Understanding Apple Search Ads: Navigating The App Store

  • 3rd May, 2024
  • Rohit M.
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Understanding Apple Search Ads: Navigating The App Store

3rd May, 2024 | Rohit M.

  • Marketing
Apple Search Ads

Apple Search Ads have changed the game for app developers, letting them promote their apps right in the App Store search results.

It used to be limited to certain places, but Apple just announced it's coming to Brazil and more Latin American countries. This has got app developers really excited!

Apple is also planning to launch this service in even more countries around the world.

So far, they've mentioned some Latin American countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Paraguay.

In this article, we will explore what Apple Search Ads are, the benefits they offer, and the differences between the Basic and Advanced versions.

We will also discuss some best practices for running successful Apple Search advertising campaigns in these markets.

What are Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads are a form of advertising on the App Store that allows developers to promote their apps to users who are actively searching for apps using specific keywords.

These ads appear at the top of search results and are designed to be relevant and useful to users.

Developers bid on keywords, and their ads are shown to users who search for those keywords.

It lets advertisers connect directly with people who are searching for apps using specific words.

This is crucial because the App Store has so many apps—over 1.8 million!—so standing out is tough.

Since 70% of users find apps by searching, where and how ads appear is really important.

One big thing about Apple Search Ads is how much they care about privacy. In a time when privacy matters a lot, Apple makes sure user privacy is a top priority, even in ads.

Unlike many other ad platforms, Apple Search Ads doesn't track what users do. This means advertisers can't target users based on what they do, which is different from how most other platforms work.

Apple Search Ads is not just a way to reach the right audience in a competitive App Store; it also reflects Apple's strong belief in putting user privacy first.

What are the Benefits of Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads are a powerful tool for developers to promote their apps within the App Store's search results.

These ads help developers increase app visibility, drive more downloads, and ultimately, boost revenue.

Let's explore the benefits of Apple Search Ads in more detail:

1. Increase Visibility

Apple Search Ads allow developers to target specific keywords related to their app.

When users search for these keywords in the App Store, the developer's ad is displayed at the top of the search results, increasing the visibility of the app.

2. Targeted Audience

With Apple Search Ads, developers can target their ads to specific audiences based on factors such as location, language, and device type.

This helps in reaching the right users who are more likely to download the app.

3. Cost-Effective

Apple Search Ads operates on a cost-per-tap (CPT) model, which means developers only pay when a user taps on their ad.

This makes it a cost-effective advertising solution, as developers can set a budget that suits their needs.

4. Higher Conversion Rates

Since Search advertisements appear at the top of the search results, they are more likely to be noticed by users who are actively searching for apps.

This leads to higher conversion rates, as users are already interested in downloading an app when they see the ad.

5. App Store Optimization (ASO)

Running Apple Search Ads can also have a positive impact on an app's organic visibility.

By targeting relevant keywords and driving more downloads, developers can improve their app's ranking in the App Store's search results.

6. Real-Time Performance Data

Apple Search Ads provides developers with real-time data on how their ads are performing.

This includes information such as the number of taps, downloads, and conversion rates, allowing developers to optimise their campaigns for better results.

Apple Search Ads: Basic vs. Advanced

Apple Search Ads stands out as a powerful tool for reaching potential users directly within the App Store. It offers two distinct options for running campaigns: Basic and Advanced.

Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, making it crucial for app developers and marketers to understand which option best suits their goals and resources.

In this section, we'll delve deep into the differences between Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced, helping you make an informed decision about your advertising strategy.

Apple Search Ads Basic

Apple Search Ads Basic was designed with simplicity in mind, aiming to make advertising on the App Store accessible to everyone, especially those new to the platform.

One of the key advantages of Basic is its ease of setup.

Apple Search ads basic

Image Source: Apple Search Ads

With Basic, Apple takes on the majority of campaign decisions, including targeting and optimisation, allowing advertisers to focus on other aspects of their app marketing strategy.

1. Advantages of Apple Search Ads Basic

Ease of Setup: Setting up a Basic campaign is straightforward. Advertisers only need to select their campaign goal, choose the countries or regions where they want their ads to appear, and set a budget.

