Apple Search Ads: Top 7 Common Pitfalls to Avoid

It is not as easy as setting up your Apple Search Ads campaign and letting it run. In this article, we gathered 7 common pitfalls you should avoid.

Talip Sencan
December 4, 2020

Apple Search Ads is a powerful paid user acquisition tool that should be used by anyone trying to grow their app. The App Store is estimated to have over 1.8 million apps available according to Apple. With correct execution, Apple Search Ads can help you stand out from the crowd in an extremely competitive market.

Apple Search Ads provides two options to run your campaign. Apple Search Ads Basic and Apple Search Ads Advanced. 

The basic version of the tool allows you to get a campaign started very quickly and the process is mostly automated. This model is mainly recommended for users who have limited time or money to dedicate to marketing purposes.

Apple Search Ads Advanced is the tool of choice for marketers who want more control over their advertisement campaign. It allows users to fine-tune the specifics of their mobile app campaign in order to reach maximum growth. However, with great power also comes great responsibility. Campaign management is a very dynamic process that requires close attention to detail. It is not as easy as setting up your campaign and letting it run. Even the smallest mistake in your app marketing strategy can cost you both money and time. 

In this article, we gathered 7 common pitfalls you should avoid when managing your campaign to help you step up your game.

1-Not Doing Proper Research

keyword intelligence research

Increasing visibility is the first step that should be taken when aiming to extend your user base. Choosing the right keywords for your strategy is essential for any ASO campaign. Deciding on the right keywords to bid on for your Apple Search Ads campaign should be one of your primary goals. 

However, you should not forget that for Apple Search Ads to help find the greatest success, your app should also be organically strong. This means that you should bid on keywords that are actually relevant to your app in order to get the best ROAS. Otherwise, you will have to bid more to win your auctions which will increase your advertising costs.

Keyword preferences of users change so fast that it is difficult to keep up with the pace. A proven way to start your keyword research is by researching your competitors. This way you can get an overall understanding of the words used to search for apps that belong to the same category. For this step, you can take advantage of App Store Optimization platforms to get an understanding of the app market.’s Keyword Intelligence tools and Mobile Action’s Search Ads Intelligence feature allow you to see which keywords your competitors are bidding on or ranking organically. You can optimize your keywords according to the search trends. This way you can make informed choices about the keywords that you will bid on to maximize your visibility.

Apple Search Ads also lets you run discovery campaigns. These campaigns will allow you to see if there are any patterns in user searches that match your app. You can discover frequent misspellings, relevant words, long-tail keywords, and even more. By adding these keywords to your bidding list you can increase your chances of being seen.

2- Constructing Your Campaign Poorly

The second mistake that people make is creating campaigns without knowing how to structure them. First of all, let us clear some terms.

Search Match is a keyword discovery tool that uses several parameters such as your metadata, information about different apps in the same category, and more to match your ad to relevant searches. As you can guess, it is not the most target-driven method. However it does have a key benefit. By running Search Match, you can discover new keywords that you did not previously use and add them to your bidded keywords. This way you can benefit from new search trends on the App Store. 

Exact match is used for specific keywords that you want to appear in. This method is quite cost-efficient as it allows you to target users who are interested in your app. Exact match also looks out for close variants of your keywords such as misspellings or plurals. This kind of matching usually results in lower impressions but higher conversion rates.

Broad match allows you to reach a wider audience compared to exact match. You can appear in less relevant searches however you will probably get more impressions.

It is essential that you employ the appropriate match type for your campaign. Apple Search Ads recommends 4 main campaign types. A Brand campaign to target users who are interested directly in your app, a Competitor campaign to reach the customers of your competitors, a Generic campaign to benefit from people interested in your category, and finally a Discovery campaign where you can target a wide range of potential users. recommends you use the exact match type for all campaigns except the Discovery campaign. Only in the Discovery campaign, you should turn on Search Match and use broad match.

3-Skipping Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are very important for your Apple Search Ads campaign. In any marketing strategy, one of the main goals should be to keeping the costs low. The last thing you want to do is waste your hard-earned money because you did not properly structure your campaign. Negative keywords allow your app to not appear in specific searches. For example, if you are only selling men’s shoes, you would not want to appear on the keyword “female shoes”. Thus you can be specific about the keywords that you do not want to appear in.

An important tip is to add your exact match keywords as negative keywords to your discovery campaign. Otherwise, you would be competing against yourself to appear in those words.

4-Not Leveraging Creative Sets

apple search ads creatives

Optimizing, optimizing, optimizing... This word seems to become the theme of this post. Creative sets are one of the most important tools that Apple Search Ads provides. By aligning your use of creatives with certain audiences, you can greatly reduce your CPA.

Apple Search Ads allows you to use up to 20 variations of your creatives per ad group. By giving a few examples, we hope to clarify the importance of Creative Sets.

