Introducing Apple Search Ads

Luke Stanford

On the 25th April Apple took their first step into the UK advertising market with the launch of Apple Search Ads. These ads were initially trialed in the US and following an extremely successful launch have expanded into the UK and ANZ.

Why is this important?

The Apple App Store is the world’s 2nd largest App provider with over 2.2 million apps available on its engine. Currently there are few opportunities to advertise Apps on Apple Devices and none to advertise within the App Store itself. The fact that 65% of all app downloads come from searches within the App Store emphasises how important this new format will be to advertisers in terms of reaching users at the point of download.

Search Ads will also bring Apple into direct competition with Google for advertising spend as Google already have a number of solutions for App promotion, including; Mobile Display Advertising, App Extensions within Search Campaigns and the machine learning Universal App Campaigns. Whilst Google certainly have the larger network and number of ad formats it will be interesting to see how Apple’s focus on relevancy will impact a shift in advertiser spend towards the new format.

How They Work?

Apple are extremely focused on preserving the user experience and because they’re not reliant on advertising revenue are able to bring this into their new ad formats.

Rather than targeting campaigns in a traditional search sense, with Apple Search, relevancy takes priority over bidding. If what you’re advertising is relevant for what the user is searching for then bids won’t matter as irrelevant ads will simply not appear. This will mean that a more relevant ad will beat an ad with a higher bid 100% of the time. In this way Apple hopes to keep the playing field level for smaller developers and as they don’t rely on advertising revenue they can afford to do this.

Ad appearance relies on metadata, the information on your app created by the developers and found within the App Store, this includes:

  • App name
  • App description
  • The primary categorisation of the app
  • Review ratings

All campaigns are run on a CPT (Cost Per Tap) model, effectively you only pay when someone taps on the app.

Apple have stated due to a combination of this model and the unique approach to targeting they’re:

“Seeing conversion rates of greater than 50 percent, meaning that half the time a user clicks an ad, there’s an install. The average user acquisition costs are $1 or less.” 

What Targeting Can We Use?

Whilst relevance is the priority for Apple with these ads they do allow you to overlay a number of different targeting options onto your campaigns.

Device Targeting – Target either iPhone or iPad users, currently this format does not extend to those using iPods.

Keyword Targeting – You can implement your own list of keywords however these have to be relevant to the App you’re promoting. Alongside this Apple also suggests relevant keywords which you can choose to target.

Audience Targeting – As a default, ads would only be shown to potential new customers. However, you can choose to refine your audience by targeting people who already have the app or downloaders of other apps that you own.

Demographic Targeting – Amend the targeting by age or gender, this can be overlapped with our targeting options to ensure your reaching your most desirable target audience.

Case Studies

As this is brand new in the UK there are no case studies out yet so there’s opportunity for advertisers to be recognised as one of the leaders on the platform. Looking over to the US there are a number of brands who have benefited from the new format, including the following:


A mobile business phone service, iPlum uses Search Ads to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and attract quality users. Within two months, iPlum doubled its download rate and increased revenues by 125 percent.


App-based start-up, Skurt relies on bookings to grow its car rental business. With expansion plans across the US, it’s now using Search Ads to build brand recognition and accelerate bookings. This has led to a 60 percent increase in their bookings with Search Ads generating the highest ROI of all their paid channels.