— 24 Jun 2019

Apple Search Ads Keywords Performance: TTR, CVR, CPT & CPA

Anastasia Sidoryk

More and more app marketers are using Apple Search Ads as a prime mobile user acquisition channel.

When you promote iOS apps via this network, you enter the most common app discovery place – App Store search: as per Apple, 70% of App Store visitors use search to look for apps, and this ​search generates ​65% of all app installs. It makes sense to compete for the blue-colored ad spot, isn’t it?

Another advantage of Apple Search Ads is its impressive average conversion rate of around 50%​. Additionally, iOS app publishers who use this user acquisition channel get access to high-quality users willing to download and subsequently interact with the app.   

But to manage Apple Search Ads successfully, it’s reasonable to understand all about its core – keywords. We’ve already written about keyword expansion in Apple Search Ads. This time, we’ve focused on their performance, which results in the data-backed report you’re reading now.

Apple Search Ads keywords performance report is based on the data of our top spenders, gathered from July 2018 to January 2019:

Apple Search Ads keywords performance data

The report covers the following:

  • How SearchAdsHQ top spenders structure their Apple Search Ads accounts;
  • How they distribute keywords between Broad Match and Exact Match;
  • How they allocate their ad budget between match types;
  • How match types influence Apple Search Ads keywords performance (Impressions Volume, TTR, CVR, CPT and Cost per Acquisition).

While you examine the report, keep in mind that the findings are not necessarily representative of the entire market. These are the statistics we’ve collected from the accounts selected on the ground of their spend.

In a full version of this report, you can also discover our findings on how long keywords should be to boost your ad performance. Get benchmarks for TTR, CVR, CPT, and Cost per Acquisition by word count and match type, and learn the optimal Apple Search Ads keyword length.  

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Apple Search Ads Keywords Performance: TTR, CVR, CPT & CPA

Apple Search Ads Account Structure & Keywords Distribution by Match Type

Publishers who market their apps via Apple Search Ads are free to structure their accounts the way it fits their needs and desires. There are three account levels in Apple’s platform – Campaigns, Ad Groups and Keywords – which are closely in sync with SearchAdsHQ.

We’ve analyzed top spenders in our platform and their ad account components, and here are our findings:

  • Average number of Apps per ad account: 4;
  • Average number of Campaigns per app: 34;
  • Average number of Ad Groups per campaign: 3;
  • Average number of Keywords per app (13 storefronts): 8,099;
  • Average number of Keywords per ad group (13 storefronts): 79.

Unsurprisingly, it has turned out that SearchAdHQ top spenders are big publishers who run Apple Search Ads for more than one app – 4 apps on average.

Campaigns can be brand, generic, competitors or discovery. Based on your goals for a campaign, you set a specific audience, device and match type at the Ad Group level, and do it for each of the needed storefronts. The possible variations produce such a value – 34 campaigns per one app on average with 3 ad groups per campaign.

One level down the Ad Groups is Keywords. There are 79 keywords per ad group on average, including both active and paused keywords that generated at least one tap within the selected period.

If you have ever been running Google Ads, Apple Search Ads match types will be familiar to you:

  • Broad Match matches your ad to the widest range of close keyword variants, including partial or related words, synonyms, plurals, misspellings, etc.
  • Exact Match links your ad to the user’s query when it totally matches your keyword or its closest variants, such as common plurals and misspellings.

The research of top spenders in SearchAdsHQ has revealed that the average number of keywords per app (counted for all the 13 storefronts) is 8,099. In the chart below, you can see how keywords are distributed by match type, both in terms of numbers and percentage:

Avg number of Apple Search Ads keywords
Apple Search Ads keywords distribution by match type

Obviously, the distribution is unequal. Exact Match accounts for 40.5% of keywords, compared to 59.5% of Broad Match keywords. However, when it comes to spend distribution the scales tip towards Exact Match: 15.1% against 73.1%:

Apple Search Ads spend distribution by match type

Exact Match keywords are capable of managing your relevance to the user search query. They help pull in interested users, who are more likely to convert and bring in revenue in a while. Such keywords cost more, but our top spenders are willing to allocate a bigger portion of their budget (compared to Broad Match) because this will eventually pay off.