Let’s presume that you have an app that belongs to the Health & Fitness category. It might include workout tips, nutrition tips, sleeping tips, and more. For those users that searched for a fitness-related keyword, you can display screenshots of fitness-related tools in your app. On the other hand, if a user searches for a nutrition-related keyword, you can display your meal plan customizer in your ad. If you are further interested in this topic, you can check out this blog post where we discussed how to target your audience visually via Creative Sets.

You can also align Creative Sets with audience types. If you have a shopping app, you can use female fashion-related images on your ad while doing the opposite for a male audience. 

Without having effective ad creatives, it will be difficult to keep your CPA low as you will have a lower tap-through-rate. That is why we recommend using tools such as MobileAction’s Ad Intelligence in order to understand the types and content of creatives that are being used in your category.  Competitor’s creatives have the potential to tell a great story. By looking at what your competitors use to attract potential users, you can design more efficient creatives. That is why you should always do your research before starting your app marketing campaign.

5-Not Actively Monitoring Bids

search ads bidding

The app market is a very dynamic environment. Preferences, search habits, and much more can change in the blink of an eye. So it is essential that you actively manage your campaign. Monitoring subtle differences in performance metrics and optimizing your strategy constantly is critical for achieving the highest ROAS. 

This process is especially difficult for User Acquisition managers who have to oversee multiple campaigns simultaneously. Things can get overwhelming very quickly as the number of apps, keywords, and bids increase. Unfortunately, it is not possible for most UA managers to monitor these metrics continuously due to time or budget constraints. 

Luckily, has the perfect solution for this issue. You can easily specify actions that are to be completed upon the occurrence of specific conditions with our Automation Tools. This way you will get rid of a substantial amount of tedious work so you can spend your time and resources on developing your strategies. 

For example, you can automatically increase your bids on high performing keywords. While determining your condition, you can choose from different metrics such as cost per goal, amount of impressions, CPI, and other metrics. Our Automation tools also allow UA managers to automate the process of adding well-performing Discovery campaign keywords to exact match ad groups to save time.

Such tools will allow you to keep advertising costs as little as possible while minimizing the time required for running a campaign. This way you can focus on things that matter for your growth strategy.

6-Ignoring Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) Users

lat users apple

Due to Apple’s Privacy Policy, LAT On install data cannot be passed through the Apple Search Ads Attribution API used by mobile measurement providers (MMPs), so the number of attributed conversions reported by your MMP may be lower.  These users cannot be targeted with audience optimization while also being untraceable with regard to their in-app activities (trials, purchases, etc.). This has great implications for the accuracy of our data. 

It is not a reasonable strategy to ignore these users altogether as Singular estimates LAT users' percentage to be around 30%. It would not be a wise business plan to ignore a third of your potential user base. 

First of all, we should remind you that LAT users still see ads. However, they cannot be targeted nor tracked (It is not possible to understand where they came from). The problem surfaces when you compare Apple Search Ads data to your MMP data. Because the IDFA (identifier for advertisers) of users who have LAT On are not passed on to MMP’s, they will be categorized as organic downloads in your MMP data as their source can not be determined. Another issue is the in-app activity. Even though User Acquisition seems to take the spotlight most of the time, a great deal of revenue is generated through in-app activities. LAT On users may cause reporting differences in your data by generating revenue that can not be sourced. We have an entire post dedicated to explaining how to overcome data discrepancies. allows users to estimate their LAT user base with its LAT On Coefficient. By using this metric, you will have an estimation of the number of untrackable users that are using your app. This way you can optimize your strategies without the fear of having inaccurate data. 

7-Not Using Mobile Measurement Providers

mobile measurement providers

Acquiring new users is just one piece of the entire puzzle which is growth. Apple Search Ads will dramatically increase your chances of drawing in new users. However another important piece of the puzzle is post-install metrics. This is where Mobile Measurement Providers come in. They can track post-install activities for you and provide data that will be helpful for an accurate representation of user behavior. Merging MMP data with Apple Search Ads data is crucial for your overall UA strategy. This way you can reveal the true costs of your advertising activities and the returns you get from them. integrates your attribution partner data with your Apple Search Ads data, maximizing the accuracy of your financial metrics such as Cost-per-Install, Average Revenue per User, and more. Such data allows you to get a realistic view of your campaign performance while also minimizing data discrepancies so you can take the steps necessary to increase your growth.


Apple Search Ads is an incredible tool that can be utilized to boost your growth. Being a relatively new platform, it can be overwhelming to get an effective campaign up and running by yourself. We hope that the mistakes we have listed here today will help you improve your marketing strategy and get you closer to your goals. 

As an Apple Search Ads Partner, helps users discover ways to improve their strategies and succeed in the app market. If you are curious about how we lead customers to success, schedule a demo with us today to find out!

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