How to Use Apple Search Ads to Boost Mobile User Acquisition

15 Dec 2020

Apple Search Ads (ASA) are sponsored ads that appear at the top of search results on the App Store, which drive awareness for apps, giving app developers and marketers the opportunity to increase visibility for their app and grow mobile user acquisition.

70% of App Store users find apps through search. With ASA you can reach your potential new users when they’re searching for apps, and in this article we will share with you several search ads best practices that you can use to grow mobile user acquisition effectively.

Step 1: Establish Your Campaign Goals
Step 2: Step 2: Construct Your Keyword Strategy
Step 3: Identify Your Keywords
Step 4: Maintain and Optimise Your ASA Campaign
Step 5: Track the Success of Your ASA Campaign

TL;DR: 1) Know what you want to achieve with your ASA campaign. 2) Include brand keywords, competitor keywords, generic keywords, and other related keywords in your keyword strategy. 3) Find valuable keywords that fit your campaign goals. 4) Monitor the performance of your ASA campaign and optimise it where necessary. 5) Be sure to track the success of your campaign.

Step 1: Establish Your Campaign Goals

Knowing what your campaign goals are is paramount

Campaign goals matter. Whether it’s attracting new users, improving brand recognition, or increasing subscriptions, knowing what you want to achieve helps create a clear vision when it comes to selecting keywords and constructing your campaign.

At Digital Workroom, we communicate with our clients – this could be their app developer, app owner, or product manager – to understand their campaign goals so that we can align every element of our work to achieve maximum growth.

Step 2: Construct Your Keyword Strategy

Give your keyword strategy a solid structure

Before you launch an ASA campaign you need to have a keyword strategy in place. To ensure your keyword strategy covers a comprehensive range of search terms, consider all four types of keywords:

  1. Brand terms – Keywords containing your brand name (i.e. Adidas)

  2. Competitor terms – Terms including brands and names of your competitors, (i.e. Puma)

  3. Generic terms – Keywords that describe your product or service (i.e. trainers, running shoes)

  4. Explore terms – Terms that are not directly related to your business that your audience may be searching for (i.e. running, jogging

Only one paid ad is shown at the top of each search result. To land that highly sought-after top spot you need to bid strategically against your competitors, but remember: the amount you bid on each keyword is not the only aspect the ASA algorithm takes into account when determining which ads will be served.

ASA analyses the way the App Store indexes your app as well as how well your app ranks for particular keywords to decide whether your ad is presented, and the most relevant app to the search stands a better chance at getting selected as the sponsored ad. So having a well-constructed keyword strategy is absolutely essential.

Step 3: Identify Your Keywords

Find the most relevant keywords to target and bid on

The success of an Apple Search Ads campaign relies heavily on pinpointing the best keywords and making informed bidding decisions. Here are some keyword research methods to kickstart your search for the right keywords:

  • Invest in paid tools like Mobile Action, Sensor Tower, AppFollow, AppTweak, and App Annie; or use a free alternative like Google Keyword Planner.

  • Think like your users and find working keywords from user reviews.

  • Run discovery campaigns to expand your keyword pool.

The key here is to improve your ad relevance by doing the following:

  • Consider what your users type in the search bar to look for a similar app to yours

  • Take into account how your users phrase search queries

  • Look for broader terms by including synonyms, alternative words, and even misspellings

  • Keep testing ad variations with visual sets until you get it right

Don’t forget to include synonyms that users might use and alternate spellings, too.

Step 4: Maintain and Optimise Your ASA Campaign

An illustrative example of data tracking dashboard

After you get your ASA campaign up and running, you will need to keep an eye on it to make sure you accomplish the growth you set out to.

You can monitor the performance of your campaign by examining key performance indicators that are relevant to your campaign objectives. For example, if your goal is to boost awareness and get more eyeballs on your app then you need to pay attention to the number of impressions; if you’re trying to increase downloads, naturally that’s the metric you need to look out for.

If your campaign is not achieving your goals, you should firstly assess what’s performing well and what’s not to locate opportunities for further growth. Then you’ll want to experiment by adjusting your bids for your campaign based on performance and possibly replacing certain keywords that aren’t working as well – it's all a learning curve.

Step 5: Track the Success of Your ASA Campaign

Track the success of your ASA campaign

In order to optimise your advertising budget effectively, it’s paramount that you track the response to your ASA campaign.

For the most part, you can monitor the success of your campaign using ASA. However, if you have a subscription-based app like our client Deliciously Ella or our own Noted, it’s worth noting that ASA does not track in-app subscription data. That means if your campaign goal is to generate more subscriptions while users are using your app, this is a potential hurdle that you need to be aware of.

Our client Deliciously Ella's search ad

In Deliciously Ella’s case, our data analysts and developers overcome this obstacle by implementing tracking on the search ads using the Apple Search Ads Attribution API, which is fed through to our own Google Data Studio dashboard that tells us when a user signs up for subscription after clicking on an ad. This enables us to accurately measure the search ad’s effectiveness in terms of subscription growth and return on investment.

That’s not all, implementing your own in-app event tracking also gives you a bigger and better picture of how your users are interacting with your app, which can be immensely valuable when it comes to improving your app and your app marketing strategy.

Accelerate Your Mobile App Growth

Get your app seen and downloaded by more people. Fire over an email to or connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – and we will help you achieve mobile app growth.

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