Minimal Effort: Apple handles most of the campaign optimisation, reducing the workload for advertisers.

Budget Control: Advertisers have control over their campaign budget, with the ability to set a maximum monthly budget and cost-per-install (CPI).

2. Disadvantages of Apple Search Ads Basic

While Apple Search Ads Basic offers simplicity, it comes with certain limitations and drawbacks that may impact campaign performance.

Lack of Transparency: Advertisers have limited visibility into how their campaigns are optimised, which can lead to suboptimal results.

Audience Quality: Since Apple makes optimisation decisions, ads may reach audiences that are not aligned with the advertiser's target market, potentially leading to lower-quality installs.

Limited Control: Advertisers cannot make real-time adjustments to their campaigns, such as pausing ads during specific periods of low activity.

Overall, while Apple Search Ads Basic can be a good starting point for new advertisers, its lack of transparency and control may hinder long-term campaign success.

Apple Search Ads Advanced

Apple Search Ads Advanced, on the other hand, offers advertisers full control over their campaigns, allowing for more granular targeting and optimisation.

While Advanced campaigns require more time and expertise to manage, they provide greater flexibility and potential for improved performance.

Apple Search ads advance

1. Advantages of Apple Search Ads Advanced

Control and Flexibility: Advertisers have full control over their campaigns, including ad groups, keywords, targeting, budget, and scheduling.

Transparency: Advertisers can see how their campaigns are performing and make real-time adjustments to optimise performance.

Customisation: Advanced campaigns allow for custom reporting and the ability to tailor campaigns to specific audience segments.

2. Disadvantages of Apple Search Ads Advanced

The main drawback of Apple Search Ads Advanced is the learning curve associated with managing more complex campaigns.

Advertisers may need to invest time in understanding the platform and optimising their campaigns effectively.

apple search ads.png

Image Source: Apple Search Ads

In conclusion, both Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced offer unique advantages and disadvantages.

For advertisers looking for simplicity and ease of use, Basic may be a suitable option.

However, for those seeking more control and customisation, Advanced provides the flexibility needed to achieve optimal results.

Ultimately, the choice between Basic and Advanced depends on your advertising goals, budget, and level of expertise.

By understanding the differences between the two options, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your app marketing strategy.

Top Apple Search Ads Best Practices

Apple Search Ads are a great way to get your app noticed. To make the most of this tool, it's important to follow some simple best practices.

Here are some simple tips to help you succeed:

1. Evaluating Performance After Installation

A critical yet often overlooked aspect of ASA is measuring post-install performance.

To assess the true effectiveness of your campaigns, check post-install user behaviour.

Here's how you can achieve this:

  • Apple Search Ads Attribution API: Integrate the Apple Search Ads Attribution API directly into your app to gather comprehensive user data.

  • Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs): Utilise third-party MMPs like Adjust, AppsFlyer, or Kochava to gain granular insights into user actions after installation.

By partnering with an MMP, you can analyse campaign performance across various metrics, including in-app events, user engagement, and retention rates.

A complete understanding of user behaviour empowers you to optimise campaigns for long-term success.

Focus not just on acquiring users, but also on keeping them engaged and generating ongoing value.

2. Optimal Account Structure for Search Results Campaigns

The foundation of successful ASA campaigns lies in a well-structured account.

Here are two main approaches to structuring your account:

Semantics-Based Structure: This time-tested approach is ideal for most mobile advertisers. It involves dividing your account into five distinct campaigns:

  • Brand Campaign: Target users searching for your brand name or variations. Use exact-match keywords for maximum control.

  • Generic Campaign: Target broader search terms related to your app's category or functionality. Utilise a mix of exact match and phrase match keywords.

  • Competitor Campaign: Target keywords your competitors bid on to capture users actively considering alternatives.

  • Discovery Campaign: Employ a Search Match to discover new relevant keywords and user search patterns.

  • Proxy Campaign: Target keywords indirectly related to your app but indicative of potential users (e.g., keywords related to a common problem your app solves).

Value-Based Structure: This approach prioritises user value. Keywords are categorised into campaigns based on the perceived value a user searching with those keywords brings.

It typically involves:

  • Brand Campaign: Similar to the semantics-based structure, target users searching for your brand with exact match keywords.

