Apple Search Ads Are Here, And They’re Kind Of A Big Deal - BuildFire
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Apple Search Ads Are Here, And They’re Kind Of A Big Deal

When Apple announced the arrival of Search Ads in the App Store, it sent shockwaves through the iOS community.

This is a big deal for app developers, and that’s why today, we’re going to cover everything we know thus far about this groundbreaking new addition to the App Store, which will be extremely helpful for your mobile marketing strategy.


What Apple Is Saying About Search Ads

If you want to promote your app in the United States, Apple Search Ads on the revamped Apple Store is going to be your best option.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Your ad will be displayed while people are searching for apps similar to yours
  • Your ad will be displayed at the top of the search results
  • Only one ad is displayed at any given time

If iOS users were more adverse ads, this might be a problem, but according to a test conducted by Splitmetrics, the top listing on any given search page receives the most clicks, whether it is a paid listing or an organic listing.

When an Apple Search Ad was listed at the top, it received 57% of user clicks, while apps listed at the top organically received 71% of user clicks. The click percentage dropped dramatically from there, with 4th place organic listings getting merely 1% of user clicks.


Image Credit: Splitmetrics

What this means, all things equal, is that having your app displayed once every four queries would result in roughly the same click-throughs as being the #2 organic result for that query.

Small App Developer Benefits

Apple says they have put a lot of effort into creating a way for small app developers to get more downloads from search ads, and that the new program has features to ensure this.

App developers only pay for Search Ads when someone taps on the ad. Added to that, there is no minimum spend, and you can start or stop ads at any time, as there is no commitment required from the developer. That’s why this is a mobile marketing strategy you should definitely consider.

Apple is claiming that small developers won’t be at a disadvantage to the Big Guns, because ads are generated from the metadata on product pages rather than allowing large app companies to optimize around any keyphrase they wish to rank for.

Apple Store Product Page

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All you can do is advise Apple Search Ads which app you want to promote, and they’ll set it up to match what users are searching for in the store. It remains to be seen whether or not this will actually be a good deal for small developers, but that’s Apple’s claim for now.

User Privacy

Consumer information will stay private. No ads will be displayed to users whose Apple ID is registered to a minor (13 years or younger), or whose account is registered as a Managed Apple ID.

Benefits For Consumers

According to Apple, Search Ads will make finding niche apps easier for users.

If someone has already downloaded an app, they won’t see an ad for it, so the most popular apps won’t be able to monopolize Apple Search Ads, giving smaller developers a better chance of getting positive results. Demographic and device targeting will also make ads more relevant.

At most, one ad per query is shown to users, and any ads presented are based on relevance to the search query. Apple will then take a user’s response to specific ads into consideration for future ad selection.

How Apple Search Campaigns Work

Apple search campaigns are unique in that there are no targeting options.

You can’t target prospects based on gender, location and device. You can’t set up your own ads. Ad copy can’t be keyword-optimized for relevance, and no A/B testing can be conducted.

Instead, ads are automatically generated using the metadata information advertisers provide on the app product page when creating the app, which is why that step is so important, because the words that developers input will be used to generate the ads.

If you are a developer with no PPC expertise, this is potentially perfect for you. If you are an advertising guru with a knack for optimization, this might drive you mad.

journaldunetdotcom apple search ads

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A typical Apple Search Ad.

Apple Search Ads will provide keyword insights, as well as the standard broad match and exact match, for advertisers to find the best keywords for product pages. Search volume can be measured by keyword insights.

The ads are arranged in three levels:

  1. Campaigns
  2. Ad groups
  3. Keywords

Search Ads Apple App Store Creation

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The grapevine has it that Apple will develop an API and tools and make them available right from the start, so that ads can be maximized for performance.

Apps can only be advertised in their categories.


Advertisers can bid on:

  • Maximum cost per tap, or
  • Target cost per install (this needs historical conversion data)

Advertisers are able to target various locations as well as specify exact days and times for ads to be displayed.

Techcrunch reported that Phil Schiller, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, said that, “by not requiring a minimum bid, the ads would be open to developers with even a small amount of money and that large developers couldn’t simply outspend on a given term in order to buy it out”.

Apple Search Ads Display

For each search, Apple displays a maximum of one ad. While this is good, if there are many apps competing for the same keywords, it could translate into a fairly high cost.

If an app is not relevant to a user’s search query, it won’t be shown no matter how high the bid. For example, a health app won’t be eligible to show an ad for the search term “bird games” no matter how much advertisers are prepared to spend. Apple decides relevance based on the metadata from the app’s product page.

Metrics Apple will use to determine relevancy include downloads, keywords, the app’s title, the app’s description and reviews.


The Search Ads platform will make reporting data available so that developers and marketers can understand what is and isn’t working.

Advertisers will be able to target and reporting based on performance by age, gender, and device. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether data for targeting segments (location and scheduled times) will be included in reporting. If not, this could possibly present an optimization problem.



There’s a lot we still don’t know about Apple Search Ads, but that will change soon.

For now, all we really know is that it’s a big deal, and it’s already shaking up the App Store universe. Be sure to check back (subscribe?) for more information on Apple Search Ads as we continue to update this article.

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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