App marketers know that Apple Search Ads and Google App Campaigns are at the heart of most growth strategies. These behemoths are unavoidable, but mastering the art of User Acquisition through these competitive networks is tricky, to say the least. We talked to Louise Verschuren, CEO and Founder of Wuzzon, a full service app marketing agency , about the popularity of these channels, their challenges, and what you can do to optimize your efforts in Apple Search Ads and Google App Campaigns.
Louise will lead the One Level Up With Apple Search Ads & Google App Campaigns workshop at MGS UK. Register now to secure your spot.
Q: As competition in the app marketplaces heat up, it’s more important than ever to get your user acquisition strategy right. Apple Search & Google App campaigns figure heavily into most UA strategies. Why are they so popular?
A: Doing UA for apps can be quite intimidating for newcomers. Attribution tracking, technical barriers, a jungle of ad networks, agencies and other channels, the existence of ad fraud can be quite overwhelming. Apple Search Ads & Google App Campaigns are both pretty easy to set up and manage. The basic solution doesn’t need a third-party attribution solution and the algorithms do most of the auto-optimization, making it an easy to use option with pretty competitive results.
Alongside Facebook, Google App Campaigns and Apple Search round out the top three best advertising networks for mobile app installs according to the Appsflyer Performance Index.
Besides being easy to set up and manage, both networks are also the only place directly available in Apple’s App store and the Google Play Store. This is a major factor in its success since due to the stats 70% of App Store visitors use the search options there to find new apps. So these ad spaces really help visitors to find apps they’re looking for.
And lastly, users in the app stores, and for Google App Campaigns, a user that performs a google search are users with a high intend. They are already quite far in the funnel. They are looking for an app, so they’re really responsive and of high quality.
Q: What are some of the challenges of these two channels?
A: The big advantages of being easy to set up and manage can be a downside as well. There is not a lot of room to manually optimize the campaigns or twitch setting to improve stats. In Apple Search, you can choose to do basic and advanced. The basic version leaves little room for any manual settings. Switching to advanced solves this a bit, but the options are still limited if you compare it to programmatic buying for instance.
The same goes for Google. You have to trust the algorithm to find you the best placement and it’s still quite a black box model with little transparency as to where your ads are visible. For Google, the algorithms need some time to optimize. So for this, you need a bit of patience and some budget to allow the learning. For a CPI campaign, this is estimated to at least 50 times the target CPI.
Another downside might be that they’re OS specific. Apple Search, obviously, is only available for iOS apps. With Google you can do iOS campaigns, but because the inventory is limited, we have had quite a challenge with scaling IOS apps through Google.
Lastly, it’s good to mention that you don’t need a third-party attribution tracking solution to get started with these ad networks since they have their own stats for conversions. However, we often notice that if there is a third-party attribution solution in place, stats can look quite different. Both Google and Apple wear different hats, serving as ad networks as well as the analytics party to attribute installs to the ad placements. We tend to see that they judge their own performance quite a bit more favorably than an independent attribution party.
Q: Your MGS UK session will touch on API connection for custom reporting, dashboards, and automatization. Can you give us a quick glimpse into how these work and why they’re important to getting the most out of your Apple Search & Google App campaigns?
A: As an agency, we manage quite a lot of different apps and campaigns in both Apple Search and Google App Campaigns. The API connection allows us to do mass optimizations on keywords. But also allows us to manage budgets and CPIs for our clients.
Our data scientist has built several custom dashboards based on the data we get from the platforms and combine this with data from other channels as well as the third-party attribution platform such as Adjust and Appsflyer. Since both platforms are self attributing networks, there often is a bit of discrepancy between the numbers in Google/Apple versus the attribution. When we combine the data from all different sources we can optimize the media spend across different channels based on the clients desired KPIs. Combining it with the attribution party insights we can see for instance that certain keywords are pretty expensive to get new users, but that they are more loyal and or higher spenders. These outcomes are taken into account for bidding strategies. To do this manually can be quite time consuming and challenging.
Q: Another concern is the cannibalization of organics. How can marketers avoid this?
A: Because search ads are placed at the top of the organic results, sometimes both the ad as well as the organic result show up on the screen. If the user is clicking on the ad instead of the organic result, whilst if the ad wasn’t showing the click would have gone to the organic result, this is the concept of cannibalization. A conversion that is now being paid for instead of earned for free.
It is really hard to fully predict if your ads are cannibalizing organics or are leading to incremental downloads. But there are some things to consider that will help you to gain insights. Cannibalization is most likely to occur in branded search, although it’s good to keep in mind that it can also be the case for non-branded.
Depending on if you’re a well-known brand or a newcomer that needs to get traction there are different strategies. For the first one cannibalizations is a bigger topic than the latter. Apple Search allows you to see what percentage of the search volume consists of branded keywords and what the CR’s and CPA’s are with these branded keywords.
In general, Appsflyer stated that 66% of all searches on the App Store consist of the name of an app or a competitor. And you can count on the fact that if you’re not bidding for those terms, your competitors are and so steal your potential users. Depending on your goals and budgets, for both users as well as internal stakeholders it doesn’t look good if your number 1 competitor shows up first. We actually had a client where the CEO searched for the brand and saw the rival on the top results, leading to more budget for brand protection.
At Wuzzon we have done some experiments where we stopped Apple Search for a week or so and looked at the results of the total installs and organics. In both these cases, we actually saw a drop in organics, meaning that Apple Search ads led to incremental downloads. But these results are not valid for all apps. So we advise doing similar A/B testing for your own campaigns.
Q: One of the other points you’ll touch on at MGS UK, is the power of creative assets that convert. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of your insights on this topic?
A: There are so many studies that reveal the impact creatives have on results, for both attention and conversions. A good creative can double ROI and triple attention for the ad. However since both Apple Search and Google App campaign rely heavily on algorithms for best placements, we tend to see that creatives are not getting the attention they deserve.
In Google, the assets are the building blocks to all the auto assets that are created for the different placement. Make sure to focus on the top served image dimensions to ensure they’re served across all networks.
The Priority Image dimensions are :
- 1200x628 (Landscape Image)
- 320x480 (Portrait Interstitial)
- 480x320 (Landscape Interstitial)
- 300x250 (Square)
- 320x50 (Banner)
It’s vital to refresh creatives regularly to avoid creative fatigue, for Google it’s best practice to refresh creatives every 2-3 months. But make sure that you don’t replace all creatives at once and don’t change them in the first two weeks.
For the text assets, a simple straightforward description of the app’s utility or experience combined with a benefit statement that appeals to the users’ emotions works well. And of course, the call to action should be really compelling and directing them to the desired action, whether it’s installing the app or ordering your food now. A pro tip for Google is to keep at least one text asset shorter than 20 characters to avoid truncations on placements for instance in Gmail.
A lot of this is also applicable for Apple Search Ads, but the Search Ads are auto generated from your App Store assets. So make sure you use all the possibilities for screenshots and app previews in different display sizes. Based on these assets you can create new sets and align these with your keywords themes. If you have an e-commerce app selling different categories in fashion or electronics, you can group the screenshots for electronics with the keywords that match search behavior. At this point Apple allows you to have 20 different sets, so happy testing.