7 Proven Ways to Grow With Apple Search Ads: Benchmarks and Best Practices for 2024 

Anastasiya Starovoytova is a Content Manager at SplitMetrics

Growth is the end goal of almost every app marketer.

To achieve it, we master different paid user acquisition (UA) channels. Apple Search Ads is one such platform that can help acquire high lifetime value (LTV) users. Just like any channel, it keeps evolving, meaning industry benchmarks and best practices also change. So, whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just dipping your toes into Apple Search Ads, there is always something new to learn.

This post is all about that — learning. Get ready to delve deep into the latest Apple Search Ads benchmarks and life hacks that will help your Apple Search Ads campaigns rise to new heights in 2024.

Handle account structure with care

When starting with Apple Search Ads, focus on setting up your account correctly. There are two main ways to do this: the semantics-based approach and the value-based one.

Let’s start with the semantics-based approach. This is a proven method for most advertisers.

  1. Split your account into five campaigns: Brand, Generic, Competitors, Discovery, and Proxy.
  2. Add keywords as an exact match in all campaigns except Discovery, where Broad and Search Match are used to mine keyword ideas.
  3. Run Brand campaigns to retain users and counteract competition.
  4. Target all age ranges and genders in Generic and Competitors campaigns to avoid missing out on traffic.
  5. Target iPhone and iPad users together in Generic and Competitors campaigns, adjusting bids only if necessary.
  6. Use Proxy campaigns to test the downstream performance of keywords from Discovery.
  7. Allocate budget to branded keywords first, then distribute remaining budget across mid- and lower-performing keywords.
  8. Target three user types: new users, returning users, and all users in separate ad groups for Brand, Generic, and Competitors campaigns.
  9. Divide theme ad groups based on user intent into audiences: new, returning, and all users, and share the same keyword list within each theme.

The second approach is  value-based. Here, we group keywords based on how valuable they are to your target audience. Stick to these rules:

  1. Organize keywords into campaigns based on their value to you as an app marketer.
  2. Create the recommended structure: Brand campaign, Discovery campaign, and Tiered campaigns (usually with three tiers).
  3. Allocate your maximum bid to the Brand campaign to attract users interested in your brand, potentially leading to high-value conversions.
  4. For Tier 1 campaigns, identify keywords that bring high LTV users and set a competitive bid to maximize impression share.
  5. Use Tier 2 campaigns to target users with medium value, with a bid lower than Tier 1 but higher than Tier 3.
  6. Set the lowest bid for Tier 3 campaigns, as these users have the lowest value for your business.
  7. In the Discovery campaign, match the bid with Tier 2 or Tier 1 campaigns to compete effectively and discover new search terms.
  8. Consider creating a Probing/Proxy campaign to test discovered keywords’ conversion rates, using Exact Match keywords from the Discovery campaign.
  9. Implement a budget waterfall strategy, prioritizing spending on high-value keywords first and gradually allocating resources downward to mitigate risks and maximize profits.

Before you move forward, make sure you fully understand these approaches. Remember: A structured account reduces statistical dilution and self-competition, providing a clearer understanding of your performance.

Now, let’s get into some best practices.

1. Automate and optimize

Optimizing Apple Search Ads is crucial for maximizing performance.

Start by eliminating potential data discrepancies between Apple Search Ads and your mobile measurement partner (MMP). This is easily done by integrating a  third-party tool like SplitMetrics Acquire, which streamlines data gathering and allows you to see all metrics in a single dashboard.

This is how Auto Trader, a digital marketplace for buying and selling new and used vehicles, achieved growth with SplitMetrics Acquire. It previously struggled with manual optimization, finding it time-consuming and challenging to keep up with changes.

SplitMetrics Acquire provided automated tools to weed out non-performing keywords and optimize bid strategies. With SplitMetrics Acquire, Auto Trader saw a 15% increase in downloads, a 25% decrease in cost per download, and a 51% increase in tap-through rate.

Screenshot of SplitMetrics' Ad manager dashboard highlighting the quick edit function

You can experience the convenience  for yourself by signing up for a totally free plan by SplitMetrics Acquire.