In addition to the two match types, there’s Search Match, which is specific to Apple’s advertising network. The good thing about this feature is that it does all the dirty job of manual keyword research automatically.

Since you indicate a separate CTP bid for your Search Match campaign, Apple Search Ads will offer only those keywords that align with your budget. As for SearchAdsHQ top spenders, they allocate around 11.8% of their budget for Search Match on average.

As a rule, Broad and Search Match are used in Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns to find high-performing keywords. Based on the charts above, our top spenders allocate slightly more than 20% on running discovery campaigns and approximately 80% on exact campaigns.

In general, 20/80 is the recommendable budget distribution, especially when you start building your account. In a while, the budget share allocated for keywords research can be lowered. Our findings on match types performance (see below) show that for SearchAdsHQ top spenders Search Match turns to be more efficient than Broad Match. This makes Broad Match a possible area to cut your budget.    

Apple Search Ads Keywords Performance by Match Type

In Apple Search Ads, you can set keywords as Exact or Broad Match.

Exact Match keywords are intended to attract users who search only for those specific keywords or their close variants. True, they can generate less impressions, but TTR and Conversion Rate will be higher compared to Broad Match keywords.

Broad Match is a more aggressive match type which aligns your ad with plurals, misspellings, related searches, synonyms, partial words, etc. Having run a Broad Match campaign for a while, you can explore your report for well-performing keywords to be transferred to Exact Match groups. This is how you run Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns in a nutshell.     

Knowing that the overall performance of keywords will differ by match type, we’ve carried out a deeper analysis that covered:  

  1. Impressions volume;
  2. Tap-through Rate (TTR);
  3. Conversion Rate (CVR);
  4. Cost per Tap (CPT);
  5. Cost per Acquisition (CPA).

1) Impressions volume

An impression happens whenever your ad appears in App Store search results. The research of SearchAdsHQ top spenders has revealed the following distribution of impressions across the three match types:

Apple Search Ads impressions distribution by match type

According to the chart, Exact Match keywords have triggered 59.4% of impressions, which is more than Broad Match (23.4%) or Search Match (17.2%). Such a distribution can be explained by the fact that SearchAdsHQ top spenders allocated a bigger budget portion for Exact Match groups rather than Broad Match or Search Match (see the statistics on Spend above).  

Important: Whenever we speak about Search Match groups, we refer to search terms, not keywords. Keywords are applicable to Exact or Broad Match groups only.

2) Tap-through Rate (TTR)

Exact Match outperforms Broad Match when it comes to TTR as well. TTR is the number of times users tap on your ad divided by the total number of impressions.

Unlike Broad Match, Exact Match gives you tight control over matching to user search queries. If you set Exact Match for a keyword, your ads will be shown to users who enter exactly this query or its closest variant. By this means you attract interested users ready to tap, hence TTR will be higher in relation to Broad Match keywords.

Our heavy spending accounts are no exception: Exact Match keywords have shown a higher TTR compared to Broad Match ones – 6.34% against 4.41%. However, mind that Search Match performed better compared to Broad Match. It turns out that Apple’s algorithm can do a better job of targeting ads to keywords automatically than you do by picking keywords manually.  

As a rule, we suggest arranging discovery campaigns into two separate groups – Search Match and Broad Match. However, based on the research of our top spenders, Broad Match lags behind Search Match in terms of TTR:

Apple Search Ads TTR by match type

We recommend two possible approaches to dealing with such a scenario:

  • on the one hand, try to create Broad Match groups with efficient keywords only;
  • on the other hand, give up using Broad Match whatsoever and focus on Search Match: it may perform much better than keywords picked manually.  

Keep in mind that our suggestions are not Apple Search Ads best practices by any means. They are possible solutions, which can be especially helpful if you are pressed for time or have a limited budget.  

3) Conversion Rate (CVR)

Conversion Rate (CVR) is the measure of downloads received from taps within a certain period. Check out how the three Apple Search Ads match types performed for our top spending accounts:

Apple Search Ads CVR by match type

Similar to TTR, Broad Match is the least performing match type of the three in terms of CVR. Such underperformance has to do with the fact that Broad Match gives you less control over matching to user search queries. Your ad may be shown for highly irrelevant queries. Users tapping on your ad find themselves on your app page and realize that this is not what they are searching for. As a result, they leave your app page without downloading.  

