January 15, 2023

Using Apple Search Ads keyword campaigns to drive installs and revenue for your app

Apple Search Ads keyword campaigns to drive installs

Let’s look at how an Apple Search Ads campaign can help your subscription based iOS app not only drive installs but also have those installs turn into subscriptions.

The first thing to do is to create a Search Results campaign. As the Apple description says, “Search Results reach users the moment they’re looking for apps to download. Your ad will appear at the top of relevant results when users search in the app store”.  Next you’ll select your daily budget and any demographic targeting if so desired, as well as either the default product page or a custom product page that may have been created.  In the process of making these selections you’ll see a toggle for “Search Match” that is on by default.  We’ll want to let Apple Search Ads algorithm do its thing, which means we’ll make sure “Search Match” is left turned on in our newly created campaign.  Doing so will “Automatically match my ad to relevant searches” as Apple says.

Search Match is the easiest way to get your ads up and running. As the Apple description says, “We will automatically match your ad to users who are searching for apps like yours”. The reason we would want to start here is that Apple Search Ads will leverage the powerful Apple algorithm to match users search intent with relevant results without any other campaign setup considerations.  This super easy campaign will start working right away to get your app downloads.  So that’s it right, we’re all done?  Not quite.  While Search Term campaigns are great at leveraging the Apple algorithm for downloads, it’s not the only way nor necessarily the best way to grow your subscription based app.  We’ll next want to create a keyword campaign with information gathered from the Search Term campaign.

Why a keyword campaign?  The reason is that there is more granular data that we can use to drive not only even more installs than the Search Term campaign but also directly drive subscriptions using our MMP of choice.  

The UI for Apple Search Ads will show us which search terms are getting impressions, the amount of spend, the number of installs and the conversion rate.  Once we identify keywords getting good search volume and a good conversion rate of 35% or above, we can start to create a list of these words. We will then create a brand new campaign of keywords with only these words that will be used as exact matches.  In Apple Search Ads, keywords can be added one by one or in bulk as a list separated by commas. The key detail is to make them exact matches and not broad.  The reasoning is that we want to spend on the exact same keywords that were driving installs with a good conversion rate and significant volume in the search term campaign.  We can let the Search Term campaign continue to drive installs with broad terms, which means similar but not the same keywords. Think plural, misspellings, etc.  Once we have the new campaign setup we’ll take the list of keywords and go back into the Search Term campaign and Negatively Target those keywords as exact matches. The reason is we don’t want to bid on those keywords except as exact matches in the new campaign.

This can then be a continuous process of using the search term campaign to discover new keywords which can then be taken and added to the exact keywords campaign and excluded from the search term campaign.  The keywords themselves can have their own max CPT.  More competitive keywords are going to require a higher max CPT than more obscure keywords. You can use the handy Bid Strength column in the UI to see if the correct max CPT has been set. Even for keywords that are in green and thus set at the right bid amount, you may want to bid even higher if there is a specific keyword that you want to own.

Now for the best part. Using an MMP, such as Adjust, we can create a report view that will show the number of subscriptions events that each keyword has driven along with associated revenue from the subscriptions.  A report can be set up under your app that shows the last 30 days of ad spend, impressions and installs.  This way you’ll be able to see the value of the keyword campaigns and see where optimizations can be made.  If you see a high volume of subscription events and revenue on some particular keywords in the campaign, you can allocate more budget to the campaign in ASA.  If there is a lot of ad spend going to a keyword and it gets installs but no revenue, you may decide to remove that keyword. On the other hand it may also be important to you that your app gets a lot of downloads so maybe the installs alone are valuable to you. If you’re seeing good results in terms of installs and subscription events/revenue on a keyword that stands out even more than others, you may want to make that keyword its own campaign.  That way you can direct budget specifically to the keyword rather than have other keywords in a campaign share the budget.

Depending on how you want to manage your UA campaigns, you could look at keyword performance even more often than 30 days.  30 days could be the initial first time to look back at performance. Then you may want to look every 7 days to see if there are any changes in the past week that you would want to capitalize on.

While this process is geared toward driving revenue from subscription apps, you can also modify these steps for ad based revenue apps.  That would entail running the same setup and process for analysis but doing the keyword research all in the ASA reporting tool. Since you don’t need to know subscription events and revenue, you don’t have to look in the MMP reporting. In ASA simply look at the metrics around keywords and installs and optimize using that information.

By Mark Peterson / mark@loyal.app