Mobile App Marketing: Apple Search Ads are #1

Apple Search Ads for the App Store is one of the newest platforms on the scene. Having launched in October of 2016, it hasn’t hit mainstream quite yet. However, supporters have been vocal about the affordable CPCs and exceptionally high conversion rates.

We are seeing the same results at Search & Gather, and thought this post would help others get on the platform. Whether you have an app of your own, or you have mobile app developers as clients, Apple Search Ads are a no-brainer for your user acquisition strategy.

1. Unbeatable Pricing

Apple Search Ads is hands-down the most cost-effective platform on the market. First of all, there is no minimum cost-per-click (CPC) bid. It’s extremely refreshing to see newer entrants staying away from restrictive models such as LinkedIn Ads.  

Apple Search Ads - Create Ad Group
There are no restrictions on your CPT (cost-per-tap) bids or CPA goals.

While a no-minimum CPC bid is great, it doesn’t guarantee your ad will drive installs for a fair price. However, AdWeek reports that in December 2016, the average cost-per-install on Apple Search Ads was $1.31, compared to $5.84 on other platforms.

While actual spend will vary for each user, the consensus seems to be extremely positive. According to Digiday, Search Ads are outperforming most other acquisition strategies at a fraction of the price.    

Of course, we have to partly attribute these low costs to the limited competition on this new platform. The Search & Gather team is definitely curious to see how Apple Search Ads will evolve over the next year or two.

2. Conversion rate is outstanding

People head to the App Store with the intention of downloading apps.

The only meaningful way to evaluate spend is by comparing it to app installs and the quality of conversions. According to AdWeek, 50% of consumers who click on ads in the App Store go through with installing the app. Further, based on our work with clients, we can safely say that a significant portion of conversions from Apple Search Ads are high quality leads (profitable, paying users).

The nature of the Apple App Store essentially guarantees that those using its search function are looking for an app to download. They are in a very different state of mind when viewing these ads, compared to when they are hit with a banner ad in the middle of a game or video. As a result, one can expect the conversion rate on Search Ads to far exceed any other mobile option. 

This goes back to the importance of native advertising (you can read more about what I had to say about it here). To recap, “native advertising” is when the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. I don’t think there is a more perfect example of native advertising than promoting an app on the app store.  

The pre-existing intent, paired with carefully tailored keywords on your end, results in a high percentage of quality leads. Taking the low costs into consideration as well, how could you say no?   

3. Set-up is extremely simple

According to Apple, “Search Ads are designed to be smart, effortless and flexible for small and independent developers.”

Apple Search Ads really are effortless. Worried about crafting thoughtful new creative for yet another platform? Don’t be - Search Ads takes care of that for you!

About Apple Search Ads
Apple wasn't lying about Search Ads being efficient and easy.


Apple takes the metadata and images (logo and screenshots) from your App Store listing to create the ads on your behalf. Ads are displayed with a light blue background on top of the organic search results. You can see some more examples of Apple Search Ads
here and here.

Apple Search Ads’ audience targeting is currently very straightforward. We expect customization options to expand as the platform develops, but for now there are really just three main categories: device (iPhone/iPad), demographics (age/gender), and location.

One gripe we have with the platform is that you need a separate campaign for each country you want to advertise in. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

Of course you will need to add keywords to your ad groups. Keywords operate like most other platforms, with the usual match types. If you have experience with PPC, then this should be a breeze for you. If you need help understanding keyword match types, I recommend using this article by Google AdWords for reference.  

The coolest feature Apple Search Ads offers has to be Search Match. Search Match automatically displays your ad to users searching for similar apps. In our experience, it works very well.

A significant portion of our conversions on Search Ads comes from Search Match. We do have to keep a closer eye on the spend as CPAs can get pretty high compared to your chosen keywords. However, as long as you’re paying attention, Search Match is a great feature for driving more conversions.   

Conclusion - Get Your App on Apple Search Ads

In its current state, there really is no reason to avoid Apple Search Ads when promoting your app. It’s cheap, effective, and super easy to set up. What are your thoughts on the platform? We love to hear from our readers.

Need help setting up & managing your Apple Search Ads account? Search & Gather is a digital agency specializing in paid search and social! Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about how we can work together.

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