At Adido we run app activity in a few different ways & have first hand experience of the pitfalls and the best practices on a variety of platforms. Today I’m going to take you through the platforms we use and give you some insider tips that I’ve picked up over the last few years.

Google Universal App Campaigns (UACs)

UACs are a format of ads on Google designed just for advertising apps. When a user engages with the ad they are sent directly to your app in the app store.

To run Google UAC campaigns you just need a Google Ads account.

Google UACs are slightly different from other ad activity like search ads as Google handles a lot of the heavy lifting through artificial intelligence. This allows Google to automatically target users, apply bids & generate ads with your ad assets.

UACs can run on:

  • Google search & search partners,
  • Display network,
  • Play store,
  • Discover feed,
  • Gmail
  • YouTube.

This can connect to both Google Play for Android devices and the Apple app store for iOS.

Set-up:

You don’t do a lot in the set-up of UACs. You can choose from target cost per install, cost per action (e.g. opening the app) and target ROAS. That’s pretty much one of the only decisions you have to make.

Google automatically deals with this similarly to their smart bid strategies in search and shopping. Using AI and historical data Google determines the likelihood of a conversion and places bids accordingly. It also combines what's known about the user & the live competitive landscape. With this Google decides what bid would take to win the auction, and if it aligns with your goals, it places the desired bid.

Top tip #1 - Measuring the performance of your UACs.

Before you start this type of advertising activity you need to make sure you can track the performance of the campaign.

If this is for an Android app, conversions are automatically tracked from Google Play. However for Apple apps, Google predicts the conversions that can’t directly be observed, which obviously isn’t the most accurate way to measure performance! As a result marketers tend to revert to using a third party tracking app, like Firebase for example.

When creating your Universal App Campaign you need assets, this includes headlines & descriptions similar to search activity but you can also supply images, videos or custom HTML5.

Top tip #2: Build your app assets with the campaign goal in mind.

If your goal is to drive installs then your ad assets should feature at least 1 call to action to download the app. Highlight the key app benefits & give clear direction into what the users next step should be.

Or if you want to drive in app purchases show discounts, promote a sale and have very product heavy assets in your ads.

App extensions in standard ads

App extensions are another way to advertise your app through Google Ads alongside any standard search activity. This is similar to other extensions, they run with your ad, when the headline of the ad is clicked they will be sent through to your landing page but if the extension is clicked the user will be sent through to the app store.

This can also be run for the iOS app store & the Google Play store depending on the device of the user.

App extensions can be applied at account, campaign or ad group level & you can monitor the performance within Google Ads. However the biggest highlight of the app extensions is that if you create an app extension for each app store, Google will automatically show the extension that is most suitable for the user's device, whether it’s iPhone or Android.

App extensions also come with the capability to run on a schedule and you can remove it from certain devices. (i.e. if it doesn’t work on a tablet - you can remove it.)

Top tip 3: It seems like common sense but don’t run your app extensions on desktop!

Set-up

Similarly to most extensions, the set up here is quite simple both through the live interface or within Google Ads editor. When you click to add an app extension you will first be asked if it is account, campaign or ad group level. Followed by if it’s for Android or iOS. (If possible, it’s recommended to create both.) Then you have to search for your app, and finally, select a call to action, this could be as simple as Download Now, or Free Install.

Once you’ve completed the creation process you simply need to apply it to the relevant campaigns or ad groups. If you selected ‘account’ then simply make sure it’s active.

The only assets you can rely on here are the App name & the icon, so make sure they're good!

Apple search ads

The Apple ads platform is used to advertise apps within the iOS app store and help people discover new apps.

This is an effective way to get your app to the top of the search results, which will drive more impressions & installs - especially if your app is new to the app store & is in need of some reviews to perform better organically.

Set-up:

With Apple search ads you can go through the basic set up which is useful if you want predictable costs (as there is a spend limit) or an easier set up process. The basic version doesn’t require audiences or relevant keywords, Apple will match your ad with potential customers. This automation is designed to match your ads to users.

For more complex campaigns there is an advanced version of Apple search ads, where you get much more control over your campaigns. Here you can select your own keywords, control when your ads are shown & use your own creative assets.

The advanced process requires you to define your keywords and audiences and set max CPCs. With advanced you also get access to more tools like Search Match and more detailed performance reports covering all key metrics.

For advanced users there is no maximum monthly budget or cap on the number of apps that can be promoted.

Top tip #4: Know your customer, know your keywords

If you have an advanced ads account & you’re managing your keywords you want to add keywords that your ideal user will search for, this includes misspellings & more specific keywords like locations & generic variations.

Top tip #5: Make use of both match types:

In Apple search ads you have the familiar broad match keywords and exact match keywords.

Using both allows you to test which one yields better results. Similarly to Google, broad match allows your ad to show for similar searches to your keywords but exact match is more specific and tightly controlled.

When optimising your Apple search ads, you can change your bids, budgets and keyword selection.

