (ASO) significantly impacts the effectiveness of Apple Search Ads by enhancing KW relevance and user experience. ASO involves optimizing metadata, KWs and visuals on an app's page. When aligned with user search queries, ASO increases an app's relevance to specific KWs, positively influencing its appearance in Apple Search Ads.

"ASO and Apple Search Ads work as a team."

- Search & Social Team at M&C Saatchi Performance

A well-optimized App Store page resulting from a comprehensive ASO strategy contributes to a positive user experience. Taps on Apple Search Ads lead users to the app's page. If it is appealing and aligned with their expectations, it boosts the likelihood of conversions and app downloads, further benefiting the ASO changes.

ASO and Apple Search Ads work as a team. ASO improves discoverability, relevance, and user experience, enhancing the overall performance of apps promoted through Apple Search Ads. Combining both strategies provides a comprehensive approach for optimal results in user acquisition and app visibility on the iOS platform.

What are some best practices or tips for managing Apple Search Ads effectively on the native platform?

When looking at the tools Apple Search Ads gives users, there are four main pieces to consider and leverage frequently.

1. Keyword (KW) optimization: Search results ads allow advertisers to tap into their KW discovery tools early when creating lists for ad groups. They allow you to see potential KW ideas when typing into the search bar for the list. They also allow you to get KW recommendations for existing ad groups, which you should check at least once a week for new ideas.

2. Search popularity/Bid status indicator: When checking in on KWs, you can look at bid strength indicators from search results to determine where your KW bids rank based on auction competition from other competitors bidding on that same KW.

This will also suggest a minimum and maximum bid for you to test, giving a headstart on setting a bid. The search popularity measure helps you understand on a range of 0-5 how popular a search term is and the amount of competition/volume you can expect from the term. 

3. Custom product pages: The release of Custom product page testing on ASA has revolutionized the way Search Ads can operate within auctions. You can now create specific custom product pages based on the terms you’re bidding against to improve relevance from KW to creative, improve the conversion rate, optimize user experience, and get detailed analytics for the custom product page performance against the default page. 

custom product page

4. Custom Reports: Within the custom reports tab, you can create detailed reports on KW performance over time, check SOV, and optimize campaign performance on a granular level. 

How do you expect the Today tab changes to affect campaigns?

The Today tab changes in Apple Search Ads offer advertisers significant opportunities with increased visibility, creative motion to stand out on the page, and slightly more real estate on the newest live version as of December 12th. Advertisers can stand out in this prime section of the App Store, reaching a broader audience and boosting tap-through rates.

However, considerations include heightened competition, requiring close monitoring of bid dynamics, and a focus on creative optimization, as you do need a custom product page to run the Today tab. While the changes bring exciting prospects, advertisers should stay vigilant and adapt their strategies to optimize results in this prominent ad placement.

today tab placement

What’s a valuable tip from your day-to-day Apple Search Ads routine?  

A good routine to adopt is to regularly analyze search query reports. By diving into the search terms that triggered ad impressions and taps, advertisers gain valuable insights into user intent and discover new KW opportunities. This ongoing analysis allows for refining KW targeting, ensuring ads are shown to the most relevant audience. Additionally, identifying and excluding irrelevant or low-performing KWs helps optimize budget allocation and improve overall campaign efficiency. Excluding these terms also helps with hygiene upkeep for campaigns and intentional KW targeting. 

What are some day-to-day tasks that people should be automating in search results ads?

Automating day-to-day tasks in Apple Search Ads streamlines campaign management and ensures efficiency. You can leverage Apple Search Ads' custom reporting features to automate the generation and delivery of key performance reports, including Share of Voice (SOV), campaign spend for pacing, and overall campaign performance metrics.

Automation helps save time for tedious tasks without constant manual effort, providing advertisers with more time for strategic planning and analysis. By embracing these automation features, advertisers can enhance their day-to-day management, ensuring campaigns align with goals and perform optimally.

How can you identify high user intent within campaigns/ad groups/KWs in search results ads?

Identifying high user intent in Apple Search Ads involves tracking metrics like Tap-Through Rate (TTR), Conversion Rate, and Impression Share at the campaign, ad group, and KW levels. Analyzing search term reports provides insights into specific user queries, helping optimize for strong intent. You can implement bid adjustments and craft ad copy within custom product pages that align directly with user queries for increased relevance. Additionally, consider the competitive landscape to gauge performance relative to competitors.

"Analyzing search term reports provides insights into specific user queries, helping optimize for strong intent."

- Search & Social Team at M&C Saatchi Performance

When adding KWs to your campaign, Apple Search Ads provides a score of 0-5 to indicate the search volume against these terms and will recommend a bid range to get you started for these KWs. This will help you gauge how competitive these terms are and their potential cost per tap. Once you have spent against your KWs, you will have data available to optimize your bid strategy, directing resources toward KWs with the highest potential for capturing valuable and relevant users.

What is the most underutilized aspect of Apple Search Ads?

Custom product pages have significantly impacted Apple Search Ads by providing a dedicated space within the App Store for advertisers to test new copy, creatives, and offers for their app. This feature has revolutionized user engagement and aligned the user experience to marketing efforts.

Advertisers can now design visually appealing and informative pages, aligning seamlessly with their ad creatives. The customization allows for tailored content that enhances creative relevancy and captivates user interest, ultimately boosting the overall effectiveness of Apple Search Ads campaigns. However, this tool can be underutilized due to the creative resources needed to create and test strategies and variations of the default page. 

Can you share insights on the impact of using custom product pages?

We’ve historically seen custom product pages have strong differences in TTR and, in some rare cases, a 10x improvement in performance. After implementing these changes to the default ad, we’ve increased our overall conversion rates for paid activity and organic users visiting the app store page. This shows how a strong custom product page testing strategy can help build upon continued success with testing.

How do you best utilize all placements in a multi-placement strategy?

four apple search ads placements

When looking at some of the other placements within Apple Search Ads, you need to consider the stage of the funnel the placements are best used for and aligning expectations and KPIs to those placements. Understanding that the Today tab and search tab differ from search results campaigns will help determine budget and bids for these campaigns. Benchmarking things like Brand terms SOV in a country is also important to determine lift after running these campaigns.  

What is the biggest misconception about Apple Search Ads?

One common misconception about Apple Search Ads is that they are solely about increasing app downloads. While user acquisition is a primary goal, Apple Search Ads can offer more than simply download numbers. Advertisers often overlook the valuable insights and data generated through the platform from awareness-focused campaigns or looking at third-party tools for a competitive landscape overview. 

Apple Search Ads provides robust analytics and user behavior data, enabling advertisers to understand how users discover and interact with their apps. Additionally, Apple Search Ads supports re-engagement campaigns to bring back previous users of the app or even cross-sell users from one app to another, allowing advertisers to target users who have already downloaded their app, fostering retention and maximizing the lifetime value of users.

Learn more about M&C Saatchi Performance.

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