App Store Search Ads are often cited as the number one trend to watch for app developers in 2017. Placed prominently at the top of relevant search queries, Search Ads show vital information about your app to potential customers and, in concept, can help even a small independent app reach the top of search. In line with the traditional ASO process, Apple ensures that their Search Ads work based on relevance and not based solely on the highest bidder. Even so, landing a Search Ad is not a guarantee that you will begin converting users right away. To get the most from your Search Ad, it is important to target the right terms at the right time. Just as trends shape the keyword landscape in the App Store, so too will they dictate which Search Ads are best for your app. To this end, any developer targeting Search Ads should take several steps prior to settling on a campaign strategy.
Choosing Your App Store Search Ads
To start, select a base of keywords that you wish to target for your app. These terms should relate to your app’s core features and demographic. With iOS, a Search Ad will only be truly successful if Apple determines that your app is relevant for the term. Once you have a base list of terms, eliminate any that aren’t searched commonly by users. Find out which terms are searched most, as this will open your app to the most potential traffic from new users. Keyword data in the App Store is fluid, and changes often. It can be helpful to use software to determine the optimal high-ranking search terms for your ad. Tracking Trends in Search Ads
As keyword rankings move up and down in popularity, they take their respective Search Ads with them. For instance, if the number of users searching for “free games” goes down, so too will the number of users who see your app at the top of search results for that term. Search Ads can and should be tracked just like keywords. If a keyword is declining in popularity, or if your app is failing to catch on for a certain term in your keyword bank, those might be keywords that your app should not target in a Search Ad. On the other hand, rising keywords can be a great way to branch out into relevant categories that other developers haven’t caught onto yet. By using software to track keyword trends, you can stay on top of which terms are gaining popularity in your app’s field and capitalize on that by quickly purchasing a Search Ad. Finally, consider seasonal words and phrases that might catch on around the same time each year. “Black Friday” and “New Years” are great recent examples. If your app offers anything that might relate to a large event or holiday, that can be a great way to catapult your app towards a large new audience.
Creating Relevance for Your Ads
Earlier we mentioned that Apple tends to favor relevant apps for Search Ad placement. What if your app is relevant, but you still haven’t caught on for the keywords you are targeting? In that case, it’s time to look back to your app’s store page. Just as a standard app optimization creates relevance for the words in your title and keyword bank, an optimization for Search Ads should create relevance for terms you wish to target in future ads. You can create this relevance in several ways. Your app description is a great place to start. If you are trying to target “Black Friday”, for example, it would be pertinent to highlight upcoming Black Friday deals your app might host in the first few sentences. If you are trying to target “New Years”, simply explain how your app might help users with resolutions, scheduling, finding activities, or whatever else makes your app relevant to users during the new year. If Apple is not seeing how your app is relevant, be sure to explain it to them. Screenshots are another great way to call out new features that might make your app relevant for your intended Search Ad. Keep in mind that Search Ads can feature up to three portrait-orientation screenshots. This is an increase of one screenshot from traditional search results. Take advantage of this by showing off key features relevant to your Search Ad in your first three screens. Finally, your app title can help to create relevance for a keyword you wish to target. Keep in mind that while Apple still cuts off long titles with an ellipses in search results, the full 50 characters in your title are visible in a Search Ad. Use this space to create relevance and explain your app's core features.
Finally, after your Search Ad has gone live, take advantage of Apple’s built-in tracking tools to keep tabs on conversion. Just as you would abandon a term from your keyword bank if it were underperforming, you should either re-tool or abandon Search Ads that don’t work for you and re-focus on new terms that may prove more lucrative. With your Search Ads optimized, you will greatly increase your chances of appearing at the top of search results for relevant users.