Top 7 Apple Search Ads Mistakes to Avoid

Apple Search Ads mistakes

We know a few mobile publishers who started working with Apple Search Ads but then gave up on it, since they didn’t manage to achieve the desired ROI and CPA. In this post, we will explore the most common mistakes in managing Apple Search Ads that undermine the effectiveness of ad campaigns. You will also find actionable tips on how to avoid fails and make the most of this promising channel.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #1: Not Using Mobile Measurement Partners

This is one of the most unforgivable sins mobile publishers commit when working with Apple Search Ads. Without a mobile measurement partner (MMP), you’re in the dark.

Mobile measurement partners are attribution tools designed to help you track the performance of your Apple Search Ads campaigns.

MMPs like AppsFlyer or Adjust integrate with apps and Apple Search Ads to provide publishers with comprehensive data about the number of downloads, sources of new users and post-install events.

However, some mobile marketers rely solely on Apple Search Ads analytics when evaluating the results of ASA campaigns. Why is this not enough to understand whether you are meeting your business objectives?

Without attribution partners you have no clue what happens after a user installs your app following clicking on the ad. You just don’t have enough data to draw conclusions about the efficiency of your campaigns and ROI.

At the same time, mobile measurement partners provide you with more in-depth analytics, enabling you to track installs and post-install events: in-app purchases, subscriptions – basically everything that resulted in profit from your Apple Search Ads.

Lesson learned: to hold all the cards and avoid acting blindly, incorporate a third-party data tracker (MMP) like AppsFlyer or Adjust. This will protect you from mistakes in evaluating your ads performance and moving in the wrong direction.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #2: Not Taking Care of Ad Account Structure

ad account structure

Another direct path to failure in Apple Search Ads is putting off work on your ad account structure. You should build the right account structure at once. Why?

Because your Apple Search Ads account structure is a part of your strategy in this channel. And it’s not okay to start anything without a strategy, right?

Well-designed ad account structure is the core of your campaigns’ success. It will save you hours of time spent on the analysis of performance, enable you to scale campaigns for various storefronts just in a couple of clicks and optimize your ad spend.

There are several types of Apple Search Ads account structure, we will not go into details now but you can find out everything about Value-Based and Semantics-Based account structure from our in-depth Apple Search Ads Course.

Lesson learned: develop your ad account structure from the very moment you start working with Apple Search Ads. If you go for that later, it might be inconvenient and inefficient. Or just too late.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #3: Not Choosing Metadata Carefully


The paramount Apple Search Ads rule is about taking care of your metadata and creatives. In Apple Search Ads, you pay when users tap on your ads. This means that in case your metadata and creatives are misleading, users will first click on your ad, get to your app page – and then immediately leave it. You’ll get clicks (and pay for them) and no conversions.

That’s why you need to focus on relevance and optimize your title, subtitle and visual assets. To avoid reading the tea leaves when choosing creatives for the App Store product page, resort to A/B testing in order to back up your ideas with data. Additionally, you can test the performance of your screenshots and app previews with Creative Sets, native Apple Search Ads testing platform.

Check 7 App Store Optimization Tips for Early 2020

Lesson learned: before running Apple Search Ads, work properly on metadata and creatives. If you have already started with the platform and something goes wrong, optimize the creatives through SplitMetrics A/B testing tool or Creative Sets.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #4: Doing Superficial Keyword Research

keyword research

The right keywords have a strong effect on the success of your campaigns. Doing superficial or no keyword research prior to running ASA campaigns may lead to eating up your budget with no tangible results. A lot of marketers give up the channel after such a failure. A channel that can potentially bring you a bunch of downloads.

What should you do to avoid an issue related to betting on wrong keywords? Make sure to do thorough keyword research.

It can be done in several ways, let’s look at a few. The first one is related to the analysis of your competitors. You can examine keywords your rivals are ranking organically for along with the keywords they are running ads on. Secondly, you can utilize Search Match in Apple Search Ads – and your ads will match to relevant search queries in the App Store. You can also leverage proven third-party tools to identify keywords with high search volume and avoid wasting your budget.

SearchAdsHQ, a solution for Apple Search Ads management (and official Apple Search Ads Partner), has an inbuilt Keyword Planner. The tool will help you to check how popular your keywords are, how good your app is ranking for these keywords, estimate how many users see your ads and watch what your competitors do.

