*This post was last updated on March 17, 2023
Apple Search Ads has become one of the most important channels for app marketers to reach iOS users - in fact, according to Singular, Apple Search Ads was the fastest-growing ad network of 2021. The numbers don’t lie: according to Apple Search Ads, out of all the app installs on iOS, 65% of them came from a keyword search, with conversion rates at about 50%. In fact, the average revenue per user is about 30% higher than revenue from apps that were not advertised. The advantage of search campaigns is clear - search, by nature, targets high intent users.
Due to its impressive metrics, more and more advertisers are investing in the channel, but scaling up calls for a few key considerations:
- Finding a way to connect post-install data to Apple Search Ads campaigns is critical to optimize for performance
- Due to the large amount of keywords available, discovery requires multiple data sources, which can make analysis complicated
- Optimizing thousands of keyword bids efficiently is a cumbersome task without the ability to take actions in bulk across campaigns and ad groups
Taking these challenges into account, there are two main strategies to scale your Apple Search Ads campaigns - optimizing keywords and optimizing product pages. It’s not so different from campaigns on any other network. If you’re used to managing campaigns, bids, and creatives - here, you’re also managing the campaign and bid (keywords), and the creatives (product page). By knowing how to optimize both sides together, you can scale up efficiently. Let’s break down exactly how to do it.
Think of keywords as the bridge that connects potential users to your ad campaigns. Understanding how to optimize keywords - choosing the right ones and maximizing their impact - will bring you closer to potential users to scale your business. There are a few major elements to optimizing keywords: discovery (including management of negative keywords), organization (list management, keyword hygiene across campaigns, ad groups, etc.), and bidding.
Discover the right keywords
Choosing the right keywords is essential to your growth - and it first requires the ability to think like your users. It’s best to do your own research and consider everything in advance: who are your users? How do they spend their time? What can your app provide them? All of this information impacts which words they might type in their search bars. Sure, you can download the entire dictionary of words and re-upload them to the platform, but that’s time consuming and inefficient. Be strategic to save yourself time and stay up to date on what your audience is really looking for - you can even make it easier for yourself by using an automation tool. It’s always a good idea to start by protecting your brand, then broaden the keywords to widen the targeted audience.
In order for your ads to gain more exposure, any keywords you’re choosing should be not only common, but popular. Apple Search Ad’s Keyword Popularity Index paints a clearer picture of this - it categorizes different keywords from 1-5 (least to most popular). You can also utilize its other feature that ranks keywords and the share of impressions that each keyword wins. This is a balance, of course. For example, if you’re only choosing words categorized as 5, your ads face much more competition from similar apps. To maximize your scale, choose words that are popular enough to gain traction, but unique enough to bypass tough competition.
The advantage of search campaigns is clear - search, by nature, targets high intent users
Adding exact popular keywords to your campaign is a given, but there’s another important step: highlighting and utilizing negative keywords. Let’s say you have an app focused on pizza delivery, but the keyword “delivery” is also used regularly with grocery delivery apps. Listing “grocery delivery” as a negative keyword ensures that you’re only focusing on words integral to your product and eliminating energy focused on anything unrelated. These negative keywords need to be added to all relevant campaigns and kept up to date as this list grows, which is a challenge on its own when dealing with large volumes of campaigns and ad groups.
Increase the number of keywords you’re bidding on
Keyword strategy doesn’t just include finding the right keywords but also scaling the number that you’re using - that is, top words that include the broadest possible coverage of your base. Essentially, you’re looking to go high and wide.
You can achieve this in a variety of ways. First, understand the etymology of words and the deep ways in which they connect. Look for specific and similar words, including actual synonyms of your keywords. A great way to explore more synonyms is to check out what keywords your competitors are using - this can help you get inspired and ensure all your bases are covered.
Long-tail keywords, which consist of multiple words, can also help you scale. If your app involves mindfulness, “mindfulness” is the obvious keyword, but there will also be people finding your app through searching terms like, “how to fall asleep.” These keywords have fewer searches, but their conversion rate is exponentially higher because they are so specific.
Increase your share of voice for the keywords you found
Once you’ve found your keywords and maximized the amount of keywords to bid on, you can further increase your impact by improving your share of voice - that is, increasing your brand’s footprint on each keyword.
By analyzing trends, for example, you might find that users in the morning are more expensive than users at night. You can maximize your impact here by making an informed choice and focusing on the more profitable customers in the morning. This process doesn’t even have to be manual - different optimizers can use algorithms and measurements to figure out the best opportunities to outbid other advertisers.
Increasing bids is not cheap, so it’s best to use an approach that takes your ROAS goals into consideration - but that can be easier said than done. Since bidding is done on a keyword level, and keywords are abundantly available, it’s tough to effectively manage the bids. For example, if you increase all of your bids by 20%, you’re bound to grow. But if your performance doesn’t meet your goals, you still might not get a positive return… meaning that this massive investment could result in a loss of money and performance. Algorithms and automation are super helpful here, enabling you to balance between increasing scale without sacrificing your overall performance.
Optimizing App Store product pages
Most people will find your ads through keywords, but it’s not financially possible as a business to target every single one. If you want to be competitive at the top of the ad funnel, you’ll need to optimize something else that can hook the users to your app - the App Store product page
iOS 15 introduced custom product pages, on which you can personalize your app preview page for different audiences. This includes everything from screenshots, and previewed videos - all based on a segmented audience. You can create up to 35 custom pages, each with different creatives - allowing you to view, segment, and target your audience in a whole new way. Each custom product page also has a unique URL, so it can be targeted when sending people to your preview page, constantly catering to potential users’ interests.
Within the ad group, alongside keywords, your different custom product pages then act as unique ad variations for your Apple Search Ads campaigns. They enable you to re-imagine how you target your audience and create a story between your keywords and your creatives in the App Store. For example, a travel app can now use car rental keywords that will lead users to a product page that’s all about cars. Hotel-related keywords will drive users to a different product page that has creatives related to hotels. Social casino apps, for example, can use custom product pages to correlate specific game keywords to creatives like Blackjack or Poker.
Utilizing custom product pages improves your tap to install conversion rate because you’re increasing your app’s discoverability and aligning your custom product pages with the users’ interests in mind.
Knowing how to optimize keywords and App Store product pages can make a major difference in your Apple Search Ads performance. With the right research and audience understanding, paired with utilizing the right features, you can make calculated and informed choices to maximize your Apple Search Ads scale.