Skip to main content


We’ve talked about Apple Search Ads in a previous post, where we discussed what they were and how they can affect you as a developer or as a mobile app publisher, now, it’s time to dive deeper into Apple Search Ads and hear from the experts and learn a few tips and tricks about how you can effectively use it.

Since its launch, there have been many reactions to Apple Search Ads, some loved the fact that they don’t have to share the revenue they earn with Apple and others think that it’s the worst thing that Apple has ever done, claiming that it will only benefit big mobile app developers and publishers and leave Indie app developers and publishers out in the cold.

The last claim is only true if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is where you should read on.

Apple Search Ads in a nutshell…

According to Apple, 65% of app downloads come from organic search results, which explains why the format of the search ads look like regular listings from the app store.

Except for the small blue ‘ad’ icon on a search ad, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a regular app store listing from a search ad.


Below are a few tips from the experts about running an ad using Apple Search Ads.

1. Target Locally


Think about who you want to see your campaign when you run them. There are literally a million apps in the app store, and chances are more than a handful of those apps are similar to yours.

So how do you reach your target audience? By using specific keywords or keyword variations.

Jason Parks, President of The Media Captain gave this tip which he learned when he ran his first campaign for Columbus Yellow Cab, “Make sure you know the city or region you want to target. We had no desire to get clicks outside of the Columbus market. Select at least 10 keywords to bid on when starting your first campaign because there are numerous variations that people will type to find your app and you want to see what converts the best, so that you can double down on keywords that perform the best.”

Although ‘Yellow Cab’ as a keyword ranks high on the app store, people don’t know that the famous taxi cab is not one giant corporation but is owned and operated by different individuals in different cities. Jason’s problem was that their app isn’t ranking well for just the term ‘Yellow Cab’, so they had to be location specific and used ‘Columbus Yellow Cab’ in order to reach their target audience.

2. Use Long Tail Keywords

According to this Venture Beat article, Apple considers relevance more important than the amount you’re willing to bid. Apple search ads come with impressive advanced targeting features that you can use when you run a search ad.

This is good news for skeptics who think that search ads will only benefit big app developers and publishers.

User experience is very important to Apple, and there’s nothing that will displease a user more than irrelevant ads.

Take it from Philippe Levieux, the Co-Founder of Infltr, who thinks that the search ads are a blessing for anyone with an app on the app store. He says, “Stay accurate in terms of keywords! Don’t use generic keywords even if those keywords rank high, the conversion rate will be low and you will end up with a bad experience. We have had amazing return from Ad Search, our sales have increased a lot because the app appears when the user is already ready to buy.”

He says that they’ve tried running ads on different social media platforms but their conversion rate remained minimal and they ended up spending more than earning any profit for their ads. They have a paid app, so even if they have been featured by the app store in more than 150 countries, it wasn’t raining downloads for them. Until search ads came along.

3. Use Negative Keywords

Making sure your keywords are not blocked by a negative keyword is just as important as doing research on what keywords you want to use to run your campaign with.

Negative keywords are also important for keeping your app’s ROI high, according to this article, it also says that it improves your TTR, meaning it will also improve your chance of serving ads.

Here’s a recommended campaign structure from Jonathan Levy the Digital Marketing Manager for Flexjet. His common campaign types are top keywords, general, competitive and branded.

Broad, exact, search match. For negative keywords, use the following:

  • -[exact] in broad
  • -broad in search match

4. Listen to Your Users

According to iMore, if you don’t update your apps to address compatibility issues or don’t listen to your users’ issues about your app, they will assume your app has been abandoned and will delete it.

If you’re not so concerned about app store ratings before, you should be now. It’s a great way to find out what improvements you need to make, as well address any bugs your users may be experiencing.


With 1.5 millions on the App Store since July of 2015, it only makes sense for Apple to start purging and removing apps that have not been compliant with users’ requests for improvements as well as apps that are not getting enough downloads for it to stay relevant. The purge has started, so make sure your app survives it.

5. Optimize Your App

This is good news for developers and publishers alike who have already mastered the art of ASO.

Work on your app icon, app title, improve your description and make sure your screenshots stand out. When a user comes across your app’s page, their decision whether to download your app or not is based on what they see, they’re more likely to click on the ‘Get’ button if they like what they see.

ASO or App Store Optimization is still one of the best ways for your app to come up when a user searches for a specific app in the app store, but with search ads in the mix, competition will be harder, you can read this article to find out more about how we increase downloads using ASO.

6. Plan Your Budget

With the current format of Apple search ads where you get 100% of the revenue and campaign budgets are flexible, it’s still fairly easy to overspend.

Take it from Max Robinson of Aims Media, who hears nothing but complaints from their clients about overspending but getting no impressions for their apps. “One of the main complaints I hear about search ad campaigns is that they never receive any impressions. It is an issue that can usually be solved by simply increasing your bid.”

Although he suggests to increase the bid for this to change, it’s not a guarantee that your app will get more impressions or downloads.

It’s great if you can spend more on running campaigns but if you’re on a budget, it’s still best to do some research about your audience and optimize your app, that way when you run your ad, you’ll get better results.

Have any advice about running Apple Search Ads that isn’t on this article yet? Let us know in the comments!

*Quotes are not verbatim and have been edited for clarity and grammar but still retains its original meaning.

Ane Fallarme

Ane Fallarme manages the content and PR relations at App Masters.

One Comment

  • Coinnect App says:

    Hi Ane,

    I have been using Search Ads for my game Coinnect – Do you have any keyword suggestions. Right now I am running a campaign for specific keywords like – make money, win real money. You have any suggestions for me or how I can increase my conversion rate. Thanks!

Leave a Reply