Apple Search Ads 2023 - a guide to tab ads
Apple Search Ads is evolving and improving along with the App Store, so we decided to take a look at where App Store advertising is possible and how best to use them in our app marketing strategy for 2023
Statistics and interesting facts about the App Store
According to Store Insights, there are almost five and a half million applications on the App Store, and about sixty thousand new ones were added to them in September alone.
The first quarter of 2023 showed 8.1 billion installs on the App Store. And the total income of developers on the Apple App Store has shown constant growth since 2014.
Creating an application, despite its complexity and hard work, may not be the most critical stage in its life path. We find ourselves in a highly competitive field where we must put in much effort to ensure that our app meets the target users. We have already paid much attention to optimization issues - text and visual ASO, as the basis for further application development, and we will not diminish their importance. However, additional steps for development and promotion are no less critical, although meaningless without high-quality optimization. And today, we will look at the tool the App Store offers for promoting iOS applications, namely Apple Search Ads.
Apple Search Ads - placements and placement process
Let's start with the basics: Apple Search Ads is a self-service advertising platform provided by Apple through which app developers and marketers promote their apps on the App Store.
ASA (Apple Search Ads) placements:
- Today tab
- Search results
- App page
Today, it is a tab that receives more than half a billion visitors daily and is where a user begins their journey on the App Store. This is the most visible place in the store. Therefore, the maximum number of users will see our advertisement only by entering the app store. Sounds great, doesn't it?
What exactly will the user see? He will be shown the title, subtitle, and application icon, and clicking will take him to the Custom Product Page of our application.
Basic steps to create ads for the Today tab:
- Let's create our custom page (CPP). You can find details in our article about making a CPP, but here, we'll remind you that a new application build is unnecessary.
- The created and approved page leads us to the next step, creating an advertising campaign in Apple Search Ads. Here, we are faced with the types of advertising campaigns Advanced and Bacis, which we discussed earlier in our article. But we'll give them a little attention here, a little later. To create ads in the Today tab, we need Apple Search Ads Advanced, and remember that these ads are displayed on iPhones with iOS 16.4 and later. Also, the Today advertising tab is not available in mainland China.
- After creating a campaign, Apple Search Ads will check it (icon and metadata for compliance with advertising campaign requirements). The advertisement will appear in the store immediately after approval unless we have a launch planned for a specific date.
A short list of recommendations for advertising in the ASA:
- Standard requirements for visual elements; therefore, no violent content or insults of a sexual, religious, or other nature.
- The CPP must be localized to the region where the advertising campaign is conducted.
- No content implies motivating the user (we are talking about the promise of direct or indirect reward).
- All information on the page must comply with Apple's policies.
The Search tab is another place where advertising will help promote our application. Apple announced it in May 2021, and we got an excellent opportunity to advertise our application in Search at the top of the list. Apps appear before users begin keyword searches and are targeted solely to custom audiences, whether manually or automatically defined.
The peculiarity of Search is that users come here with the explicit goal of finding and installing. This means that the audience coverage is smaller than that of the Today tab, but the quality of users is higher.
The specificity of this placement is that advertisements in the Search section do not depend on keywords but are determined by ASA platform technologies, including relevance, effectiveness, and bid size. Here, the user preferences, their download history, and similar applications that have already been installed are assessed. So, users who have recently downloaded apps for purchasing airline tickets will likely receive apps for booking hotels and planning vacations in their recommendations. This is how the selection of applications that will be advertised in Search works, except when the user refuses personalized advertising (starting with iOS 14.5, users have this option).
The initial data for advertising is the same as Custom Product Pages, which contain our application's title, subtitle, and icon.
Search Results is the most popular place to advertise apps on the App Store. The campaign is based on keywords and is a priority channel for attracting users to our application page. The reason is location, as the search is responsible for 65% of all app downloads on the store.
Advertising in search results has all the characteristics of users, as in the previous placement, but users have already entered a search query and are viewing the search results. They are interested in installing since they have almost reached the application page they need; it will appear in their field of view with our application; at this moment, it will be most welcome.
Our ad will appear at the top of the search results (marked as Ad). This significantly affects conversion because the user sees what they are looking for and installs it.
- The ad is created based on either our app page (by default) or we develop CPPs and customize the ad based on them.
- We can choose keywords for advertising and the audience to display it. Keywords will be suggested by the system or selected by us ourselves (for example, using Search Ads Spy, we can see what keywords our competitors are advertising for in Apple Search Ads and get a quick overview of Search Ads results for selected queries). You can read more about keywords for ASA in our article.
- Next, to display our application, you will need to place a bet that will allow you to be among the first among competitors. But here, it is worth being careful and considering that the ASA considers not only money but also relevance. An ad placement of an app in search results is determined by a combination of factors, including the relevance of our app to the search query and the bid size for the keyword.
This is where we will show our app to users who explore the product page, landing in the You Might Also Like recommendations.
We are counting on users who have studied the product page to the end but have not installed it, and we have the opportunity to interest them in our app. User behavior tells us that what users love most is choice, which we present to them. We can select the categories of applications where we want to show our advert - here, there is also the option to show off our icon, title, and subtitle, which may lead to an installation.
What's new in ASA 2023?
August 2023 brought us some excellent advertising news from the App Store; as part of the European Digital Services Act, Apple launched an advertising repository to see competitors' ads in different regions. Information about active users in EU countries also became available. According to Apple (European DSA Recipients of Services Report), the total number of active App Store users in the EU is 123 million.
Let's check how the repository works and how it can be useful to us. We select the application; you can enter the name of the developer and select the country.
We can see all advertising creatives in all geos, and by selecting a specific geo and advertising creative, we can see all the details.
In the context of the topic of our article, the repository allows us to see not only how competitors' advertising campaigns are happening in which countries but also in which placements - like Search, App Page, or the Today tab.
Now, when developing an optimization strategy, we can rely on information provided to us directly from the App Store. For example, at the stage of planning localization for European countries, we can focus on precise figures for the market's capacity that interests us.
ASA 2023 - Trends and Outlook
Apple Search Ads continues to improve the app advertising experience on the App Store, allowing us to promote our apps on the store. Since this tool is native, not third-party, to the iOS store, the popularity of its use will grow along with the popularity of the App Store, and as we have seen from the statistics, the trends and prospects are simply exciting.
- Increased visibility and installations. Using various advertising placements for our application leads to a wider reach of users, increased popularity, and, as a result, increased indexing. After all, advertising includes working with keywords, and new installations lead to increased app visibility for search queries.
- Brand recognition and strength. We can take advantage of the fact that advertising will allow us to attract users before competitors - after all, the impression will occur even before the search results, and many search queries are the name or part of the brand name.
- Testing metadata and visual elements. Advertising will allow us to test new or improved visual elements on a limited audience and help us make decisions about scaling updates to the app page.
- Advertising, like the search result, should be beautiful for users because only the icon and title with a subtitle are available for the first impression.
Advertising with Apple Search Ads is more about long-term goals than immediate results. After all, we gain a competitive advantage in the place where our application is displayed, increase awareness, and show it to new potential users.