Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

Apple follows in the footsteps of Google by providing a PPC-style platform to promote ads in the App Store for iPhone and iPad users in the United States.  Although this new platform doesn’t live up to advanced structure of Google, Search Ads does offer some interesting wins. Because this space is so new, marketers are seeing low competition and extremely affordable CPA’s compared to Google.

The Basics:

  1. Budgets are set at the campaign level and can never be reduced, nor can they be higher than your credit limit. Because these budgets are set for a campaigns entire lifetime, be sure to continuously check your budgets to prevent them from being exhausted.
  2. Campaigns run on an accelerated delivery method. Make sure your daily budget caps are high enough to prevent your campaigns from not serving the entire day.
  3. It’s impossible to delete or hide campaigns/ad groups/keywords. In an effort to keep everything clean and organized, try to minimize errors when building out your account.
  4. Match types include Exact and Broad. Unlike Google, Phrase match does not exist.
  5. The Apple UI only provides data up to the install and therefor in-app actions will not be tracked unless you use a compatible third-party attribution platform (Tune or Appsflyer).
  6. When setting up CPA goals, be conservative and realistic. Setting a cost-per-acquisition goal too low may prevent you from capturing valuable traffic. Similar to conversion optimizer in AdWords, you should obtain enough conversion volume before you turn on these goals.
  7. Understand the terminology:

In the Platform:

  • Daily Cap: Campaign’s daily budget limit
  • Taps = Clicks
  • TTR = Tap Through Rate
  • Conversions = Installs
  • CR = Conversion Rate
  • Avg CPA = Average Cost per Install
  • Avg CPT = Average Cost per Tap

When Bulk Uploading Keywords:

  • Actions are CREATE or UDATE
  • Match Types are EXACT or BROAD
  • Statuses are ACTIVE or PAUSED

Apple’s Search Ads platform is fairly easy to operate. After logging in, you will be navigated to a “Campaigns” overview page. View campaign performance by adjusting the calendar to your desired date range.  You can then click into campaigns to view ad groups, then keyword performance. Unfortunately, there isn’t a row for “totals” which has been a hassle in my opinion.

Ad Formats:

Ads can either appear in a half or full format. Half ads include the app logo and a couple lines of messaging. The full ad format will be an extended version of the half ad and also include screenshots from within the app.

Search Ads will automatically create ads based on your app description and logo. Ultimately this limits the ability of ad testing and customization unless you are constantly optimizing your app store listing. As a marketer, you need to make sure the above-the-fold messaging is optimized for maximum value incase only the half ad is shown.  If your app is already in the first organic spot, only a half ad will be eligible to show.

Advanced Targeting & Features:

The advanced settings, which is anything beyond setting budgets, are established at the ad group level in order to give more control and refine targeting. Unfortunately, you can’t set bid adjustments for each specific setting if they are in the same ad group. Let’s say iPhone performs better than iPads, you can’t set higher bid adjustments to iPhones.  In order to troubleshoot this lack in capabilities, develop separate ad groups or campaigns specific to the targeting method.


When creating an ad group, decide who you want to serve your ads to:

  • Users who have not downloaded the app
  • All Users
  • Have downloaded the app
  • Have download my other apps

The default setting is to target users who have not downloaded your app. However, the additional settings can be beneficial, dependent on your marketing goals, when promoting your app.

Device Types

Apple Search Ads are compatible with iPhones and iPads. You can choose to set your ad group setting to iPad and iPhone, iPad Only, or iPhone Only. For best practices and more control, consider creating ad groups specific to each device in order to better optimize bids.


Search Ads is currently only available in the United States, with capabilities to target select cities or state-level locations. Consider refining the locations you are bidding on if you are limited by budgets or if you app is only available in specific areas.


Similar to AdWords, Search Ads offers the ability to target users based on gender and age. When looking at reports in the interface, user’s ages are grouped by 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 35-54, 55-64, and 65+.

Ad Scheduling

When creating a new ad group, you can set the start date and time and optional end date. Dayparting is an optional feature that can be applied at any time to further refine when your ads will serve. In this example, the ads will only serve during the timeframes that are highlighted blue.


Latent Conversions

The conversion window for Search Ads is 30 days, so don’t be alarmed if you see latent conversion come through. In this example, the two campaigns aren’t running because their budgets are exhausted but conversions are still being reported.

  1. Apple’s Search Match:

Apple’s Search Match is the simplest way to begin bidding in the App Store. By analyzing your app’s metadata from the store listing, Search Match will automatically match your ad to users who are searching for similar apps.  Start this campaign with a conservative Max CPT bid, and then optimize up or down depending on volume. Depending on your marketing goals, you can also set a CPA goal. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be utilized until enough conversion volume has been gathered and Search Ads can properly optimize.

This feature can be added at the ad group level, along other keywords or in it’s own ad group. However, I recommend building out your standard brand and non-brand campaigns and then create an additional campaign dedicated to Search Match. You should then add all your terms as exact match negative terms to the dedicated search match campaign. This will result in the Search Match campaign solely being a discovery tool.

Unlike Google’s Universal App Campaign (UAC), Search Ads will actually tell you what terms your app served to. Once enough data has been collected, monitor the search terms report and optimize accordingly. If you choose to add relevant terms to your original campaigns in order to actively bid on them, I’d suggest adding them as a negative to the Search Match campaign to prevent overlap.

Add3 has the knowledge and experience to market your app with Apple Search Ads. Although it is in its early stages, we’ve had success for our clients and have been able to capture additional install volume at favorable costs.

Ashley Royalty

About Ashley Royalty

Ashley is a Paid Search Account Manager, expanding her marketing knowledge with Add3 since 2013. Besides being a Shiba-mommy, Ashley enjoys Happy Hours, golfing, boating and glitter. Follow her on Twitter for everything from SEM updates to live tweeting reality TV, @AshleyDavisSEA.

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