10 Things You Need to Know on the Recent Apple Search Ads Updates

In this article we'll dive into some best practices for Apple Search Ads optimization and check out how SearchAds.com can help you.

Bora Sipahi
December 16, 2022

There's still a buzz around the mobile marketing ecosystem with the new ad placements updates of Today tab Ads and product page ads coming to the Apple Search Ads platform.

Appsflyer said in its mobile advertising report that Apple Search Ads tripled its market share since the first half of 2020. When you think about the economic turmoil the whole world is currently facing, it is pretty impressive, to be honest. Before the new ad placements updates, we had the custom product pages and pricing model change (from CPM to CPT) as well. Quite a year for Apple Search Ads, isn't it?

At SearchAds.com, we recently hosted a webinar to take an in-depth look at the latest updates on the Apple Search Ads platform and why mobile app advertisers should take their places on this ever-evolving channel with industry experts from:

  • Tinuiti: Mollie Sheridan, Senior Manager of App Paid Search
  • Airbridge: Roi Nam, CEO
  • App Masters: Steve Young, Founder
  • ShyftUp: Cihan Ilter, Head of User Acquisition
  • SearchAds.com: Emre Bilgic, Apple Search Ads Client Partner

And here are the 10 things we learned while running the webinar:

  1. Investing in Apple Search Ads is a no-brainer.

When it comes to advertising your app, you have a lot of choices. But if you're looking to invest in a platform that will deliver strong results, Apple Search Ads is the way to go. Because search intent is the best intent. It allows you, the app advertisers, to grab users' attention when they are at the very instant of choosing which apps to download. And it leads to a strong conversion rate! 

Per Apple Search Ads' official website, 70% of the App Store visitors use search to find their next app, and search results ads have a more than 60% average conversion rate. Echoing Mollie, iOS users also tend to have a stronger LTV than Android users.

2. More people need to utilize the Custom product pages.

Custom Product Pages

In our webinars, we love to ask our audience questions to hear their voice. More than 60% of our webinar attendees told us they either don't know what custom product pages are or haven't tested them yet.

You're probably spending a lot of time and money on your Apple Search Ads campaigns. Then, why not make the most out of them? Oh, and by the way, you need custom product pages to use Today tab ads!

Custom product pages allow you to customize your visuals to match your messaging, which will help you with the targeting. It can only improve all of your key metrics and increase your efficiency. Especially if your app has different verticals or different value propositions.

Tailoring custom product pages to queries can raise your tap-through rates and conversion rates. In the end, a higher tap-through rate will lower your cost-per-taps, and your CPAs will be more efficient with a stronger conversion rate.

All of these industry experts can't be wrong, right? See how to leverage Custom Product Pages for maximum growth in Apple Search Ads right here.

3. From now on, youll be able to generate demand within the App Store.

Today tab ads is here! And it's the most significant update that came to Apple Search Ads recently.

Today tab is the first screen users see when they open the App Store. With this update, you'll be able to place your ads on that particular page, allowing you to capture users' attention as soon as they open the App Store.

It's exciting because you'll be able to show the users your app's visuals to generate a search demand. And this is entirely new to the App Store and Apple Search Ads. There will be your app icon in the center of the ad. The app name and subtitle you entered in the App Store Connect will also be included.

In search results, the user already has the intent to make, and as app advertisers, we were trying to catch these high-intent users. They were searching for a specific keyword, product, or brand, right?

So, what the Today tab ads will do basically is generate the demand for your app and improve your brand awareness. It can be said that it will be massive from the branding perspective.

4. Killer custom product pages are crucial for Today tab ads.

Do you want to try out the Today tab ads? You have to start with creating custom product pages to do so. And you have to follow certain guidelines provided by Apple Search Ads in order for them to be approved for advertising on the Today tab. Because in addition to reviewing your name, app icon and subtitle Apple Search Ads will also review your custom product pages too before creating a Today tab ad.

Assets from the custom product page you set as the your top destination will animate in the background of the ad and will appear in a color of your app icon.

Just to point out a few, the screenshots that you have from the UI of your app are going to be occupying 2/3 of the screen with no distortions, your messaging needs to be brief with no promotional claims, and you must avoid App Store-style language (i.e. 'App Of The Year!').

With the little blue 'Ad' button underneath, it's safe to say that Today tab ads will be visually differentiable by the users in the Today tab. So, try to make it as cohesive as possible and take a minimalistic approach by doing more with less. 

Oh, and by the way, if you need help, you can always leverage our team of mobile growth experts to manage your custom product pages and Apple Search Ads campaigns. Just schedule a call with us!

5. Your app can show up on your competitors product pages now.

Yes! You heard it right. 

With product page ads, your app will be visible to users that you target in the 'You Might Also Like' section. This section is the last thing users see on any product pages when they scroll down.

This placement also comes with three specific targeting options for the category level, which are as follows, 'All Categories', 'Similar Categories', and 'Other Categories'.

