,  — 4 Sep 2023

Apple Search Ads Basic vs Advanced: How to Choose the Right One?

Gabriel Kuriata

How to promote an app on the App Store? There are many solutions, but we’d point to only one as obligatory: Apple Search Ads. It’s an acquisition channel designed solely for that marketplace, with the capability to reach more than half a billion users that visit it every week.

Mastering a new tool might seem challenging. Luckily, both Apple and their partners help advertisers make the dive into Apple Search Ads as easy as possible. In this article, we show how they do that and discuss what is the best option for a successful start.

What is Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads is a powerful self-service advertising platform provided by Apple that allows app developers and marketers to promote their apps within the App Store. In 2024, it offers four ad placements that allow advertisers to reach users at different stages of their customer journeys. Thanks to the unique value of each of the placements and synergy between them, mobile developers and marketers can use Apple Search Ads to increase their app’s visibility throughout a user’s App Store journey, build brand recognition and most importantly –- drive downloads.

Apple Search Ads is a platform designed to advertise solely on the App Store. It offers four ad placements that work throughout a user’s App Store journey.

Apple Search Ads utilizes an auction system to display ads, with both the value of the bid and ad quality being factors taken into account in allocating ad space.The platform offers two distinct solutions for managing ads: Apple Search Ads Basic and Apple Search Ads Advanced. Basic is a fully automated service, easy enough for beginners, Advanced is a robust system for specialists.

If you’re reading this article, then it’s highly probable that you’re just beginning your journey with Apple Search Ads and wondering which of the two solutions is right for you, or how you should begin your experience with this advertising platform.

In this article we focus on evaluating Apple Search Ads Basic & Advanced, taking into account business goals, budgets, and available resources of advertisers. Although the Basic system may seem like a good point to start with, our service SplitMetrics Acquire might make the deep dive into the Advanced service much easier.

In this article, we touch on the features of both services, but our focus is on the advantages and considerations from the perspective of various types of users, to help you choose the right solution for your advertising needs.

Ensure your app growth with Apple Search Ads
Optimize & automate your Apple Search Ads like a pro with our free Starter Plan of SplitMetrics Acquire. Get started for free. No credit card required.
Create Free Account
Apple Search Ads Basic vs Advanced: How to Choose the Right One?

Apple Search Ads types of management options

All this information is crucial to understanding the benefits and considerations of the two platforms. Here is their brief overview:

Apple Search Ads Basic

Apple Search Ads Basic is a fully automated, self service advertising platform for placing ads at the top of search results. It offers a streamlined interface and automated ads management, making it easy to set up and manage campaigns with minimal effort.

With Apple Search Ads Basic, advertisers select an app, set a daily budget, and the platform uses intelligent automation to optimize their campaigns and match your ad to interested users, maximizing your results. Advertisers are charged for every download resulting from advertising.

To summarize, Apple Search Ads Basic allows for a truly hands-off approach to advertising on the App Store.

It’s possible to connect Apple Search Ads Basic with  a mobile measurement partner, to connect Apple Search Ads campaign data with in-app, revenue generating events. Attribution API is used for this purpose.

Apple Search Ads Advanced

Apple Search Ads Advanced provides more extensive control and customization options for advertisers. Configured and managed manually, it offers comprehensive features and useful recommendations such as keyword suggestions, bidding assistance, as well as extensive custom reporting options.

A key feature of Apple Search Ads Advanced are custom product pages which are created in App Store Connect – alternative versions of an app’s product page. They allow for creation of personalized experiences for users. For example, they can be used to showcase different app features that best reflect a specific search query.

Illustration, images from custom product pages showcasing various features of an app tonestro.
An example of showcasing specific features of an app with custom product pages, courtesy of tonestro. Users searching for violin lessons will see top row creatives on a product page. Those looking for tuning tools will see the ones in the bottom row.
Read the full case study on our blog.

Apple Search Ads Advanced allows advertisers to use all four ad placement options available on the App Store: the Today tab ads, Search tab ads, search results ads and ads on product pages. It also grants access to Attribution API and Campaign Management API, allowing for pairing campaign data with in-app events, as well as management through external services. Our SplitMetrics Acquire is an example of such a service.

A dashboard of SplitMetrics Acquire, showcasing features of Apple Search Ads management.
The dashboard of SplitMetrics Acquire, a platform to manage Apple Search Ads campaigns. Source: SplitMetrics.

Apple Search Ads Basic: benefits & considerations

The option you choose should depend on your expectations and business goals. Capabilities, in terms of human resources and expertise do play a role, but there are solutions for that. Services such as SplitMetrics Acquire can be a significant aid in making a great leap forward in advertising on the App Store and scaling with the channel.

iSharingsoft logo and illustration, a client of SplitMetrics using SplitMetrics Acquire.

iSharing automated Apple Search Ads with SplitMetrics Acquire to manage it in 17 international markets. Learn how the company turned to SplitMetrics for a comprehensive Apple Search Ads management solution that would enable the current team to achieve their goals without involving any additional workforce.

Read the full case study on our blog.

Apple Search Ads Basic: benefits

  • Easy setup: Apple Search Ads Basic provides a straightforward and user-friendly interface, allowing advertisers to set up campaigns immediately and with ease.
  • Minimal management required: With Apple Search Ads Basic, advertisers have a hands-off approach to campaign management, as the platform takes care of all of the optimization tasks.
  • Predictable costs: Apple Search Ads utilizes sophisticated mechanisms and algorithms to drive downloads while always respecting the user defined spend limit.