2. Do keyword research on a regular basis

Finding high-performing keywords is an ongoing job.

The best you can do here is invest your time and energy into thorough keyword research. Here are some tips:

  • Analyze competitors’ keywords, both organic and bid-on, to gain insights.
  • Utilize Search Match to connect ads with relevant search queries on the App Store.
  • Leverage third-party tools like SplitMetrics Acquire, equipped with a Keyword Planner for comprehensive keyword analysis. You can also install a free Chrome Extension to view Search Popularity numeric values and max possible impressions right in your Apple Search Ads and SplitMetrics Acquire accounts.
  • Explore new keyword suggestions directly on the App Store’s search section.
  • Enhance your keyword list by picking up synonyms for your high-performing keywords. AI tools like ChatGPT can be pretty helpful here.

You can choose to follow only one strategy from this list, but to get as many valuable keywords as possible, it’s best to use multiple keyword sources.

3. Enhance relevance and explore ASO/Apple Search Ads synergy

Ensuring relevance is a must in Apple Search Ads.

Optimize the app’s metadata, including the title, subtitle, and creatives, to enhance relevance. Make sure they all highlight your app’s value proposition and contain keywords relevant to your category. Doing so will help streamline keyword visibility in Apple Search Ads.

In turn, Apple Search Ads can support your app store optimization (ASO) efforts by providing keyword conversion data, daily installs volumes, and more.

4. Keep an eye on Apple Search Ads benchmarks

Monitoring Apple Search Ads benchmarks helps you stay competitive in the market.

You can see how your performance stacks up against competitors and adjust your bidding strategy, ad creatives, and other parameters based on what’s working well for others in your industry.

What’s more, Apple Search Ads benchmarks can indicate the overall state of this user acquisition channel. Here’s an example:

In the first six months of 2023, the average tap-through rate (TTR) for Apple Search Ads search results was 10.22%, surpassing the 9.93% recorded in the second half of 2022. This data is from the latest Apple Search Ads Search Results Benchmarks Report by SplitMetrics.

Bar chart of SplitMetrics search results ads TTR quarter over quarter in Apple Search Ads. The chart shows that the TTR was larger in every quarter in 2023 versus every quarter going back to 2018.

The report features comments from industry experts that explain the reasons behind this increase. In particular, they name a higher adoption rate of custom product pages and new ad placements in the channel.

For app marketers, this knowledge can be pretty helpful. It’s a signal that you should try out custom product pages and new placements yourself.

5. Use custom product pages

If you haven’t started using custom product pages, think again.

They offer several benefits for ad campaigns in search results:

  • App marketers can experiment with different value propositions to see which works best.
  • Ad campaigns can display messages tailored to the needs of diverse audiences, enhancing relevance and engagement.
  • App marketers can segment their audience and run targeted campaigns for each segment.
  • Customizing ads for specific markets with cultural differences in mind allows for more impactful campaigns.
  • App marketers can easily create dedicated ads for holidays and other events.

Moreover, custom product pages are essential for Today tab campaigns, serving as both destinations and sources of creatives for ad backgrounds.

6. Explore different Apple Search Ads placements

In 2024, understanding how different Apple Search Ads placements impact your paid UA strategy is essential. Utilizing all four placements can help maximize reach and improve conversions.

Search results ads are great for capturing user demand and can be paired with Search tab ads to enhance brand awareness. Today, tab ads further elevate brand visibility, influencing user decisions when they encounter the app in search results. Additionally, product page ads offer opportunities to showcase app offerings right on competitors’ pages.

Being reasonable is key here. Ensure that expanding to new placements is in line with your budgeting first.

The bottom line

With industry benchmarks and best practices, you can ensure your Apple Search Ads campaigns are on the right track.

Monitoring benchmarks and trends never hurts. Be on the constant lookout for new insights and UA news. This ongoing vigilance allows you to adapt your campaigns to changes in the market and capitalize on new opportunities as they arise.

After all, there’s nothing better than knowledge.