,  — 14 Dec 2018

10 SearchAdsHQ Filters for Apple Search Ads Optimization

Anastasia Sidoryk

Filters are an efficient method of Apple Search Ads optimization. They are basic, yet powerful, as they can provide revealing insights and help identify areas for improvement. This is particularly relevant to large ad accounts with thousands of keywords, where it is so easy to miss important things.

Let’s discover what they look like and how to optimize Apple Search Ads by using them in our platform. The good news is that if you have experience with Google Ads, you’ll probably find some things familiar.

Download Complete Filters Cheat Sheet

Breaking down Filters for Apple Search Ads Optimization

In SearchAdsHQ, filters can be applied at any level of the navigation structure Campaigns → Ad Groups → Keywords → Search Terms → Creative Sets.

At each of the above levels, filters break down into the following groups:

Account structure filters. They help easily localize the necessary data, for example, keywords associated with particular campaigns, or view all the enabled creative sets within a campaign. In fact, our navigation is built in such a way that you can easily perform drill-down/roll-up and slide/dice operations.

SearchAdsHQ filters for optimization

Settings filters. These filters allow you to segment data. For example, you can obtain data for a particular storefront or find all the campaigns that have the word ‘Brand’ inсluded in their name. Typically, these filters help identify the logical segments in your account, such as different audience groups, Brand and Competitors keywords or different match types (Exact and Broad), etc.

There is usually a list of options to choose from, e.g., storefronts:

Search Ads storefronts filters

Metrics filters. The most common and straightforward type of filters. They help find all the ad groups with the spend greater than $500 or all the keywords with TTR less than 10%.

Filtering usually includes simple mathematical symbols:

SearchAdsHQ metrics filters

Note: In rage / not in range options use inclusive bounds.

Basic Restrictions on Using Apple Search Ads Filters

Before we have a closer look at various filters, let’s define three basic restrictions.

  1. The time range to be used for analyzing data can differ from app to app. The main idea is to ensure that we have enough data to make a decision. In the example below, we use data for the last 60 days. This time range guarantees that even low volume keywords gain enough impressions for us to receive statistically significant results.
Restrictions for SearchAdsHQ filters
  1. In most cases, Broad Match keywords are used in Discovery campaigns to search for new keywords, while Exact Match keywords are used for campaign optimization. Exact Match keywords give you the most control over your spend and help avoid the dilution of statistics. That’s why we will use Exact Match as an additional restriction for some filters.
Search Ads keywords and search terms

See how Broad Match, Exact Match and Search Match performed for SearchAdsHQ top spenders in our 2019 Apple Search Ads keywords performance report

  1. It’s all about sorting. We recommend to sort by spend to determine and pay attention to the most expensive keywords and groups, and by impressions, which can help potentially scale the impressions volume. By doing this, you focus on what can maximize the efficiency of your Apple App Store search optimization.

Apple Search Ads Filters: Account Performance Checkers

1) Ad Groups with low TTR

Apple Search Ads ad groups

Our research has revealed that the average tap-through rate (TTR) is approximately 7%. As a rule, however, TTR is higher for Brand campaigns than for Competitors campaigns. 5% (used in the example above) is a threshold level, and if TTR is below 5%, then the ad group performs worse than it could, and you need to find the reasons why.

Low TTR indicates that there’s low relevance between a keyword and a creative set. By optimizing your ads, you can improve this score and thus get higher TTR.

Here’re the most effective ways to increase the relevance score (and TTR):

  • A/B testing of creative sets;  
  • Using creative sets more relevant to user queries;
  • Localize and adjust your app metadata to specific storefronts.

To avoid search queries with low TTR, you can use:

  • Negative keywords;
  • Exclude segments with poor performance, for example, disable non-working hours or weekends.

Check out our Apple Search Ads Benchmarks report Q2-Q4 2020 to get access to average TTR across App Store categories and other key performance metrics.

2) Ad Groups with low Download Rate

ASA ad groups

Similar to the filter above, groups with low Download Rates show the areas that require optimization. According to Apple, the average Download Rate is 50%. The example above includes a more conservative rate of 30%.

Creative Sets use the assets on your App Store product page, or metadata, such as texts, screenshots, icons. Thus, by optimizing metadata you can improve the tap-through rate of an ad (TTR) and the number of downloads (Download Rate).

Apple Store search optimization techniques are very similar to those in point 1) and are often used together. Some elements have a bigger impact on the TTR of a creative set (icon, name, rating), others on the Download Rate (screenshots, description).