6. Product page ads will be efficient.

Regardless of the amount of traffic it will generate, it’s highly likely that product page ads will bring higher conversion rates…

Think of it this way, the users that will land on your competitor’s product pages will either go back to the Search tab section and make their search a little bit more specific, or they will scroll down to try to find more information and land on the ‘You Might Also Like’ section.

Targeting them with product page ads, especially with the 'Similar Category' option, will definitely help you capture those users, but you can increase the effectiveness of your Apple Search Ads campaigns by focusing on the search terms that lead people to your competitor's pages as well. 

For some reason, they didn't tap on your app but chose to tap on your competitor instead, right? Try to optimize your organic keywords, product page, and app profile as much as possible to avoid this situation. For the rest? Product Page Ads will be there.

7. Pricing model change did wonders for Search tab ads.

This year, Apple Search Ads switched the pricing model for Search tab ads from CPM (cost-per-thousand) to CPT (cost-per-tap), and as of now, whole Apple Search Ads platform is operating with CPT (cost-per-tap) model, including Today tab ads and product page ads. So, the money you will be spending will not be based on your app's impressions. It will be based on taps (think of it as the clicks in the mobile marketing ecosystem). 

Leaving our Apple Search Ads Client Partner Emre Bilgic's pro-tip as a portion of food for thought…

"One of the things I was able to do with the Search tab side, once it switched to the cost-per-tap pricing model, I was able to have a higher daily budget with a lower bid. I was able to generate hundreds of thousands of impressions, and it was improving my brand awareness very greatly.”

It can be said that it’s a great time to test Search tab ads once more and adjust your approach here if you didn’t feel impressed with your campaign results previously. They’re definitely more cost-efficient now!

8. Dip your toe in the water, and be patient.

Today tab ads and product page ads are the hottest things in Apple Search Ads and could bring tremendous positive results to your app during the holiday season. But everyone wants to test them out. 

As mentioned, Today tab ads require a custom product page approved for advertising. So, try to get ready as soon as possible! 

You can seize the opportunity here and be an early adopter. This can boost your app’s revenue during this holiday season.

Few steps to take here:

  • Dedicate a test budget (depends on how much you're willing to spend for test purposes) for your experiments
  • Try to run your Today tab ads and product page ads campaigns for one month (at least two weeks if you're budget sensitive) to get meaningful spending, impression, tap-through rate, and conversion rate data
  • Observe on a day-to-day basis based on the data presented to you if this is going to be working well for you or not
  • If you get positive results, optimize

If you’re not getting the results you’d expect:

  • Run Today tab with a dedicated daily budget
  • Increase or decrease the CPT bid if you are able to spend the daily budget entirely. You should be able to spend your dedicated budget easily with the Today tab, so the strategy to optimize your performance will be to decrease your bid to the point you are able to spend your daily budget with the lowest bid possible.
  • The key is to generate as many impressions and taps as possible to have exposure to your app. Keep in mind that these users, who might not download your app through the Today tab ad, might come through your Apple Search Ads campaigns or your Organic listings later. The key metrics to follow will always be Impressions, Taps, Average CPT, and Average CPM.
  • Alternatively, if you are unable to utilize the Today tab effectively during seasonal events, and as you are required to use only screenshots from your UI without damaging your in-app metrics, you can try to incorporate more relevant messaging by changing your UI to be more "festive" during these event times and use these screenshots.
  • You can use this strategy to include screenshots from your app with more popping-out visuals in specific screens to use in your Today tab to improve your tap-to-install conversion rates.

This way, you can have enough spending, tap-through rate, and conversion rate data presented to you daily to observe if this will work well for you (or not).  

9. Be aware of the indirect impacts.

We already mentioned that these recent updates will significantly benefit your branding. Generating demand and creating awareness around your app can take much longer time than you'd expect, though.

While observing your campaign results, keep an eye out for the benefits from not only the Apple Search Ads channel but also the overall benefits that you're generating from the App Store, such as your organic keyword rankings, app visibility, and install numbers during this process.

10. Apple Search Ads really deliver the most accurate attribution results.

From the measurement perspective, Roi Nam, CEO of the mobile measurement solution Airbridge, underlined that Apple Search Ads is based on an API called AdServices, and because of that, it offers the most accurate attribution results while showing respect to user privacy. 

This means that app advertisers can get more insight into how users, who convert through Apple Search Ads, perform down-funnel and their retention. These are valuable data points for marketers so you can understand the appeal of advertisers wanting to spend a lot of their iOS devoted budgets on Apple Search Ads.

Want to find out more?

Yes, there is more to it! Check out the full webinar in which our panelists from Tinuiti, ShyftUp, App Masters and Airbridge offer many more insights into the opportunities that iOS user acquisition provides for your mobile app growth and answer the audience questions. It’s still worth watching and enjoying!

Oh, and the final thing… Yes, Apple Search Ads can turn into your best marketing channel

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