  • Discovery Campaign: Utilise Search Match alongside broad match keywords to explore new opportunities and user behaviours.

  • Tiered Campaigns: Create multiple campaigns with varying bid strategies based on the perceived value of the keywords. Higher value keywords (e.g., those likely to convert into paying users) would reside in campaigns with higher bids.

Regardless of the chosen structure, ensure a clear and logical organisation.

This simplifies campaign management, performance analysis, and future scaling endeavours.

3. Planning Campaign and Ad Group

Without a thoughtful approach to naming ad campaigns and ad groups, your performance data can quickly turn into a mess.

Here are key strategies to maintain order and clarity:

  • Consistency is Key: Avoid changing campaign or ad group names during a campaign. This can mess up your data. Instead, create new campaigns with new names if you need to make adjustments.

  • Campaign ID Advantage: Utilise the Campaign ID feature within the Apple Search Ads Attribution API. This unique identifier ensures your data remains consistent even if campaign names change.

  • Meaningful Naming: Craft campaign and ad group names that clearly reflect their purpose. This simplifies navigation, analysis, and future optimisation efforts.

By following these guidelines, you'll maintain a well-organized account structure, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and optimise campaigns for better results.

4. Keyword Research

Keyword research is key to any successful ASA campaign.

Here are some effective strategies to identify high-performing keywords:

  • Competitor Analysis: Understand your competitors' keywords. Analyse their organic and ASA campaign keywords.

  • Search Match: Don't underestimate the power of Search Match. While it's not the sole solution, it helps discover new relevant search queries users employ on the App Store.

  • App Store Search Suggestions: Use the App Store search bar for keyword ideas. When you start typing, it suggests related searches, giving you lots of keyword ideas.

5. Research Your Competitors

The App Store landscape is a competitive battlefield. Analysing your competitors' strategies empowers you to identify opportunities and refine your approach.

Here are some key areas to explore:

  • Keyword Insights: Discover new keywords your competitors use that you haven't thought of. Are there unique keywords for your app? Also, see if there are keywords your competitors use a lot that you should consider using.

  • Creative Inspiration: Look at your competitors' ads for ideas. See what design styles, messages, and app features they use. Use these ideas to make your ads stand out or match what your competitors are doing.

  • Bidding Strategies: See what bids your competitors are using to help you set your own bids. Look at industry averages and competitor data to ensure your bids are competitive but still fit your budget.

Using competitor information can give you an edge, helping you reach more people and get more out of your ads.

6. Expand Your Approach Beyond Search Match

While Search Match is a valuable tool for discovering new keywords, it shouldn't be your sole source.

Here's why:

  • Limited Control: Search Match finds relevant keywords but gives less control. You might get some irrelevant keywords too.

  • Complement, Not Replace: Search Match should work alongside other keyword research methods like competitor analysis and manual exploration.

This comprehensive approach ensures you capture a wider range of relevant keywords.

Remember, a well-rounded keyword strategy considers various approaches to guarantee your ads reach the users most likely to convert.

7. Use Negative Keywords

Negative keywords act as gatekeepers, preventing your ads from appearing for irrelevant search queries.

Here's how to use them effectively:

  • Campaign Hygiene: Add broad match keywords as negative exact match keywords in other campaigns and vice versa to avoid wasted ad spend.

  • Identify Irrelevant Terms: Monitor search terms triggering your ads and add irrelevant terms as negative keywords for better targeting and budget optimisation.

By strategically using negative keywords, you ensure your ad spend reaches users actively searching for what your app offers, maximising campaign effectiveness.


In summary, Apple Search Ads provide a strong platform for developers and marketers to advertise their apps within the App Store.

By understanding the differences between Basic and Advanced campaigns, advertisers can tailor their strategies to meet specific goals, whether it's maximising visibility or optimising user acquisition.

With its user-friendly interface, targeting options, and transparent pricing model, Apple Search Ads remains a valuable tool for app promotion, providing a direct path to reaching a highly engaged audience.

As the app market continues to evolve, staying informed about the latest features and best practices will be essential for utilising Apple Search Ads effectively and driving success in the competitive app marketplace.

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