This is the second episode of App Growth Talks, series of interviews with ASO, User Acquisition, Mobile Analytics and App Growth experts. Today’s special guest is Nadir Garouche, a noted expert on mobile gaming, app store optimization, user acquisition and mobile analytics. Nadir is currently a Growth Marketing Manager at Oh Bibi.
Nadir, you have a lot of experience working with mobile apps and games. How has app promotion in the app stores changed over the last 3 years?
It has changed quite a lot. If we take Google Play Store marketing for instance, the quality update of 2018 really changed the way marketers approach the optimization of their app visibility. ASO practitioners now have to spend as much time monitoring quality factors (such as retention, crashes, freezes, reviews and so on) as they spend on optimizing texts and assets.
When it comes to the App Store, what has changed is the growing number of advertisers using Apple Search Ads, resulting in less chances of gaining organic installs.
As a Mobile Growth Expert, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
If you work in the mobile gaming field, one thing I recommend is to constantly download and play new games. And to frequently browse Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube etc., so you get to see games ads.
Doing this doesn’t take so much time and it will help you stay abreast of the top features used in your competitors’ games and how they promote them in their ads, so that you can better craft yours.
Speaking of ads, which role does Apple Search Ads play today within the overall marketing strategy? Does it affect other aspects, such as ASO?
In general, I use Apple Search Ads mostly for brand protection. I would say the share of spend allocated to Search Ads has increased over the years for everyone using this channel, but it’s still relatively small as it’s hard to scale with it because of their targeting limitations.
Apple Search Ads is still very useful for ASO.
I usually gather a large amount of keywords that I then target in exact match to validate their relevance for ASO (after looking into CVR and ROAS). I also use Search Ads for the purposes of ASO localization: for instance, to see if players in a non-English region use and convert better with English terms than ones in their native language.
Using Creative Sets in Apple Search Ads also helps us [Oh BiBi team] to see which screenshots and videos perform best in terms of CTR and CVR. After that we apply these learnings for organic users.
What mistakes do user acquisition managers often make when working with Apple Search Ads?
I would say relying too much on broad match, which then makes your game appear for so much irrelevant search terms and then bring down your ROAS. Another mistake I saw others make is to use CPA goals rather than tweaking their bids. It’s more complex but it helps you get more installs at the right cost faster than with CPA goals.
There is a lot of buzz around iOS 14 and the elimination of the IDFA. You are pretty optimistic about it, aren’t you? What do you think about the future of MMPs?
Well, actually, I’m not sure why everyone’s first question with this update was: “What is the future of MMPs?” It should rather be: “What’s the future of UA and retargeting?” There are far more economical consequences for advertisers and ad networks than there are for MMPs.
For example, if you look at Facebook, a large part of successful ad campaigns are based on lookalikes and custom audiences (for retargeting), which are (for the most part) populated thanks to users’ IDFAs. Remove that and you have billions of ad dollars gone for Facebook and billions of income loss for advertisers, and for Apple themselves in the meantime, which, actually, are kind of shooting themselves in the foot here. Unless they hope that more advertisers will turn to their growing ad inventory: Apple now offers ads in News and Stock apps, and what’s coming are also in-app ads.
I think install measurement is not so at risk, because Apple has configured SKAdNetwork so that it can validate any network installs. Although it will be quite limited and will not share any creative, ad set or device/user details. There is also a possibility that advertisers and MMPs can still validate installs with the IDFA if it stays on the device and is hashed, like Adjust is trying to do.
I also believe that the number of users who will give their consent will not be that small. I see here an analogy with the analytics and cookie consent that happened on the web with GDPR. Many people are still accepting tracking.
Going back to MMPs, based on what I mentioned above, I don’t think they will be hit so much, as they will still be needed by large advertisers to store large amounts of campaign data, and they are now doing more than just measurement, for instance, they also provide UA automation and bid management features.
What would you recommend to publishers who’re still struggling to scale with Apple Search Ads?
I don’t think it’s possible to scale with Apple Search Ads, unless you are a subscription app (meaning high LTV so you can afford to spend a lot for your CPIs). But if you’re struggling to spend more profitably, I recommend you pay close attention to your keyword selection and bids. Make sure to spend a lot of time building large lists of keywords (brand, competitors and generic ones) and that you tweak your bids based on Apple’s recommendations regularly.
Is the potential cannibalization of the organic traffic due to Apple Search Ads a real issue?
Personally, I have not really seen big cases of cannibalization when running Search Ads. But that may be different for other types of apps or games.
I think that because of the real estate that Search Ads listings occupy, if you stop advertising, other advertisers will take your spot and grab these ad clicks instead, so you don’t really cannibalize yourself.
I can share a number: after pausing Search Ads campaigns for a game, the number of organic installs increased by just 5%. So if there is cannibalization with Search Ads, it’s small and not much compared to UAC.
What are your Apple Search Ads tips for mobile games?
If you work on a game based on an IP, or a quite popular title, Apple Search Ads makes a lot of sense as you have a lot of potential quality users available, so make sure you occupy this spot rather than leaving it to your competitors.
What’s next in Apple Search Ads? Will the competition between this channel and its long-time rivals (Google Ads & Facebook Ads) get tougher?
As many people know already, Apple has been testing ads in their News and Stocks apps. Also “Search Ads” has been replaced by “Services” in the latest terms of services. What’s coming is clear: more inventory and more ad sources available. Apple wants to resuscitate their iAD platform.
We will soon be able to buy ads in apps, and maybe also in the form of device notifications.
To finish up, what trends in mobile growth are you most excited about for late 2020, early 2021?
I am mostly excited about going a bit more in automation. For instance, finding ways to test new audiences, placements and geographic locations at scale and automating the launch of new campaigns based on the best settings. Also for creatives: I look forward to working on tools to automate ad variation at scale.
Thank you so much, Nadir!
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