Apple Search Ads: A Complete Guide for 2023

Apple Search Ads: A Complete Guide for 2023

by Andrea Knezovic

Introduced back in 2016, Apple Search Ads enabled thousands of developers and App Store publishers to get ahead of the competition and find users in the App Store.

Android still remains the globally most popular, open-source operating system, currently holding a 72% percent share of the worldwide market. Meanwhile, iOS has a worldwide market share of 27% percent (Stat Counter).

But don’t be discouraged. iOS users tend to spend more on apps and in-app purchases

apple phone search ads

Apple Search Ads Rankings 

Let me give you an overview of how well Apple Search Ads ranked in the most recent AppsFlyer Performance Index. This annual index analyzed the performance of mobile ad networks during the second half of 2021.

But before going into the most recent ranking, let’s reflect on where Apple Search Ads was the year before that. 

Back in 2020, Apple Search Ads got especially good results in non-gaming apps, ranking 3rd in retention rankings. Looking at overall ratings for both gaming and non-gaming apps, Apple Search Ads ranked 4th in the retention index. If we look at iOS users only, Apple Search Ads ranked 2nd right behind Facebook. These impressive retention rankings tell us that, after users engage with Apple Search Ads, many of them remain engaged beyond the install.

Overall, this ad network got pretty good results – it grew by 34% when it comes to app installs in comparison to the previous index. 

However, that can’t be said for 2021. 

The most recent AppsFlyer Performance Index revealed that Apple Search Ads was not among top ranking ad networks for any categories except one – The AppsFlyer Remarketing Index (iOS, non-gaming apps), where it appeared in third place, behind Google and Meta. 

Even though the Apple Search Ads network doesn’t have as good results in the most recent AppsFlyer Performance Index, this is still a popular ad network with fairly high conversion rates and an engaged userbase. 

ios vs android market share

With over 70% of the App Store visitors using search to discover apps and with 65% of downloads coming directly from the App Store search, we can say Apple Search Ads is still a valuable marketing tool.

Depending on your needs and level of expertise, two versions of Apple Ads are available: Apple Search Ads Basic and Apple Search Ads Advanced.

Apple Search Ads Basic

As the name suggests, this is a basic version. It is simple to set up, but the targeting options are also limited. You’ll be paying only for your installs (instead of the previous model that charged you for “taps”, not installs).

They are designed for beginners in mobile advertising. You literally need only a few minutes to set them up and a few minutes to review your performance in the quick-view dashboard. There is no long-term commitment, you’re free to choose when you want to stop or pause the promotion of your app.

Basic Search Ads are for budgets up to $10,000 per app, per month. For budgets over that, you’ll need to move on to Advanced options.

A good thing to know is that there is a $100 credit for a new account. That way you can try out Apple Search Ads Basic without spending money.

Apple Search Ads Basic Advantages

  • pay only for installs at a cost you choose
  • intelligent automation
  • minimal management
  • for budgets up to 10,000 USD per app, per month

Pros and Cons

Minimal management No keywords refinement
Simple to set up No audience refinement
Pay only for installs at a cost you choose Budget limit
Intelligent automation A limited number of apps that can be promoted
$100 credit for new accounts Limited access to Attribution API

Apple Search Ads Advanced

The advanced version of Apple Search Ads will offer you more options. It operates more like other ad networks, giving you the options to choose keywords and audiences for your ads.

You’ll also get access to more advanced metrics and have more insight into how your campaigns are performing – giving you the opportunity to perform better.

Pros and Cons:

Keywords refinement No new account credit
Advanced targeting More complex
No budget limit More time consuming
No number of apps limit
Full access to Attribution API

Ad formats: Auto-generated ads (Ads are automatically created using the metadata, screenshots, and app previews provided on the App Store)

Targeting options:

  • Search Match (automatically matches the ad to the relevant searches)
  • Keywords (you can choose your own keywords or the ones Apple suggests)
  • Customer Types (you can show your ads to new customers, existing customers, returning users, users of your other apps, or to everyone) 
  • Demographics (gender, age-range)
  • Device type (iPhone/iPad)
  • Locations

How to Set up Apple Search Ads Account and Launch Your Campaign?

Setting up Apple Search Ads is relatively easy and simple. You’ll need to log in with your Apple ID, and if you published your game through Apple Developer Console, you’ll have the option to select it when choosing which app you wish to promote.

apple search ads
Setting up your account.

Launching a Campaign – Apple Search Ads Basic

Setting up a campaign is easy as A, B, C. You need to choose the app you want to promote from a drop-down menu, select countries or regions you want to target, enter the monthly budget, and your max cost-per-install (CPI). And Apple Search Ads Basic will do the rest for you!

apple search ads basic campaign setup
Creating the campaign in Apple Search Ads Basic is very simple.

The next step is entering the payment method details because the ads will not run unless you have a valid method of payment entered. On this step, you’ll also see if you have $100 promo credit.

The credit will automatically be applied when you add your payment method.

$100 promo credit

Launching a Campaign – Apple Search Ads Advanced

Launching a campaign in Apple Search Ads Advanced will require a few more steps than in the “Basic” version, but it is still quite simple.

You’ll need to choose which app you want to advertise and where. Apple Search Ads are now available in 46 more countries and regions, which means you can display your ads in a maximum of 59 countries. You’ll also need to set the budget up as well as the daily cap.

Pricing is based on the cost-per-tap model, where you determine the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a tap on your ad.

Ad Group Settings

In this section, you decide who your ads are shown to. You can target specific devices (iPad/iPhone), schedule your ads and choose the maximum CPT bid (how much you’ll pay for a TAP). 

