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Apple Search Ads Breakdown. Do we really need it for app promotion?

Mobile app creators were using iAD to promote their apps until mid-2016. This platform was discontinued in June 2016 and in September of the same year, Apple introduced Apple Search Ads (ASA) in the United States.

Eventually, the platform became available in 46 countries, including Eastern Europe (in 2019) and we immediately started testing it.

This tool is relatively new, so we asked Radomir Novkovich, the founder of Netpeak RadASO, to debunk popular ASA-related myths and stereotypes. Radomir runs the popular RadASO channel and has recently founded the Apple Search Ads Telegram group for ASO specialists.

So, do we need ASA for app advertising, and is this platform as effective as they say?

❌ Traffic in Apple Search Ads is cheaper than in other channels

Not really. Installs in ASA are often more expensive than in Facebook, Google Ads, and other channels. I’ve observed it in dozens of projects.

Follow this link to check out average prices for ASA for different categories and countries.

❌ Advertising in Search Ads brings more traffic

Not true as well. In Search Ads, the app can only be shown in the App Store if keywords match user searches. On Facebook and Instagram, you can show ads at any time when a person scrolls through the feed, and users do this much more often than they search for something specific in the App Store. As a result, we can catch potential customers only when they are actually looking for something in the store.

✔️ You can get conversion rate data for your keywords

ASA is a great tool to understand which search terms have the highest conversion rate. You can use them in the title on the App Store and utilize them as part of your ASO strategy.

✔️ Increasing semantic core

If you use BroadMatch or SearchMatch, Apple will find search terms for you, which you can subsequently use in ASO to come up in a search for those terms for free.

✔️ Targeting the right audience

Installs from ASA are more relevant since the user was just looking for a new application at that moment. Meaning that the user wanted to install the application and saw an ad. At the same time, on Facebook, the user accidentally sees the application in the feed and can install it just out of curiosity, and not because he actually needs it.

✔️ Taking away branded traffic from competitors

You can appear in the search results when users look for other brands and even get better positions than them! So you have a chance to «snatch» a few percent of your competitors’ target audience. I don’t know any other way to do that.

✔️ Protect your brand

If you have a popular name and you don't want someone else to be higher than you on your brand, you will have to take up this advertising space with your ad. Thus, you will partially cannibalize your traffic.

Read more about traffic cannibalization here.

✔️ Screenshots A/B Testing

Unfortunately, unlike Google Play, App Store does not allow A/B testing of icons, screenshots, and descriptions. So the only way to test screenshots is with the help of Search Ads, where you can choose which pictures to show in ads and compare conversions in that way.

✔️ Determining the value of search terms

When you receive an install with the help of Search Ads, Apple allows you to get information about a specific search term the user had typed into the search bar. So you can implement this information into your analytics system (Amplitude or Firebase) and check LTV from the perspective of keywords. In addition, you also have an option to adjust onboarding in the app right from the beginning to make it consistent with the user’s needs. 

Takeaways

In general, Apple Search Ads (ASA) can probably be equally attributed to both paid traffic sources and ASO tools. With the help of ASA you can:

  • analyze the popularity of search terms (Search Ads Popularity);
  • fill the semantic core with new keywords that Apple offers;
  • determine the relevance of search terms;
  • protect the position of your brand in the search;
  • test screenshots.

So ASO and ASA are inextricably linked. More precisely, the proper advertising in ASA significantly increases the effectiveness of ASO.

Netpeak has launched a new service called «performance-based ASO» where you pay only for results. Order it with the Apple Search Ads service via this form:

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