Apple Search Ads drives organic App Store optimization: Splitmetrics CMO Olga Noha on Growth Masterminds

By John Koetsier March 17, 2023

If you’re not great at Apple Search Ads, you’re missing a significant amount of high-quality traffic and major growth opportunities, says Splitmetrics CMO Olga Noha in a recent Growth Masterminds podcast. Even more, you’re potentially missing out on massive organic uplift: Noha says that Apple Search Ads can boost App Store optimization by up to 4X.

“Before going for Apple Search Ads, the game ranked in the top 10 for 24 keywords,” Noha says about a customer’s game. “After launching the Apple Search Ads campaign, it started to rank in the top 10 for 112 keywords.”

While of course your mileage may vary, what’s happening here is that as people download and install an app or game based on relevant keywords — even those driven by paid ads — the conversions for those keywords grows. And that drives better position in organic search results, Noha says.

The bonus?

You can target ASA campaigns to your best users. Or build conquest campaigns to win players over from another game. Or scoop customers most likely to convert. Since you can then potentially achieve high clickthrough, install, and engagement rates, you’re sending signals to the App Store ranking algorithms about the quality of your app … and where the store algorithms might want to rank your game in search results for various keywords.

That’s one reason Noha says being good at Apple Search Ads is “absolutely crucial” for mobile marketers. And that pairing ASO and ASA is an integral part of a holistic mobile growth plan. When aligned, apps see improved visibility, increased organic installs, optimized conversion rates, and lower blended user acquisition costs.

That’s likely one of the reasons why Apple Search Ads ranked second in iOS ad spend capture for Singular clients, as seen in our latest Singular ROI Index. 

Custom product pages: also critical

Another big driver of success in the App Store (and Google Play) is custom product pages, or app listings that are intentionally aligned to a specific target audience, or a specific feature or characteristic or use case of an app or game. 

One app, Violin Lessons, built a custom product page to highlight a very specific use case: tuning your violin. 

“The results they got were astonishing,” says Noha. “For the U.S. market, TTR [tap-through rate] increased almost twice, installs grew 2.5X, and the number of purchases boosted by 3.75X.”

Another client, PicsArt, used custom product pages to target specific audiences and segments with specific value propositions and messaging. The result: their best CPPs saw a 52% increase in conversion rates and a 153% increase in users entering free trials. At the same time, costs per trial decreased by 50%.

In other words, mobile marketers can’t NOT use custom product pages. They’re essential. And aligning them with ad campaigns, creative, and offers for specific audiences is a no-brainer.

Apple Search Ads: new placements

Apple Search Ads currently offers 4 different types of ad placement opportunities:

  1. Today tab
    (ads on the screen everyone sees when they open the App Store app)
  2. Search tab
    (ads on the Search tab before actually searching)
  3. Search results
    (ads mixed in with search results after searching)
  4. App listing pages
    (ads at the bottom of other app listing pages)

Today tab ads get a lot of exposure, as do ads on the search tab and those mixed in with search results. But I personally haven’t been super-excited by ads on app listing pages. There’s of course the competitive concerns — my competitors can advertise on my app listing pages — but more importantly, I’ve thought … who scrolls that far down the screen?

Turns out, I’m probably wrong about that.

“What is important about these placements is that they drive highly engaged users who are already considering which app to download,” says Noha. “For some reason, they haven’t downloaded the specific app that they were looking at, and that is your chance as a developer to drive their attention to your app because the intent is there.”

They’re looking for an app like the one they’re on the listing page for, Noha explains. But they haven’t actually downloaded that one just yet. Maybe it doesn’t quite seem like it will meet their needs? Maybe it doesn’t seem like quite the right game?

Whatever the situation: here’s your chance to present your case that your app or game is a better option.

“This high intent and high quality of the users is key for me with this type of placements,” Noha says.

Apple Search Ads and pre-orders

I’ve talked to literally hundreds, if not thousands of app marketers. I’ve never talked — or heard them speak — about app pre-orders. But, it turns out, app pre-orders can be a great way to get your app off to a running start right at launch.

When chatting about where to use ASA in the lifecycle of an app, Noha says that before launching is a good option. And that’s one time, I’m betting, that most marketers don’t think about.

“We all know the case of using Apple Search Ads to scale apps,” Noha says. “But we also have cases of helping customers work with ASA at the pre-order stage.”

One app publisher in the photo and video category wanted to launch with a bang, so Splitmetrics identified 400 keywords that matched, launched an ASA campaign, and generated 2,000 app pre-orders. On launch day, that’s 2,000 phones that received the game automatically

“That basically helped to make the release day much bigger and also, eventually it helped to get promoted to a top one position in the App Store,” Noha says.

Much more in the podcast

As always, there’s much more in the full podcast. Watch it above, or subscribe to Growth Masterminds on any of the podcast platforms you love, including:

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