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How to use Apple Search Ads

6 min read.

Peter Laffey, Client Manager

by Peter Laffey, Client Manager

Core Investment

Up until now, if a brand wanted to run paid ads for their app online, Google was the only option. That was until recently, when Apple announced that app store search ads would be available in Ireland, for the first time. This announcement comes as great news to marketers, who now have an additional platform to promote their app.

Unsurprisingly, Google currently dominates this space with their Universal App Campaign feature, however, now that Apple has launched their offering in Ireland, it represents an opportunity to test activity across two platforms and prioritise whichever delivers better returns.

Android users in Ireland are in the region of 58% while 41% of the population use Apple (iOS) devices so we were keen to test Apple as a new platform for our client eFlow – the barrier-free M50 toll operator.


What are Apple search ads?

An Apple search ad is an ad format to help people discover your app at the top of App Store search results. This ad format displays with a blue background to indicate that it’s a paid advertising format.


More control for brands.

These ads gives brands more control. Under the current universal app campaign format available through Google, app ads are served across the entire Google suite. This means ads are destined to show on the Google display network, Google search network, Google play store, on YouTube and in-app whether you like it or not. While the ability to target iOS operated devices is available with Googles UAC’s, there are tracking restrictions preventing a view on download performance. Similar can be said for iOS app extensions with regular expanded text ads.

However, now that we have a dedicated Apple search platform it gives us an extra string to our bow. In contrast to Google’s offering, it is a much more sophisticated approach. To begin with, there is a keyword targeting element which makes for a welcome change, compared to what Google offers. There is also the capability to refine your audience targeting by choosing a device preference; iPad, iPhone or both. You can also set your ideal customer type either; new users, returning users, users of your other apps or all users. Additionally, an ad scheduling function can also be utilised through day parting, should daily budgets need to be optimised.


How to set up Apple search ads?

To get started, navigate to and create an Apple ID through the advanced profile solution. Once your Apple ID has been linked via the app store connect account, where the app sits, you’re all set to get started with promoting the app. From there, once your budget has been agreed, there are two ad group targeting options to choose from. The first is keyword-based ad groups which will generate suggested keywords based on the popularity of your app category of which you can choose. The second ad group is called search match and this option will hand over the targeting to the system to serve your ad to whatever searches it deems relevant to your app. Over time you will then be able to observe the search queries that triggered your ads. Creating an ad group of each is determined best practice as you’ll have a blend of direct response and reach.

The ads themselves are automatically created using the metadata, and screenshots provided on the app store product page. Once your audience and customer type are selected, you’re good to go.

How do Apple Search Ads Perform?

Apple search is a new format for the Irish market and although the formats shows lower volumes in comparison to Google, as it is a single based network, the initial results we are seeing are very encouraging.

Early stats indicate a 70% higher conversion rate and a 82% lower cost per download, when we compare Apple performance against Google over a consistent time period.

Below is a graph showing the total app install pre and post apple app promotion. You’ll see the average download increases by 40% for total iOS downloads after introducing apple search activity.

To retain a certain identity, Apple amusingly displays their own twist on reporting metrics. Clicks are known as “taps,” cost per clicks are labelled as “cost per taps” and click-through rate are branded as “tap-through rates!”

Given the initial success we are seeing with Apple search ads and although the traffic volume is lower in comparison to the Google suite, we are keen to see what level of performance the platform rises and how it evolves in the future.

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