Apple Launches App Store Paid Search Ads

Apple recently announced Search Ads in order to enable brands and developers to promote their apps within the US App Store. Currently, over 2 million apps are available which leads to a daunting app discovery process. However, over 65% of downloads come from searches directly on the App Store in an ever increasing marketplace and 82% of time spent on mobile device is spent in-app. Hence, Apple’s Search Ads is intended to provide a new way to battle app competition.

The following provides a summary of key and available features for search ads:

  • Only 1 ad result
  • No Minimum spend levels required to participate
  • There is no control over ad copy as only the same content approved to be in the App Store can be promoted in Search Ads
  • Targeting capabilities will be keyword based – similar to Google and Bing, Search Ads will be purchased in a biddable auction, which will be influenced by max bid (bid amount) & ad relevancy, with only one ad per query will be shown to users
  • Keyword research can be used to measure search volume
  • Allowed to set a Cost per Acquisition (CPA) goal that will maximize campaign performance
  • Audience targeting features will be available – although limited to location and demographic data
  • A robust Attribution API that not only attributes downloads driven by Search Ads campaigns, but also attributes to the specific bid on keyword and date of the download
  • APIs will follow – Apple states that marketers will be able to build out capabilities for campaign management, reporting & automation once the API is made available which suggests for integration within bid management platforms
  • Only those with the Legal Role within the iTunes Connect Account can sign up
  • Three level organization: campaign, ad group, and keyword

During the beta (Summer 2016), participation is free. There is no setup, budget or bidding required. Test ads will be automatically created with the information already provide to the App Store. While data for how app performs will not be available, and there’s no guarantee that an ad for a specific app will be shown, it may still generate downloads as a result of participation.

Search Ads gives every developer, including those with niche or unknown apps, the opportunity to promote their app at the top of relevant search results and lets customers download with a single tap. Apple will only display one ad, at most, for each search query. From a competition standpoint, those apps within a crowded keyword will may find themselves competing on a higher scale. By default, apps that are already downloaded on a user’s phone will not be shown unless the advertiser wants to specifically target existing users. Search Ads adheres to Apple’s privacy standards, therefore, user information remains private and no ads will be shown to users whose Apple ID is registered to a minor age 13 or under, or whose account is registered as a Managed Apple ID. Furthermore, an ad will only be shown if it is relevant to the search query.

Search Ads will have an “Ad” mark and light blue background so users can identify them as a paid placements. Apple Search Ads shares many core characteristic of Google AdWords, and is therefore a true PPC-model, although Apple is calling this a Pay Per Tap (PPT). The auction system ensures a fair market price, while the advertiser only pays once the app is clicked. This allows for no commitments, budget testing, impromptu flighting, and the ability to evaluate the necessary budget. Hence, it can be used to assist in gauging the value of a new user.

More control over Search Ads can be had with specific keyword selection, audience targeting, and APIs for campaign creation, management, and reporting. But only the same content approved to be in the App Store can be promoted in Search Ads. Search Ads does not profile users based on their search queries, no data from other Apple Apps, and no individual user data is exposed to the advertiser.

Apple Search Ads will undoubtedly change the app download landscape in an effort to level the playing-field. Apps will be discovered, new trends will be created, and Apple will have yet another victory. This is the time to make sure that app metadata is properly formatted and it is imperative to join Search Ads as quickly as possible to promote your app. It is beneficial to register for the free beta, thereafter and until Apple releases data focused on the progression and best practices for Search Ads, it is recommended to continue with traditional paid search best practices on bidding, keyword research, and other such optimizations. Please reach out to your Paid Search Team to better understand the full impact, as well as, to begin running Search Ads on the Apple App Store.

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