When setting up a maximum CPT bid these are a few steps to take:

  • Decide on the amount you are willing to spend on a new user or a certain action
  • Make a percentage estimate of potential app downloads
  • Calculate how much you can afford to spend based on that percentage/amount

Apple will provide you with a CPT suggestion, but this is merely a recommendation. How much you will pay will depend on how much your competitors are bidding in the ad auction. 

You can also set your CPA goal, but that is optional.

If you leave the Search Match option turned on, Apple will automatically match your ad to users who might be searching for apps just like yours.

Next, you need to determine relevant keywords for your app. You have the option to enter a negative keyword (the results you want to exclude from your audience).

Refining the audience in Apple Search Ads Advanced.

The audience can be refined by:

  • Customer types
  • Demographics
  • Locations
apple search ads advanced options
Choosing the creative sets in Apple Search Ads Advanced.

The final step is choosing creative sets. On this step, you’ll see an automatically created ad set using the metadata, screenshots and app previews from the App Store product page. If you need more creative freedom, you can upload more creative sets that will match your ad group theme or audience.

Still asking yourself why should you use Apple Search Ads?

1. Quality & Quantity

We’ve already mentioned that iOS users tend to spend more on apps and in-app purchases. But don’t forget how big Apple’s App Store is. In 2022, there were more than 1.6 million apps in Apple’s App Store!

Apple Search Ads will place your app at the top of the results page for the users who are already searching for something similar to your app. If your alternative is appearing on page 23 of user search results, paid ads might be the solution you’re searching for.

2. Better Rankings

Organic search results in the Google Play Store are separated from paid traffic, while the App Store algorithm takes into account all the traffic. So not only you’ll show your ads to a massive and relevant audience, you’ll have better organic results thanks to higher app store rankings in Top Charts.

3. Apple Search Ads Are the Money Makers

The Apple App store has been surpassing Google Play in consumer spending for years, and this trend continues. According to Statista, App Store users will spend spent $112 billion on IAPs, subscriptions, and paid apps in 2022. Meanwhile, Google Play users are predicted to generate “only” $58 billion in 2022.  

Knowing that might encourage you to at least try Apple Ads!

Six Premier Practices for Apple Search Ads 

Once you’ve decided on the mix best suited to you, there are also various ways to optimize the output of your Apple Search Ads. Primarily with ASA Advanced, you have a greater check over how your campaigns are managed. 

Audit App Metadata before Launching a Campaign

It’s substantial for advertisers to review their app metadata (located in App Store Connect) prior to launching a new campaign. Note that with Apple Search Ads, the same ad won’t necessarily show up for each user.

There are a few types of ads, and alternatives include the number of screenshots, preview videos, and app descriptions.

Targeting Keywords Based on Your USP

For example, how will you convey your app’s USP? This could be, for instance, adding “meal planning” and “step counter” as keywords for your health and fitness app.

Knowing what your audience is presumably to search allows you to produce the best possible conversion rate.

Make Use of Negative Keywords

In supplement to your broad match and exact match keywords, you can use negative keywords to explain which terms you don’t want to cover for your bids.

This reduces the options for your targeted ads but also assures you aren’t bidding against yourself.

Control Match Types

Apple gives you two keyword match types you can apply for choosing where your ads will appear – broad match and exact match. 

Broad match will include your keywords close variants such as misspelled words, synonyms, related phrases, as well as singular or plural searches.

The exact match will show your ad for the given keyword only. This gives you the highest control level over your overall ad impressions. Generally, using this match type ensures better TTR (tap through rate) and install rates. This happens because exact matches are meant to target high-intent users.

Mixing and Segmenting Countries & Regions

Produce campaigns that group countries and regions based on their resemblance. This permits you to make optimizations based on particular attributes, such as language and customer value.

The worth of each country or region can be studied prior to this by producing and analyzing individual campaigns.

Optimize Your Bids over Time

Nevertheless of your analysis, the key is to be flexible. To help with this, Apple’s suggested bid amount will notify you of how much more would be needed for a strong chance of winning those bids.

This can be employed as a baseline before you have faith in your own Search Ads analysis.

To Sum Up

Apple Search Ads are a relatively new mobile marketing option, but they’re definitely built to last. When Apple introduced Apple Search Ads in 2016, they brought a revolution in marketing on the second-biggest mobile operating system.

And even though iOS still can’t compete with Android in terms of market share, it makes up for it with quality traffic.

IOS users are more likely to spend money on apps and in-app purchases. Some countries, like the USA, have more iOS users than Android users.

If you’re looking to advertise your app in a country with more iOS market share, Apple Search Ads are the most logical choice!


About Udonis

Udonis is an independent full-service mobile marketing agency that acquired more than 200,000,000 users for mobile games since 2018.

Top 15 Mobile Ad Networks to Acquire App Users in 2023

Top 15 Mobile Ad Networks to Acquire App Users in 2023



Do you know which mobile ad networks are best for acquiring app users? Here's an updated 2022 list with fresh industry data.
Top 14 ASO Tools for Improving App Store Ranking [Pricing Included]

Top 14 ASO Tools for Improving App Store Ranking [Pricing Included]



Looking for a way to boost your organic growth? ASO tools are the solution. I've compiled a list of the best ones in 2023. Check it out!
How to Do Keyword Research for App Store Optimization (ASO)?

How to Do Keyword Research for App Store Optimization (ASO)?


Check out our article about keyword research for app store optimization and reap the benefits of a winning ASO strategy. Read now!
Complete Guide to App Store Optimization

Complete Guide to App Store Optimization



The process of App Store Optimization consists of two main parts - optimizing the app page and optimizing the search page. Read our guide.



Mobile Games

Mobile Marketing

Mobile Apps

Mobile Game Dissections