Intro to Apple Search Ads: Ad Types & Basic vs. Advanced Solutions

Intro to Apple Search Ads: Ad Types & Basic vs. Advanced Solutions

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Dan Burcaw
Co-Founder & CEO

What are Apple Seach Ads and when do users see them? Learn the basics and decide if Apple Search Ads are right for your app.

Table of Contents:

In this blog post:

An Apple Search Ad is the App Store’s native ad format that Apple makes available to app publishers. Search Ad advertising units show up as part of the App Store search experience. Search Ads are a great opportunity for users to discover your app while they are already in the mindset of seeking out a new app.

Types of Apple Search Ads Solutions

Apple Search Ads come in two flavors: Apple Search Ads Basic and Apple Search Ads Advanced.

As the names suggest, Basic is designed for app publishers who want something more set and forget. Advanced accounts offer much more granular control so they are better suited for large publishers, agencies, or developers who want maximum control.

You can use either solution using the relevant sign-in link.

Search Ads Basic

For Apple Search Ads Basic, Apple uses Search Match which automatically match your ad to search terms. This dramatically simplifies setup time.

There are four steps to get started with Basic search ads:

  1. Pick the app you want to promote
  2. Select which countries and regions you want to promote in
  3. Set a monthly budget (up to $10,000 per app)
  4. Specify the maximum price you’re willing to pay for an install (max CPI)

Basic accounts don’t have any complex campaign management. There are no keywords to define, no audience targeting to manage. It’s a simple as setting a budget and max CPI.

To get started with Search Ads Basic sign-in here.

Search Ads Advanced

For Apple Search Ads Advanced, you are responsible for campaign management. In fact, Apple recommends Advanced accounts start with four campaigns reflecting different strategies:

  1. Brand campaign - Search terms for your app or company
  2. Category campaign - Search terms related to your app’s category
  3. Competitor campaign - Exact keyword match of app’s like yours
  4. Discovery campaign - Broad keyword match to attract a wider audience

The steps to create an Apple Search Ad Advanced campaign are more involved:

  1. Pick the app you want to promote
  2. Choose the ad unit type (Search results or Search tab)
  3. Set a campaign budget (total, time period, daily cap)
  4. Create an ad group
  5. Whether to use Search Match (Search results ad type only)
  6. Select keywords
  7. Refine your audience (by device, customer type, demographics, location)
  8. Set the campaign start and end date
  9. Specify the times and days to run the ads
  10. Choose an ad variation (Search results ad type only)

Within each of these steps is a whole lot of additional steps and configurability that we will cover in an article all about Apple Search Ads Advanced usage. Until then, let’s look at the possible ad units.

To access Search Ads Advanced sign-in here.

Types of Search Ad Units

There are two types of Apple Search Ads: Search tab and Search results.

Ad Unit: Search Tab

The Search tab ad unit, if available, shows up as the top item under the Suggested apps list. This is an extremely prominent placement since millions of users visit the App Store’s Search tab every day.

A user may see this Apple Search Ad format before they type a search term into the search bar.

Ad pricing for the Search tab unit is based upon a CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) model where you specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay. The actual cost is the result of a second price auction. This means you pay based upon what the next closest bidder is willing to pay.

Since this is such a prominent placement, it is attractive to apps with wide appeal. App publishers must be willing to spend real dollars to see impressions.

Search tab units are created using assets also provided to the App Store for your product page. The ad unit looks just like the other Suggested apps in the list, except the row has a light blue background with a small ad badge.

Since Search tab ads show up before the user has typed in the search bar, no keywords are needed to setup this ad type. In addition, you cannot create an Apple Search ad variation since this ad type is automatically build by the App Store using your app icon, app name, and app subtitle.

Search tab ads are only available to Apple Search Ads Advanced accounts.

Ad Unit: Search Results

The Search results ad unit is based upon what a user actually searches for. For example, if a user searches for recipes, the first app in the list is a Search result ad. Like the Search tab unit, the item looks just like a normal search result except for the light blue background and ad badge.

Apple search ad unit search results

After a user searches for a term, the App Store may surface related search terms. If a user taps on the refined keyword, a different Search Result ad may appear.

Apple search ad unit search results refined

A Results ad is priced based upon a CPI (cost per install) model. For Apple Search Ads Basic accounts, Apple will automatically figure out which users to put your ad in front of based upon your app metadata. For Apple Search Ads Advanced accounts, you have more control over which keywords your ad can be shown for.

Final Thoughts

Creating your first Apple Search Ad is just the start. Once you start promoting your app, it’s important to tracking your ad performance so you can tune and improve your ROAS (return on ad spend). That’s where we will pick up in the next post in these series.

Until then, happy app building!

Dan Burcaw is Co-Founder & CEO of Nami ML. He built a top mobile app development agency responsible for some of the most elite apps on the App Store and then found himself inside the mobile marketing industry after selling his last company to Oracle.

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