App Store Search Ads for Brands: What You Need To Know

November 15, 2017

App Store Search Ads is the biggest opportunity in the app marketing space. According to Apple itself, you can invest as much or as little time as you have and still get results. If your brand isn’t already taking advantage of this unique opportunity, now is the time to get started.

Why App Store Search Ads?

Search Ads are ads on the App Store that users see when they search for an app using specific keywords. This advertising tactic is crucial to add to your marketing strategy. Here are just a few facts that highlight its importance:

  • 70% of App Store customers use search to discover new apps.
  • 65% of downloads come directly from App Store search.
  • Search Ads average conversion rate is 50%.

Digiday reported that Search Ads outperform most other user-acquisition strategies, at a cost that’s a fraction of the alternatives. Success running effective Search Ads shouldn’t come to any surprise because the psychology behind the advertising method makes perfect sense. Unlike seeing an app install ad while using a social or gaming app, users browsing the App Store are in the mindset to download a new app.

Also, according to AdAge, many brands ー especially those in retail and travel ー are seeing massive returns.

How Search Ads Work

When a user searches a keyword, you can bid on a placement at the top of those results. Only a single ad will appear on any given search, and Apple has placed more emphasis on serving ads based on relevance than on bid amounts.

For example, if a potential user searched “women’s hats,” and your brand bid on an ad for this search result, the app may be featured as the top result. Ultimately, placing as the top result depends on how relevant the app is, followed by the bid amount.

How to Create a Search Ad Campaign

Creating a Search Ad Campaign is easy, intuitive, and takes almost all of the guesswork out of the equation for non-technical people. If you’d like to see a step-by-step tutorial, watch the following video by the app marketing experts at Incipia.

Best Practices

When creating Search Ads, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Invest in App Store Optimization: Search Ads uses the metadata, video, and icon/screenshots already provided in your App Store listing to create your ad. It’s important to invest in ASO and make sure everything is completely optimized before creating an ad campaign.
  • Define ideal terms: It’s crucial to target keywords that are both relevant to your app and frequently searched. Take a step back to really understand what your ideal user will search for in the App Store.

Source: Apple

  • Ensure the creative is high-quality: The creative elements of your app listing (and ads) have the biggest impact on conversion rates. It’s important to make sure your app icon and screenshots are optimized.
  • Figure out the costs involved: Apple Search Ads operate on a Cost Per Tap (CPT) model. If someone taps on the ad, you pay for it whether or not the user downloads the app. Do the math to figure out how much you can afford to invest, to see an ROI.
  • Bid on Brand: Bid on your brand /app name. Metric Theory found that Brand CPI’s are higher than those of non-brand, which just shows how competitive bidding is. Odds are, your competitors will try to steal users searching for your app.


App Store Search Ads are a huge play and a great investment. It gives established brands and even new startups another way to increase their visibility while reaching their target audience.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • 65% of downloads come directly from App Store search.
  • Search Ads outperform most other user-acquisition strategies.
  • It’s important to invest in ASO and make sure everything is completely optimized before creating an ad campaign.
  • Bid on your brand /app name to keep competitors from stealing potential users.