Things are different with Exact Match keywords, which help you get relevance under control. They produce a way bigger CVR in relation to Broad Match. In the case of SearchAdsHQ top spenders, it’s 54.73% against 35.92%.

Additionally, Search Match performed better than Broad Match in terms of Conversion Rate again. It all adds up to the fact that you can give this Apple’s feature a try if you have a limited budget or no time for manual keywords research.  

4) Cost per Tap (CPT)

If you run Apple Search Ads, you already know that you pay only when a user taps on your ad banner. CPT is both an underpinning pricing model and a metric to track how much taps cost you.

The research of our top spenders has revealed an interesting difference between Exact and Broad Match keywords, and Search Match.

Exact Match keywords have the highest average CPT across all the match types $1.09. In fact, such keywords cost you more, but they are highly relevant and boast stronger TTR and Conversion Rate metrics. They have a big potential to bring quality, high LTV users, so the costs you incur will pay off in the course of time.

Apple Search Ads CPT by match type

In other words, Exact Match keywords are expensive yet they boast high ROI/ROAS, and top SearchAdsHQ spenders are ready to bear such costs.   

5) Cost per Acquisition (CPA)

Another metric Apple Search Ads marketers keep top-of-mind is Cost per Acquisition (CPA). CPA indicates how much you pay for every “Get” tap and is calculated as a total spend divided by the number of conversions. For SearchAdsHQ top spenders, the overall picture of CPA by match types is the following:

Apple Search Ads CPA by match type

Search Match is in the lead here. It has turned out that manually picked keywords (Broad and Exact Match) can perform worse than those selected by the algorithm. Apple can be very helpful in matching your ads to relevant search terms. There’s no point in ignoring this Search Ads default feature when you manage your ad account.  

As for Broad Match, its CPA appeared to be the highest of all. Due to the poor control over relevance to search queries, this match type may generate fewer downloads, hence such an increased Cost per Acquisition.

We recommend to be very careful with Broad Match or even give up on it if you have a limited budget and time. Instead, focus on Exact Match keywords optimization and use negative keywords.

Key takeaways:

  • Build your account structure by match types, which will help you track the performance of Broad, Exact and Search Match individually.
  • It’s not a good idea to add the same keywords to Broad and Exact Match groups, or else the statistics will be diluted.
  • Keywords are distributed between Exact Match and Broad Match as 40.5% to 59.5%.
  • The major part of spend in the analyzed accounts – 73.1% accounts for Exact Match.
  • Broad Match appeared to be the least performing match type of the three in terms of TTR and CVR, and has shown the highest CPA – $2.28 compared to Search Match ($1.66) and Exact Match ($1.99).
  • The weak control over relevance to search and the overall poor performance of Broad Match suggests that you have to be very careful with it. Build discovery campaigns based on Search Match. It turns out that Apple’s algorithm performs much better than manually picked keywords in Broad Match groups.
  • It makes sense to add only selected high-performing keywords to Broad Match groups to find their specific variations. Alternatively, give up on this match type whatsoever, especially if you have a limited budget and time. Instead, focus on Exact Match keywords optimization and use negative keywords.   
  • The poor performance of Broad Match suggests the need for Phrase Match in Apple Search Ads, which could help reach a wider audience and maintain a high relevance at the same time.
  • Focus your Apple Search Ads efforts on optimizing Exact Match keywords, which showed the highest TTR (6.34%) and CVR (54.73%) across all match types. Such keywords have the biggest CPT ($1.09), but along with that they can potentially attract high LTV users who eventually bring in revenue.

Get benchmarks for Impressions, TTR, CVR, CPT and Cost per Acquisition by word count and match type in a full version of the report. Perform your Apple Search Ads keyword optimization based on data.

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Apple Search Ads Keywords Performance: TTR, CVR, CPT & CPA
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Anastasia Sidoryk
Anastasia Sidoryk
Marketing Manager & App Growth Evangelist at SplitMetrics
Anastasia has 5 years of app marketing and content management experience under the belt, helping app and games publishers with insights on how to boost their app visibility, optimize conversion rates and Apple Search Ads management.
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