Apple Search Ads Strategy Analysis: Travel Apps

In this post, we will guide you through the Apple Search Ads strategies of three travel apps Hopper, Expedia, and Hotwire.

Talip Sencan
September 3, 2021

We have almost come to the end of the sunny days of 2021. Well, at least for the northern hemisphere this is the situation. But hey, we can always travel, can’t we? Australia might be a good choice for sun-lovers. For iOS app developers and marketers, I personally recommend going on a trip to Apple Search Ads. Opportunities are on the way, and you can maximize your growth with a good Apple Search Ads Strategy. 

In this post, we will guide you through the Apple Search Ads strategies of three travel apps. Hopper, Expedia, and Hotwire are all offering very similar services to their users but how they manage Apple Search Ads differs greatly. 

Let’s take a look at them and see if we can take lessons from their Apple Search Ads user acquisition methods. 

Hopper: Flight & Hotel Deals 

Search ads strategy

Hopper: Flight & Hotel Deals seems to be applying the most aggressive strategy among the three. It is bidding on 9122 total keywords in 7 countries, resulting in a Search Ads Visibility Score of 80. 

Before we get into detail, let’s take a look at their organic rankings. Using our Keyword Explorer tool, we can see the apps organically ranking for a given keyword. Since we are examining travel apps, the keyword “travel” will be a good starting point for us. 

search ads strategy

When users type in Travel to the search bar, Hopper meets them at the tenth place. Not a bad place at all, yet it is definitely not as good as the number one spot. Let’s see if their Apple Search Ads optimization comes to the rescue. As you know, Apple Search Ads is a great way to skip the organic line and showcase your app to users at the right time.

Search ads strategy

We see that they are getting almost one-fifth of the impression share for the travel keyword. However, Expedia, even though it has a lower Search Ads Visibility Score, is getting almost half of the impression share for a keyword as significant as travel. 

Our Search Ads Intelligence tool also gives a quick overview of the competition. As seen, we can see how many apps are running ads or how many apps are organically listed for this keyword as well as the search volume of the keyword and the chance of apps ranking at the top ten.  

Another important aspect of building an effective Apple Search Ads strategy is the popularity of the keywords that you bid on. As you would remember, Hopper is bidding on 9122 keywords. Let’s take a look at their popularity. 

Search Ads Strategy

As seen, only 1229 of the paid keywords have a popularity score of more than 10. And for the keywords with a popularity score of more than 30, the number drops to 374. 

Search Ads strategy

However, they are getting more than 50% of the impression share for 1443 keywords and this situation contributes to their impressive Search Ads Visibility Score. Your impressions share and the number of keywords you bid on are equally important for your SA visibility score. 

Search ads strategy

Expedia: Hotels, Flight & Car

As you would remember, Expedia was the app that had the biggest impression share for the travel keyword. Great performance for paid growth marketing but don’t you wonder about their organic ranking for the very same keyword?

As seen, they are ranking at #1. Let’s take a look at their performance for another related keyword: Hotel.

Again, they are leading the crowd. These organic rankings are significant because Apple Search Ads and App Store Optimization can’t be separated. For a wholesome growth strategy, you need to combine them. Because your organic rankings can give you a boost in the auctions.

Their efforts are for sure getting rewarded. Although Hopper has the best visibility score among these three, they are bidding on 8500 more keywords than Expedia while their visibility score is not that different. It has 536 total paid keywords and 127 of them have a popularity score of more than 30. Meaning that 23,7% of their paid keywords can be considered popular. This ratio is around 4% for Hopper and just a little over 5% for Hotwire. 

What is really impressive about Expedia’s Apple Search Ads strategy is its keyword selections. Expedia leading the competition with 58 keywords for this search where popularity score is above 30 and impression share is above 50.  

If you also want to have an extremely optimized Apple Search Ads experience, MobileAction is here for you. 

Hotwire: Last Minute Hotels

Let's maintain the tradition and start by taking a look at Hotwire's organic ranking, shall we?

They are ranked at 42 for the keyword 'travel'. An auction win would be great for them, right? However, they are only getting 2.6% of the impression share. Meaning that looking for ways to increase impressions could be beneficial for this specific keyword.

We have talked several times about the types of Apple Search Ads keywords such as brand or generic. The travel keyword is the generic type, and as you would agree, it would be a lot better if Hotwire improves its score in these types of keywords. However, their approach to their brand keywords is bulletproof. As you can see below, they are getting four-fifth of impression share for their brand keyword. 

Now, let’s take a general outlook at their Apple Search Ads strategy. 

They have more total paid keywords than Expedia yet they have the least Search Ads Visibility score among these three. 1565 of these keywords have a popularity score of less than 10 and their impression share in the remaining 299 keywords is not high enough.

However, they are using long-tail keywords for their own benefits, even if these keywords involve brand keywords of their competitor. They are getting at least half of the impression share for these kinds of keywords.  

Final Takeaways

In conclusion, we have witnessed the following statements: 

  • App titles are a big factor in ASO. We see all three apps are aware of the importance of app title for ASO. They are using related keywords such as hotel, car, or flight in their app title to improving their organic rankings. 
  • More keywords do not necessarily mean success. The important thing is to increase the impressions you receive from both popular generic keywords and high-intent keywords that are less popular.
  • Apple Search Ads allows you to skip the organic line and meet users at the very top of the search results. It is an effective way to increase visibility and download. 
  • App Store Optimization complements Apple Search Ads. Better organic ranks may provide you the extra push you need in the auction. Expedia, due to its organic ranking, may be winning auctions with lower bids.   

If you need a hand in Apple Search Ads, you should schedule a demo right now! Our experts are ready to take you to the next level. 

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