This is an episode of App Growth Talks, interviews with experts on mobile marketing and growth. This episode’s special guest is Roman Pylypchuk, User Acquisition Manager at United Tech. Roman is an expert on app marketing and user acquisition, and the Apple Search Ads channel in particular.
From this interview, you will learn all about scaling Apple Search Ads, key mistakes that UA managers make, how to triple daily installs, what new iOS 15 features are worth testing, and much, much more!
United Tech is a Ukrainian tech product company that has been developing mobile and web products in the Social Networking niche for 5 years. The company’s portfolio includes 8 products that occupy leading positions in their categories on the App Store and Google Play, and have an audience of millions, mainly in Western European and North American markets.
Roman, could you please share how you started working with Apple Search Ads?
When I started as a Junior Acquisition Manager at United Tech, Apple Search Ads was a traffic source with a small daily budget and was essentially “unoccupied” as more experienced colleagues focused on Facebook and Snapchat. Apple Search Ads was left to me as a sandbox for learning [smiles]. Upon the recommendation of a colleague who had experience with Apple Search Ads, I started The Complete Apple Search Ads Course, while taking the first steps in optimizing the existing Apple Search Ads account.
I immediately noticed that Apple Search Ads lacked automation: all optimization features are manual and available only at the level of a bid for Cost Per Tap (CPC), which greatly distinguishes this traffic source from other “big” advertising networks.
Which role does Apple Search Ads play today within the overall marketing strategy?
Back in 2020, in the general media mix, Apple Search Ads received insufficient attention. In terms of planned spend, this source was in last place. But everything changed dramatically in H1 2021 — when we completely changed the approach to working with this сhannel and incorporated automation — we realized the full potential of Apple Search Ads. Now, when drawing up a plan to promote new apps in the iOS ecosystem, our team is allocating a large part of the marketing budget to Apple Search Ads.
What mistakes did you notice UA managers often make when working on Apple Search Ads, or maybe mistakes you made, which led to some discoveries?
The key mistake, I believe, was that from the very beginning of working with Apple Search Ads, we did not integrate the 3rd party optimization platform in the first place [smiles].
Relying on my previous audit experience, I came up with a keyword-level optimization scheme, which was based on a combination of raw data with post-install performance data from our MMP and pre-install data from the Apple Search Ads user interface.
This was a big step forward compared to optimization at the installs level, as it became clear from which keywords we get target users, and which ones were an inefficient use of the budget. But all this was extremely time-consuming, each data update required a lot of manual work, so such analysis and bids optimization in Apple Search Ads was carried out every few days or once a week. Although this approach significantly improved the key metrics for our Apple Search Ads campaigns, I needed a lot of time for regular compilation of spreadsheets. Without aggregate data, I was not able to perform effective campaign management.
This severely limited the ability to scale — and also imposed limitations on further improving efficiency — since in the raw data of our MMP, a significant part of in-app actions was without all the necessary attributes for analysis (for example, some keywords were not tied to campaigns, which reduced the value of such incomplete data to almost zero).
What would you recommend to publishers who are still struggling to scale Apple Search Ads?
A key difficulty in scaling Apple Search Ads is the lack of post-install performance data in the Apple Search Ads user interface. It seems to me that for products with in-app purchases and subscriptions-based monetization, it is very difficult to scale based on the CPM and CPI data only. In addition, bottlenecks of the existing campaign structure can create obstacles to scaling — for example, poor combination of geos in one campaign, incomplete coverage of all categories of app users, etc. To identify them, from my experience, you need the account health check and expert help from the outside.
Could you please also share your experience? I know that you were able to achieve some really outstanding results and get mind-blowing x3 installs in 2021
In 2021, our approach in working with Apple Search Ads fundamentally changed. Earlier changes were made to Apple Search Ads quite rarely, and all campaigns and bids were managed in the Apple Search Ads user interface, but in 2021 we started doing things differently.
We began to tweak campaigns and bids on a daily basis, and in the spring of 2021, we started our cooperation with SearchAdsHQ. This helped us to gain full control over the effectiveness of Apple Search Ads campaigns. As a result, in just May-August 2021, we tripled the number of daily installs, while in-app performance had improved over this period.
How do you use SearchAdsHQ and what do you like most about it? How does it support your efforts?
We use SearchAdsHQ as a platform for managing and optimizing all Apple Search Ads campaigns. With its help, we can analyze the performance in terms of Cost per initial purchase, Revenue and ROI at each keyword level. Compared to the native Apple Search Ads user interface, the SearchAdsHQ platform is a more convenient tool that is easy to customize to your needs.
Does SearchAdsHQ Team help you to reach your goals?
The support from the SearchAdsHQ team has been invaluable. Already at the trial stage, after the basic health check and fixing the bottlenecks in our account, we saw a significant increase in daily installs along with a decrease in Cost per initial purchase and also, an increase in ROI.
Thanks to recommendations from the SearchAdsHQ experts, we have completely restructured our Apple Search Ads account, which has opened up great opportunities for scaling.
I can confidently say that it was the advice of the SearchAdsHQ experts that helped us achieve such impressive results in 2021.
What advice would you give to those who are just starting with Apple Search Ads?
The second recommendation is to start cooperation with one of the Apple Search Ads optimization platforms. Your Account Manager will help you optimize your account, stay up to date with all the news and updates in Apple Search Ads. You will also receive a convenient tool for working with your Apple Search Ads account and will be able to control your effectiveness at the in-app performance level literally in the context of each keyword.
What do you think about the optimal bid: myth or reality?
In my experience, this is more of a myth than a reality. It seems to me that it’s only possible to effectively keep a large daily Spend due to gaining full control over bids at each keyword level, and maximum granulation of campaigns at the geo level (one campaign — one country).
Are the iOS 15 updates somehow affecting your strategy?
The implementation of custom product pages requires closer cooperation with the ASO Manager. We are planning to test the connection between thematic campaigns and the corresponding ad variations based on custom product pages.
Do you have any tips on how to improve ROAS – for Apple Search Ads and for other channels?
In my opinion, what works for Apple Search Ads is hardly relevant to other advertising networks. The specific characteristic of Apple Search Ads is the lack of automation, and we managed to improve ROAS only by gaining full control over the Spend, in the context of each keyword.
What changes at the mobile industry level can we expect this year?
What we can expect for sure is more significant CPM, CPC and CPA inflation in Apple Search Ads compared to 2021, due to the increasing influx of mobile publishers to this channel in the post-IDFA era.
The second point, it seems to me, in the iOS ecosystem there will be tectonic changes due to the introduction of custom product pages. It will be very interesting to test the connection between thematic campaigns in Apple Search Ads and the corresponding ad variations using custom product pages.