Apple Search Ads 101

Apple Search Ads (ASA) are sponsored text ads for driving app installs within Apple’s App Store. Apple Search ads were first introduced a few years back 2016, so it is still a very young, untapped platform. These ads can only appear on all iOS devices, meaning iPhones and iPads. 


ASA offers two types of accounts: Basic and Advanced. Search Ads Basic is the simple way to use Search Ads, but it offers very little in terms of control and has a $5,000 budget limitation. With Apple Search Basic, Apple picks the keywords for the Search Ads campaign to bid on based on what the algorithm deems as relevant. It also picks the most relevant targets to deliver the ads to. 


Basically, Apple Search Ads Basic is the bare minimum necessary for a Search Ads campaign to remain live and is completely automated. Apple Search’s algorithm is not as advanced as the machine learning capabilities of Google, but advertisers have to trust that the algorithm chooses the right keywords. It’s good for developers just getting started with Search Ads but does not provide advertisers with the performance levers that Advanced does. 


Apple Search Ads Advanced is similar to an early version of Google AdWords, without the luxury of automation. There are several limitations to ASA, which we will discuss in detail, but it has all the basic functions of a search platform. With Apple Search Ads Advanced, you can:

  • Manually target keywords and set bids

  • Add negative keywords to campaigns

  • Have insight into search terms

  • Choose target audiences

  • Leverage region targeting


The main differences between Google Ads and Apple Search Ads are:

  • ASA only has Exact and pure Broad match keywords

  • There are no shared negative keyword lists

  • No ad copy -- just “Creative Sets,” which are screenshots of the add preview page

  • There is no automated bidding for the Advanced platform


Apple search ads claim to have an impressive 50% average conversion rate for downloads, which is actually something that we have seen proven across accounts. If you or your client’s goal is to drive app installs, Apple Search is a platform you should consider exploring.


First, we’ll walk through some basic knowledge on ASA, then briefly go through the JDM Approach, and then finish off with learning how to create a standard ASA campaign structure based off of that approach. 


The Basics - A Disclaimer

 Before we get into things, I will give you this disclaimer: it is a little tricky to navigate the ASA platform. Keep in mind that this is not Google Ads. If you build your program out correctly, you will be one of the few advertisers that has taken the time to do so. The rewards of efficient and qualified conversions will be worth it. 


When creating ASA campaigns there are no bulk sheet or editor options before the campaign is built - it’s all manual. There are only two keyword match types, Broad (pure broad, no phrase or modified broad) and Exact (which does not include close variants). Once you create a keyword you are unable to change its match type. For that reason it’s important to have a good QA process prior to finalizing your keywords, especially if you are segmenting your campaigns by match type. Another limitation to strategy is a lack of negative keyword lists, so negatives must be added manually at the campaign or adgroup level. 


Once your campaigns are live, there are also limitations to management. First, there is no holistic view where you can see all ad groups or keywords at a high level. Second, there is very little insight into search terms if they are deemed as “low volume”. 

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