The one about Search​ Ads

(This is an excerpt from my latest book on Rapid App Store Optimization and Marketing.)

Chapter 23. Advanced Search Ads (iOS only)

Advanced Search Ads give you more options. I will share a hack which confuses the algorithm and sometimes leads to very low Price Per Install, but more on that later. Advanced Search Ads have three layers: Campaign, Ad Group, and Keywords. I will also tell you how to structure the process of discovering the best, most profitable keywords at scale. 


23.1. Advanced Search Ads variables


Campaign level: here you select your country (or countries), Campaign name, total budget, and daily cap. I always start off with a small daily cap of about $10 so I can watch the campaign every day and make adjustments if needed. The daily cap is insurance to make sure you accidentally don’t burn through your budget. 

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Ad Group level: This is where the magic happens. You have several variables to control. 

  • Cost Per Tap, or how much you’re willing to pay for each “tap” on your ad. 
  • Cost Per Acquisition (install), or how much you willing to pay for each install. 

These are bids in an auction. You’re competing against other apps. Let’s say there is a competing app that has bid $0.86 for a tap. If your Cost Per Tap is set to $1, you win this auction and your app will be displayed for that keyword. Luckily for you, Apple will not charge you your max, they’ll only charge you $0.87. One cent more than the second-highest bid. 


There is a little hack which you can try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does work, it brings incredibly cheap installs. I think it confuses the algorithm. I gently pointed this out to Apple and they said: “it must be a bug”. Last time I checked it wasn’t fixed. Here’s how it works. 


Normally you would set a low Cost Per Tap (for example $0.5) and a higher Cost Per Acquisition / Install (for example $1). That makes logical sense, you’d be more to get an install than you would for just a tap on your ad. 

However, if you switch the order, you might confuse the algorithm and win the auction. Try putting a very high Cost Per Tab (for example $2) and a very low Cost Per Acquisition / Install (for example $0.5). 


This makes no rational sense. If you can pay up to $2 just for tap, your Cost Per Acquisition should obviously be higher than $2, because if 100 people tap on your ad, maybe only 80 of them would actually install the app. 


However, this sometimes works and will bring you installs for $0.5 or whatever CPA you chose. 


I think what is happening in the algorithm first considers the CPT. Since your CPT bid is set so high, you win the auction. At such a high CPT bid, there is no competition so you end up winning the very low CPA. 


Give it a try and let me know if it worked for you, I’m curious. 
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  • Search Match will match your selected keywords with relevant keywords. If one of your keywords was “car” and somebody typed in “vehicle”, Search Match might still show your app. You can turn this feature on / off. See the next chapter to understand how I use it. 

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  • Keywords. This is important stuff. When you create a new campaign, Apple will suggest keywords based on your app metadata. I would add all of them and then manually delete any keywords that are not directly related. 

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  • The audience includes everything from the device type of demographics. I normally leave this set to default unless my app is very niche to a specific audience. The fewer restrictions you put on the algorithm at the beginning, the better it will be able to find an audience for you, but it will take some time. 
  • Creative ad sets. You can create additional creatives, but it’s not necessary. Apple will just use your app assets to create ads. 


23.2 Create your first campaign and scale 

Now you know all the ingredients that go into baking a campaign. However, the sequence at which you perform each action matters, just like in a regular recipe. You can’t slap together all ingredients at random times and hope a cake will pop up on the other side. 


Step 1. Discover the campaign. Follow the steps in the previous chapter and create a new campaign. Add all relevant keywords and try to keep the targeting fairly open, without restrictions. I usually title this is “Discover US”, or whatever country you’re targeting. 


Step 2. Test campaign. Watch the discover campaign for a few days and notice any keywords that are doing well, meaning you get cheap installs at some scale. It doesn’t have to be hundreds. If you find a few of these keywords, put them on pause in this campaign and create a new campaign called “Test US”. Take all good keywords and put them in the Test campaign. The important step is to turn off Search Match and only target those keywords with Exact Match. This will prevent similar keywords from being targeted and now we’re testing only those exact keywords. 


Step 3. Scale campaign. Create your 3rd campaign called “Scale US”. Take any keywords from Test Campaign and move them here, once they have been verified as still being cheap and bringing many users. At this point, you are certain this keyword is valuable because it’s been tested and you can set a higher budget and daily cap for this campaign. 




This process does require some time and money but will yield great keywords at an affordable price. You can also use the keywords you find this way in your metadata to further improve your R – ASO, like title, subtitle, keyword field or description. 


The advanced strategy is to do this with every country that is relevant to your app. You can really scale your user acquisition this way. Take advantage of localization and using keywords of the country you’re targeting. There might be nuances even among the major English-speaking countries like the US, UK, CA, and AU. 



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