What to Learn from Duolingo's Apple Search Ads Strategy

Duolingo’s Apple Search Ads strategy is leveraging growth globally, and they have secured their place in the top charts in the education genre.

Zehra Cetinel
July 2, 2021

Having recently filed for IPO, Duolingo is one of the most well-known language-learning apps in the Education category. With its gamified and fun language training system, it's been used by millions of users worldwide every day.

Duolingo's Apple Search Ads strategy is leveraging growth globally, and they have secured their place in the top charts in the education genre. Being so impressed by their growth, we wanted to give you a comprehensive look at their strategy, using the Keyword Auction Insights feature at SearchAds.com.

duolingo top charts
Audience Geography of Duolingo

Duolingo is actively running Apple Search Ads campaigns in 6 different countries at the moment, these storefronts are Canada, United States, France, Japan, Mexico, and United Kingdom. Half of those companies are English-speaking countries, and the rest can be counted as the top countries of different regions.

duolingo's apple search ads keywords
Number of keywords Duolingo is running Apple Search Ads on

Country Based Customizations

Duolingo’s strategy is mainly focused on English-speaking countries. But for other countries, they are also bidding on keywords in relevant local languages. For instance, in Japan, they are bidding on Japanese keywords like “英国” and “北京語”.

duolingo apple search ads keywords japan
Some keywords Duolingo is running ads in Japan storefront

A similar strategy exists in France as well, in France, they have a keyword pool that includes French keywords as well like “doué” and “kakaostory”.

duolingo apple search ads keywords france
Some keywords Duolingo is running ads in France storefront

This customization strategy also has implications on creative sets. You can see creative sets for the same “Duolingo” brand keyword for different countries: France, United States, and Japan respectively.

duolingo apple search ads creative sets
Duolingo's Creative Sets for "duolingo" keyword in different countries

Duolingo's Apple Search Ads Keyword Strategy

When we analyze the current keywords of Duolingo, we see that they have a very comprehensive keyword pool that includes generic keywords, their brand keywords, and competitor keywords.

Let’s start from the generic keywords, when we sort our keywords according to their impression shares, we see that Duolingo is getting almost the whole conversion of some keywords including “dua lipa”, “edmodo” and “peardeck” in the USA between the dates of May 25, 2021 and June 22, 2021. These keywords might be coming from generic campaigns or they might be coming from Search Match ad groups as well.

duolingo apple search ads strategy us

In the US, between the dates of May 25, 2021 and June 22, 2021, they are bidding on 50 keywords including the “duolingo” keyword, which is their brand keyword. This number decreases when we take a look at Japan. As shown below, Duolingo has only two keywords that include the “duolingo” keyword.

duolingo brand keywords us
Duolingo's brand keywords in the US
duolingo brand keywords japan
Duolingo's brand keyword in Japan

In the US, Duolingo is getting a small amount of impression share - only 9,6%- from their brand keyword. Rosetta Stone receives the biggest portion of impressions -61%- from the keyword 'Duolingo'. Almost two hundred apps are currently bidding on this keyword.

apps bidding duolingo keyword us
Apps bidding on "duolingo" keyword in the US

The situation is quite different from the one in Japan. In Japan, the popularity of the keyword “duolingo” is less than in the USA. Additionally, the number of apps ranking is almost half when compared to the US.

apps bidding duolingo keyword japan
Apps bidding on "duolingo" keyword in Japan

As you can see, Duolingo seems more relaxed in the USA when compared to Japan. As an American app, Duolingo might be planning to expand to other countries and this might be the reason why Duolingo's Apple Search Ads strategy is stronger in Japan.


Bidding on your own brand keyword is known as “cannibalization” in the mobile industry literature. What Duolingo is trying to do seems to vary according to the storefront. If you already have a strong brand with great organic results, does it make sense to spend so much money on your brand keyword in Apple Search Ads? Duolingo’s answer is looking like a “no” in the USA.

Duolingo is also getting the benefit of competitor keywords. Their keyword pool in the US includes 5 Busuu related keywords, 14 Babbel-related keywords, and 16 Rosetta Stone keywords.

duolingo competitor keyword count

Growth Strategy 

When we filter the keywords as the most popular ones in the US, the top keywords are about Japanese. Although there is high competition, Duolingo is ranking high both organically and in the Apple Search Ads.

duolingo japanese related keywords
Duolingo's Japanese-related keywords

They seem to have the top rankings for those keywords. The relationship between ASO and Apple Search Ads is once again revealed.

As you can see below, their organic ranking for “Japanese” keywords have increased from six to three. The effect of Apple Search Ads on this matter cannot be disregarded. This is a perfect example for the close relationship between Apple Search Ads and App Store Optimization.

japanese duolingo keyword

Duolingo has been in the market for several years as an industry leader. Their comprehensive strategy sets a good example for other app marketers.

All the keyword data above comes from our Keyword Auction Insights feature. If you also want to create a comprehensive strategy on Apple Search Ads, schedule a call with us and start your journey for growth.

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