Apple’s Search Ads Platform is Simplistic, But Effective

When Apple announced earlier this year that it would begin to sell app install ads in the App Store, similar to what Google has done on Play with Universal App Campaigns, many of us in the digital marketing space were cautiously optimistic. After all, Apple has had their fair share of misses centered on mobile advertising over the past few years—notably, the inconsistencies & eventual collapse of iAd—but, executed correctly, Apple Search Ads could offer developers a much-needed boost in a stalled app download environment.

Fortunately, though it’s been less than a month since launch, so far, Apple Search Ads are delivering on cost-effective front-end KPIs; and, are even showing promise from a longer-term retention standpoint, too.

Per this report by app analytics company AppsFlyer (which, in full disclosure, I use for one of my own clients), Apple Search Ads are resulting in installs that generate an average of 6 in-app actions each—the fourth highest among all active media channels. In addition, AppsFlyer reports that over 70% of all paid installs from Apple’s Search Ads have come from non-brand search queries, with general intent & competitor keywords driving a significant portion of responses.

Image via AppsFlyer

I have personally seen install rates hovering at 30%, with cost per installs averaging below $1.70—both figures substantially better than with Google’s UAC or Facebook app install campaigns. And, given Apple users’ propensity for higher HHI and mobile spending, even if retention rates dip lower than other channels, the lower CPI will almost certainly help to balance out the lifetime value in the long-term.

Initial Platform Restrictions

Screenshot of the Apple Search Ads platform

Thus far, then, my only real complaint with the Apple Search Ads platform is the lack of sophistication offered to advertisers in v1.0. Aside for selecting some keywords, an age range, and locations within the US, Apple doesn’t give much in the way of targeting specific iOS users (in all fairness, though, it’s still more than what Google’s UAC provides).

There is no ability for advertisers to choose how their app looks in the sponsored listing; and, for now, “iPhone only” is the extent of the device targeting available (a setting that is currently greyed out in the platform). Apple does give developers the ability to exclude people who have already downloaded their app; or, as a kind-of-almost form of “remarketing”, target users who have downloaded another app that they themselves have developed.

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