How to run a Discovery Campaign on Apple Search Ads

Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns are an important part of mobile app user acquisition. Learn how to run discovery campaigns with our article.

Claire McIntosh
January 20, 2021

Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns are an important part of mobile app user acquisition. App store search ads require a lot of tinkering with ASO and optimizing keywords in order to be the beneficial and fruitful marketing tactic that it can be. The app store optimization keyword tool along with a discovery campaign make for a great apple search ads strategy.

What is a Discovery Campaign?

What is a discovery campaign and why do you need it anyway? Though suggested keywords can always give you words related to your existing search terms, new keyword trends related to your brand or keywords specific to your niche audience may slip through the cracks. Your solution is a discovery campaign. Unlike other types of campaigns, a discovery campaign can reveal new keyword patterns that are related to your app.

You are certainly aware that optimizing your search results in the App Store is important to get organic traffic. App Store Optimization is crucial to lead people to your app and to get downloads. A Discovery Campaign in Apple Search Ads can help you improve your ASO.

Search Match and Broad Match features of Apple Search Ads will be switched on for this campaign. Thus you can discover new keywords that you may have never considered prior. You can then add them to your list of terms to bid on. You may even want to sprinkle them into your Title, Subtitle, or Metadata if they are good enough.

However, take caution.  Some of the keywords that you find will undoubtedly be irrelevant to your app. Keep an eye on your campaign and adjust your budget to get new keywords but also not break the bank while doing so.

These are the types of campaigns on Apple Search Ads, as well as their ad groups. For a discovery campaign, as you can see, we will be using Broad Match and Search Match Keywords.

Here are some key aspects to look for:

Good keyword results from your discovery campaign should have three important traits:

  1. high search volume
  2. Competitiveness
  3. high relevance score.

How to create a Discovery Campaign

Suppose you have a chess game that you would like to run a discovery campaign for. Here are the steps we recommend you followKnow what you are looking for

Your goal in creating an Apple Search Ads discovery campaign is to discover keywords. You want these keywords to include the following.

Relevant terms to your app

If you have a Chess Game app, for example, you might have terms such as Chess, Play, Chess Game, Chess Online, and so on.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are common strings of words that people who might be looking for your app would search. These might include in the same example, something like Play chess with friends, chess games online free, real chess games multiplayer, and so on.


These are keywords that have the same meaning as your other keywords. Perhaps in the same example, if chess competition is one of your keywords you might try chess challenge, board game, chess tournament, and so on.


This is an obvious but important one. “Xhess” or “chess turiment” might have quite a few searches and they can be utilized for brand names of your competitors as well. If you have a competitor called BestChess for example, best-chess, chessbst. Bstchess and so on might be terms that you could bid on to get search results.

Other related terms from external influences

Sometimes things outside of the app world influence what is popular and what related search terms are. “Queen’s Gambit” for example, may now be a related term for chess games as people may have found a new interest in the game after the Netflix series surrounding the topic.

Search Match and Broad Match will help you discover these terms. You can then see which ones are the top performers and transfer them to your Exact campaigns with higher bids.

1. Create a new campaign named “Discovery”

Now that you know what you are looking for, it’s time to get started. Name a Campaign “Discovery” and get ready to find some new keywords.

2. Create a new Ad Group named “Discovery”. Make sure “Search Match” is on.

Your other campaigns have Search Match and Broad Match turned off. This campaign has the goal of finding as many words as possible so you must have these options switched on.

3. Get a head start on the discovery process by adding all keywords from other campaigns to the Discovery Ad Group as Broad Match.

This step is optional but suggested. It can be quite useful to have your existing keywords as Broad Match because it will look for synonyms and related terms specific to those keywords.  This can be very fruitful. A handful of broad match keywords with a relatively small budget can get you many new search terms. The keywords generated from this process will also have a high relevance score. This is great, as the two factors on which your ad is shown are the auction and the relevancy of your keywords to the search.

4. Add all your existing targeted and negative keywords from other campaigns as Exact Match Negative Keywords to the Discovery Ad Group.

This step is very important. Adding the exact match negative keywords to your campaign will ensure that you are not getting words that you are already bidding on in other campaigns. This keeps you from competing with yourself.

apple search ads keywords

Here is an example of a messaging app using negative keywords to block out search terms of competitors that do not perform well for their app.

How to maintain a Discovery Campaign

Now you have set up your discovery campaign. Job well done. But the next step is the most important. Monitoring and updating your campaigns based on the keywords that you find is crucial to having good ASO health. For the first couple of weeks, it may be a good idea to check daily to see what is coming up. You will be making constant adjustments at this time based on how your keywords are performing. After this initial period, you can scale back your updates to once a week or every two weeks.

Here are the steps you should take in your campaign maintenance

  1. On Apple Search Ads click on your Discovery ad group
  2. Click the “Search Terms” tab
  3. Click the Sort by Search Term option so that the low volume terms are at the bottom  
  4. Carefully inspect each discovered keyword. If the term is both relevant to your app and has a good TTRand or CR you can add it as an Exact Match Targeted keyword in the appropriate campaign. Then, add this term as an Exact Match Negative Keyword to your discovery ad group. If the term is irrelevant or is not getting good results, you can add it as an Exact Match Negative Keyword in your discovery group. This will ensure that you no longer get results from that term.
  5. Rinse and repeat

Automate with

This process can be quite time-consuming. The best way to deal with this is by using to automate the process. is an official Campaign Management Partner of Apple Search Ads. We provide automation rules to optimize your bid amount, freeze your campaign, add negative keywords, and search term specific rules so on. We can handle bulk operations such as increasing or decreasing your bid on multiple keywords at a time. You can also move a group of keywords to another group. You can filter everything by picking the metrics that are most important to your campaigns such as ROAS or CPI. This will save you time. For example, Remake, a Korean digital app marketing agency was able to use’s keyword tools and automation rules. They ended up decreasing their operation time by 84%. also detects and removes duplicate keywords so that you don’t end up bidding against yourself by mistake.

There is much more to be discovered concerning the Apple Search Ads tool. We have many more Apple Search Ads tips and tricks along with campaign advice to offer. For more insights concerning Apple Search Ads, campaign management, and more, sign up for a demo with SearchAds to get the best assistance and to manage your campaigns with ease.

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