An Overview Of Apple Search Ads

So your company has just invested in the development of a new app and it is now ready to launch; how do you ensure that it gets discovered by the right people? You can, of course, run advertising campaigns aimed at driving app installs on Google, YouTube and various social media platforms. But in most cases, this consists of interruption marketing, that puts your product in front of a large audience who may, or may not, be looking for it at the given time. 

And that’s absolutely fine. After all, these campaigns can help you get more users but also drive awareness of your product, which is what you want if you are only just launching.

But what if you could also showcase your brand new app directly to the place where users are actively searching for one exactly like yours? I’d say that’s a no brainer.

I’m talking about the App Store for Apple users and Google Play for Android users. 

In this blog post, I am going to cover the basics of Apple Search Ads and how to make the most of this platform to help your user base grow.

Apple Search Ads

Apple Search is Apple’s advertising offering on the App Store. These allow advertisers to show app promotion ads to users who are searching for specific keywords in the search bar, helping apps be discovered by active users.

According to Apple’s data (1. Source: App Store data from all Apple Search Ads countries and regions in 2020)

  1. 70% of store visitors use search to find their next app
  2. 65% of all downloads happens after search

With such high numbers, it’s easy to see why promoting your app on the App Store is a must for app advertisers and something you should definitely consider if you are looking for high-quality users.

Search Ads Basic Vs Search Ads Advanced

Similarly to the more popular Google Search Ads, Apple Search Ads utilise keywords targeting to match your ads to relevant search terms. 

However, Apple Search Ads allows you to choose between Basic and Advanced ad setup. Let’s explore the key features and differences between these two products.

Apple Search Ads Basic

If you are just getting started with Apple Search Ads or search advertising in general, Search Ads Basic are probably the most suitable option for you as they allow you to set up your campaign in minutes. All you need to do is select the app you want to promote (you must link your App Store Connect account to Apple Search Ads in order to advertise), choose the country you want to target, set your monthly budget and maximum cost per install and your campaign is ready to go. 

This campaign option is also a popular choice amongst developers, especially if the team doesn’t have marketing competences or experience or if the ad budget is limited. Basic ads allow a maximum monthly spend of $10,000 per app per month.

Apple Search Ads Advanced

Advanced Search Ads, on the other hand, are more complex and are more suitable for marketers or someone with a background in search advertising or businesses looking to scale their user base quickly, since there is no limit to how much you can invest on app promotion every month.

Unlike Basic Ads that can only show in search results, Advanced Ads let you choose two different placements for your ads: the top of App Store search results or on the App Store Search tab at the top of the suggested apps list.

As previously mentioned, this type of ads utilise keyword targeting to match ads to the best search term and deliver a user-focused experience on the App Store.

The other key difference between the two ad types is how you are charged. Advanced Ads support a cost-per-tap pricing model for ads on the App Store search result page and a CPM pricing model for App Store search tab ads. Of course, like all bid-based pricing models, the actual CPT (cost-per-tap) or CMP (cost-per-thousand-impressions) varies according to competitors’ bids.

Identifying Advertising Opportunities on the App Store

Once you have access to your ad account, you’ll be able to use the keyword tool to identify terms and their popularity rating to add to your campaign or adgroup. Just like in Google Ads, all you need to do is entering a broad term and going through the list of suggested keywords, then adding them to your list as needed and only if appropriate. Of course, when adding new keywords, be mindful of the match type you choose as broad matches may trigger your ad to show for non-relevant searches. To learn more about the best way to structure your app campaign, keep reading.. 

How to Structure Your Advanced Apple Search Ads Campaign

Although there are many similarities between standard search ads (Google, Bing etc) and Apple Search Ads, the current best practice for Advanced Search Ads is to avoid replicating the same ad account structure you already have in place on other platforms as this approach tends to bring poor results. 

The recommended structure is to have four different campaigns categorised by theme – brand, competitor, category and discovery. You also want to ensure you exclusively have exact match keywords for the first three campaigns but have broad match keywords in the discovery campaigns, to help you identify terms you may not have added yet but could potentially drive relevant traffic and users to your app. 

Then, to avoid broad keywords from your discovery campaign to trigger keywords you are already targeting in your brand, competitor or category campaigns, you want to add the respective keywords as negatives in the discovery campaign. 

Going forward, you want to monitor acquisition costs and adjust bids in all campaigns but also make sure you keep a close eye on the Search Terms report, particularly in the Discovery campaign, where you have all your broad match keywords.

Tailored Ad Creatives

One of the most recent features of Apple Search Ads is custom product pages. These act as sort of landing page variations for your app on the App Store and advertisers now have the option of creating ad variations to match the different product pages and make them as relevant as possible to what the user is looking for.

Custom product pages are created in App Store Connect and each page comes with its unique URL and is easily shareable online. This makes it easier to track performance of each page and optimise your user experience accordingly.


If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you should now be familiar with Apple Search Ads and what their capabilities are. So head over to App Store Connect to set up your account, link it to your Apple Search Ads ad account and get started with app advertising. 

Got questions or prefer an experienced marketer to manage your campaigns/investment instead? Then reach out to one of our Apple Search Ads certified team by filling the contact form below and we’ll be happy to help.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with us today!