Apple Search Ads Basic: considerations

  • Less control: Compared to Apple Search Ads Advanced, Basic offers no customization options and targeting parameters, limiting the level of control advertisers have over their campaigns.
  • Limited ad placement options: Only ads displayed in the App Store search results are available in Basic. While it is a key ad placement for driving downloads, marketers won’t be able to take advantage of the synergy between all the available types of ads in improving their overall results.
  • Less advanced reporting: The reporting capabilities of Apple Search Ads Basic are limited compared to the Advanced version, making it harder to gain in-depth insights into campaign performance.
  • Less flexibility: Advertisers using Apple Search Ads Basic have no means of experimenting with different targeting options, keywords, and ad creatives, potentially narrowing their ability to optimize campaigns for better results.
  • Budget cap and app limitations: A maximum of 50 apps can be promoted and spending can’t be more than $10.000 per app per month.

Apple Search Ads Advanced: benefits & considerations

All these depend on business needs and goals.

Apple Search Ads Advanced: benefits

  • Enhanced customization: Apple Search Ads Advanced provides more customization options, including keyword suggestions, precise audience targeting, custom product pages, custom ads and ad scheduling, allowing advertisers to create highly tailored campaigns with specific ad variations for relevancy.
  • Advanced reporting: The Advanced version offers more comprehensive reporting capabilities, providing detailed insights into campaign performance, including impressions, conversions, revenue, and many more metrics and KPIs.
  • Full functionality: All ad placements are available on this platform, as well as custom ads utilizing custom product pages that allow personalized communication (leading to higher relevance and more conversions). Advertisers can take advantage of all the benefits of multi-placement campaigns for driving brand awareness and overall optimization of results. This includes the ability to reach users on all stages of app discovery, and using the interrelationships between various types of ads for improving their overall performance.
  • Greater control: Advertisers using Apple Search Ads Advanced have more control over their campaigns, enabling them to optimize and refine their strategies based on performance data.
  • Full control over keywords: Ads in the App Store search results are a key driver of downloads and Apple Search Ads Advanced grants full control over them. Besides relying on the Search match function for automatic keyword discovery, users can choose keywords important to them and how they’re matched with queries. Available options include broad match or exact match keywords. Negative keywords can be specified as well.
  • No caps and limitations: There’s no spend or app limit on the Advanced platform.

Extended API: Apple Search Ads Advanced grants access to both APIs, responsible for connecting mobile measurement partners and management through external services.

SplitMetrics search results ads CVR by category in Apple Search Ads, a chart from the SplitMetrics Apple Search Ads Benchmark Dashboard.
All the above mentioned benefits allow marketers to achieve outstanding results with Apple Search Advanced. For example, data collected by SplitMetrics shows that the conversion rate for best performing categories can reach as high as over 79%! You can view more benchmarking data from us on our SplitMetrics’ Apple Search Ads Benchmark Dashboard.

Apple Search Ads Advanced: considerations

  • In-depth Setup: Compared to Apple Search Ads Basic, the Advanced version requires a more in-depth understanding of the platform and its features, making the initial setup and management more complex.
  • Management requiring expertise: The increased level of control and customization options in Apple Search Ads Advanced means advertisers may need to invest more time and effort into managing their campaigns effectively. Additionally, managing a large number of campaigns, keywords, and ad groups requires more time, resources, and expertise. It is important to have a strategic approach, employ effective campaign management practices, continuously analyze and optimize performance metrics, and stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

Which Apple Search Ads solution is best for you?

Choosing between the two platforms depends on your specific advertising goals, resources, and level of expertise. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Control and customization: If you require more control over your campaigns, advanced targeting options, and in-depth reporting, Apple Search Ads Advanced provides the flexibility and customization you need.
  • Expertise and experience: If you have experience with search advertising platforms and feel confident in managing campaigns hands-on, Apple Search Ads Advanced allows you to leverage your expertise effectively.
  • Campaign complexity & scale: More complex campaigns that require specific targeting and extensive optimization, Apple Search Ads Advanced offers the necessary tools and features.

What about budget and resources? External management solutions such as SplitMetrics Acquire can make this factor much less relevant. Potential gains from increased efficiency and improved optimization may greatly outweigh the time and effort spent on learning Apple Search Ads Advanced.

Apple Search Ads is a powerful marketing tool. However, many large publishers and agencies choose to work with it via platforms like SplitMetrics Acquire. Our service communicates with Apple Search Ads through API and provides a vast, additional layer of management and reporting options for marketers. It allows for manual control & setup while still offering a robust automation system working on your specific terms and conditions. Read more about it in this article.

Remember, that ultimately your app will outgrow Apple Search Ads Basic and will need Apple Search Ads Advanced in any event. Ultimately, the choice between the two services depends on your unique circumstances and goals.Consider your campaign complexity, and desired level of control to determine which option aligns best with your needs and resources. Remember about solutions that expand the default experience with Apple Search Ads and allow companies to take full advantage of the Advanced platform from the start with ease.

Manage Apple Search Ads profitably
Try out free SplitMetrics Acquire Starter Plan. No credit card required.
Create Free Account
Share this article
Gabriel Kuriata
Gabriel Kuriata
Content Manager
Gabriel is a professional writer with more than a decade of experience in bringing advanced b2b tech solutions closer to the people - with content in all forms, shapes and sizes.
Read all articles
Apple Search Ads Optimization
Cut CPA by 50% and double campaign ROAS with our free AI-powered automation solution.
Create Free Account
Share this article