However, options for keyword research are not limited to that we’ve described above. There are many proven techniques to find relevant keywords; you can read more about it here.

Lesson learned: take care to do deep keyword research. Check out keywords your competitors are ranking for, leverage third-party tools like SearchAdsHQ and use Search Match in Apple Search Ads.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #5: Relying on Search Match Only

search match is not a silver bullet

We’ve talked about Search Match, which is great for discovering new relevant keywords. However, some mobile marketers make a huge mistake, perceiving it as a panacea. They turn on the Search Match option and stop analyzing keywords. What is the risk?

Search Match may start matching your ad to completely irrelevant search terms that must be added to the negatives. As a result, publishers are wasting their ad budgets.

Lesson learned: keep your eye on the keywords you are bidding on. Search Match is not a silver bullet. The best solution is to utilize tools that will do regular keyword optimization for you and even change bids automatically.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #6: Overlooking Limit Ad Tracking (LAT)

limit ad trackingOne more common mistake, due to which mobile marketers sometimes drop Apple Search Ads unjustly, is disregarding LAT when measuring campaign’s success and calculating ROI.

Limit Ad Tracking is a privacy option Apple provides for users. Once they enable LAT, they see your ads but you cannot track what happens after they install your app, since MMPs don’t receive information on such users.

That’s why calculating ROAS and ROI for users with the LAT option enabled cannot be the same as for users with LAT off.

So, if you are not satisfied with your ads performance, the conversion rate is lower than you expected, and at the same time you do not take LAT into account, don’t jump to any conclusions.

To get raw statistics, shut down LAT with targeting your ads for users aged from 18 to, say, 65; this is how you’ll exclude users with LAT on, since they don’t see targeted ads. In such a case you’ll lose the part of potential downloads though.

If you don’t want to cut off that piece of pie, you can calculate real ROI in the following way. According to Apple, the LAT traffic makes up almost 20% of the total. So, just add these 20% to your estimated ROAS and ROI to get the most realistic results.

Lesson learned: giving up on Apple Search Ads after measuring ROI with LAT neglected is a hasty and unwarranted action. LAT users represent a fair share of those who bring you profit, and cannot be disregarded.

Apple Search Ads Deadly Sin #7: Leaving Bids Unattended

When you set up Apple Search Ads, you adjust CPT to specific keywords or the whole ad group. After this step sitting back and leaving your campaigns unattended would be an unjustifiable mistake. Unfortunately, this mistake is not uncommon and leads to fail in Apple Search Ads.

For better results, Apple Search Ads need continuous monitoring and optimization. After all, the situation is not static, it is constantly changing: new competitors and strategies appear, and so on.

The good news is you can automate it completely. With automation rules in SearchAdsHQ, you can automatically adjust keyword bids to not only CPA, but also to other target KPIs, like CPI, ROAS, Cost per Goal and Cost per Conversion.

Thus, bid management will turn into a simple monitoring process and you will be prudent enough to avoid a mistake on the way to rocking the App Store.

Lesson learned: monitor your ad campaigns and change bids according to the situation and your business goals. To save lots of time and automate this process, leverage tools like SearchAdsHQ.

Lessons Learned

  1. Before running Apple Search Ads, work properly on metadata and creatives. If you have already started with the platform and something goes wrong, optimize the creatives through SplitMetrics A/B testing tool or Creative Sets.
  2. Develop your ad account structure from the very moment you start working with Apple Search Ads. If you go for that later, it might be inconvenient and inefficient. Or just too late.
  3. To hold all the cards and avoid acting blindly, incorporate a third-party data tracker (MMP) like AppFlyer or Adjust. This will protect you from mistakes in evaluating your ads performance and moving in the wrong direction.
  4. Take care to do deep keyword research. Check out keywords your competitors are ranking for, leverage third-party tools like SearchAdsHQ and use Search Match in Apple Search Ads.
  5. Keep your eye on the keywords you are bidding on. Search Match is not a silver bullet. The best solution is to utilize tools that will do regular keyword research for you and even change bids automatically.
  6. Giving up on Apple Search Ads after measuring ROI with LAT neglected is a hasty and unwarranted action. LAT users represent a fair share of those who bring you profit, and cannot be disregarded.
  7. Monitor your ad campaigns and change bids according to the situation and your business goals. To save lots of time and automate this process, leverage tools like SearchAdsHQ.

Good luck!

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