When making bid adjustments on your keywords, Apple does provide recommendations on most keywords to guide you, this is based on the competitiveness of your keywords.

However in the instances that Apple doesn’t provide suggested bids, the best course of action is to make small changes & monitor the outcome.

Like with all paid media activity, test, learn and refine. Although just be aware the elements you can optimise are fairly limited in comparison to standard search activity on Google and Bing.

Segmentation

Splitting out your campaigns in Apple ads is similar to splitting them out in Google ads. Firstly it makes the account easier to manage - you’ll know where everything is but secondly it allows you to focus budgets and bids on individual sections, as well as making it easier to focus your time & optimisation efforts on your core performers.

Top tip #6: Segment campaigns by brand vs. generic search terms

A popular way I tend to segment my campaigns starts with separating out branded keywords and generic keywords. I then move into competitor targeting as this is a good way to get visibility for your app in the App store (it helps if your competitors have some decent brand recognition that you can hijack).

From personal experience, we see best performance from brand terms for driving installs. In cases where we’ve worked on new projects without a lot of brand searches, generic & competitor terms perform best to increase traffic, but come with a lower conversion rate.

We used to run Apple search ad activity with very minimal segmentation & with a mixture of keyword match types in one campaign however we found that this didn’t give us enough control, it left the account generally messy and as a result stifles performance & makes it much harder to optimise.

Use a broad match campaign to find new keywords

Most of our campaigns run on exact match only without search match enabled - this enables tight control of performance, both in optimisation and also understanding of what is working well / not so well. It does not permit Apple to match our ads to searches outside of our pre-defined list.

However we do include at least one broad match campaign per client, which we refer to as a ‘discovery campaign’, where broad match terms are encouraged and search match is enabled. This allows us to discover, in almost real-time, the search terms people are actually using in the system - often these are ones we may have not considered.

Top tip #7: Add your exact match terms as negatives in your broad campaigns

If you run activity with exact and broad match terms side by side you will want to add your exact match keywords as negatives to the broad match campaign so they aren’t competing against each other.

Top tip #8: Cherish search query reports

When you run a search query report on your broad campaigns you will see what search terms have led to installs and it may be worthwhile adding the converting keywords to one of your exact match campaigns, as you can expect a lower CPC here.

Also, with these search query reports you should make use of negative keywords & keep up to date with them to reduce wasted spend.

Test new assets

If you have an advanced Apple ads account you have access to test different assets within your ads, this is automatically set to default but different variations can be selected with custom arrangements for you to test the best performing assets.

But what should you prioritise & do the changes actually make a difference?

From first hand experience, the best change I’ve made to our Apple ads account was making it easier to manage by segmenting the campaigns. Then you can stagger your bidding & budgets by campaign priority. It also makes it much clearer to see what is performing best.

Alongside this I’d suggest running a discovery (broad) campaign to scout for new keywords.

Since we optimised our Apple ads account in this way we saw an almost instant drop in CPA and increase in downloads. The change was made in Feb 2020 and since then we’ve seen continued improvement.

Paid social app ads

As with search, there is an objective in Facebook ads which allows you to optimise for app installs. To get started you will need to do some extra tasks in Facebook Business Manager. If you’re happy to run ads without doing these things then you can still promote your app in the usual way, but the system will optimise for link clicks rather than app installs, and you’ll need a website landing page.

Set-up

Install Facebook SDK (Software Developer Kit) and app events tracking. Further details can be found in this help centre guide.

Register your app on the Facebook for Developer’s site. To register you need to:

Full set-up details can be found here.

App installs, app traffic vs. app sales

There are three objectives relevant to app activity in Facebook ads.

The priority one is likely to be ‘app installs’ so when creating your campaign select Consideration > App installs.

If you want people to open your app then you can use the app as the click destination for a traffic campaign. So select Consideration > Traffic.

  • When creating the ad set you can choose to send traffic directly to an app (rather than a website). Note: you will have to register the app on Facebook to do this.

If you want to generate sales within your app or get people to achieve some other event, select the Conversion > Conversions objective.

  • When creating the ad set you can choose the conversion event location as an app (rather than a website). Note: you will have to register the app on Facebook to do this.
  • You will also need to have app events tracking set-up as well, as you’ll be asked for the app event. So see set-up guide above.

Top tip #9: Mobile only targeting

Regardless of the objective, it would be wise to ensure that your placement targeting is only set to mobile devices to avoid wasted impressions and spend.

You may also decide that ads should only serve when devices are connected to Wi-Fi in case the download capabilities via a network signal is weak and could delay the download from taking place. This could limit the delivery of your campaign so think carefully if this will pose a problem.

So there you have it, my top tips & what I’ve learnt from successfully running app campaigns. If you have any questions about driving app installs through PPC don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our PPC team.



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Meet the author ...

Maddie Crawford

Senior PPC Executive

Maddie works in the PPC team. This means that she spends her time looking after our clients' paid ads accounts, covering platforms like Google, Microsoft, Apple & Amazon. ...