3) Install Rate and discrepancies between Apple Search Ads and Mobile Measurement Partners (MMP)

Apple Search Ads install rate

According to Apple, the discrepancy between the data provided by MMP and Apple Search Ads can reach 60% for some apps. Here are the key reasons:

  • Limited Ad Tracking (LAT);
  • Re-downloads;
  • A different approach to counting installs that MMP has, compared to Apple Search Ads.

If the install rate is under 40%,

  • Make sure that enough time has passed, that you’ve received enough data available from MMP or downloaded the historical data;
  • Check the MMP attribution window settings for Apple Search Ads; the window should be 30 days;
  • Such a discrepancy may be caused by Search Match;
  • Keep in mind that installs and conversions have a delayed effect, meaning that users do not always tap and buy on the same day. Analyze the data for the previous periods: they will typically show a higher rate.

4) Share of keywords with no impressions (low technical keyword relevance)

Apple Search Ads functions on an auction basis. For your bid to enter the auction, your app should be relevant to the keyword that was matched to a particular user query. This is called technical keyword relevance. Apple’s algorithm determines this relevance based mainly on your app category and metadata — title, subtitle, and keywords.

How to count the share of keywords with low technical relevance?

1. Get the total number of Exact Match keywords (e.g. 23,085);

2. Use the filter to count keywords with few (e.g. from 0 to 5) or no impressions (e.g. 17,211):

Exact Match SearchAdsHQ filters

3. Divide the number of keywords with few/no impressions by the total number of keywords: 17,211 / 23,085 = 74.6%.  

If this share exceeds 85%, then only 15% (or less) of keywords get impressions.

Here’re some reasons for such poor performance and what can be done about it:

Low technical relevanceReview and rethink your keyword list
Low CPT bid (usually <1$)Increase CPT bid (see our benchmarks)
Few keywords (<50)Expand the list of keywords (use our Keyword Planner)
Low volume keywords (popularity <10)Use the Keyword Planner to find keywords with a higher popularity score

Apple Search Ads Filters: Spend Wasters

Now let’s explore some filters that help identify the keywords that drive your spend up.

5)  Non-converting keywords (without Goals)

To find keywords that never convert, set the Spend filter above your threshold and Goals at zero.

Suppose your Target Cost per Goal (Target CPG) is $20, then your spend threshold will be 3 x Target CPG = $60. With such parameters, filter out the keywords with Spend > $60 and Goals < 1:

ASA Target Cost per Goal

What can be done? Pause such keywords and/or add them to Negative keywords because they waste your spend.  

6) Keywords that have exceeded Target Cost per Goal (bottom range converters)

Filter out the keywords with at least one Goal and CPG > Target CPG. For example, if your Target CPG = $20, set CPG > $20.

Apple Search Ads Target CPG

What can be done? Decrease CPT Bid by 10-20%.

Apple Search Ads Filters: Growth Boosters

Some handy filters help discover the possible ways to scale the impressions volume and maximize revenue. Let’s discover them!

7) Profitable keywords (top converters)

Filter out keywords with at least one Goal and CPG < Target CPG. Here are the filters to be used for Target CPG = $20:

Apple Search Ads profitable keywords

What can be done? Increase CPT Bid by 10-20% for such keywords or move them to a separate ad group with higher Budgets & Bids.

8) Low TTR and a high volume of impressions (scaling opportunity)

Filter out keywords with low TTR (< 1/2/3%) and a high volume of impressions. For example, 100 impressions per day x 30 days = 3,000 impressions per month:

Apple Search Ads TTR

What can be done? Analyze why these keywords have such low TTR. The rate may go up if you pick a more relevant Creative Set. Another solution is to conduct A/B testing to reflect the keyword themes in the app metadata (copies, visuals), if possible.  

9) Low Download Rate and a large number of taps (scaling opportunity)

Filter out keywords with low Download Rate (< 10%) and a large number of taps: 10 taps per day x 30 days = 300 taps:

SearchAdsHQ low Download Rate filter

What can be done? Is it relevant to you? If no, pause such keywords and/or add them to Negative keywords. If yes, pick up a more relevant Creative Set or conduct A/B testing to reflect the keyword themes in the app metadata (copies, visuals), if possible.  

Apple Search Ads Filters: Management Streamliners

10) Overlaps and competing keywords

Begin with finding all the keywords that match the search terms starting with ‘hidden object’:

Apple Search Ads competing keywords

Apple Search Ads offers two Match Types Exact and Broad  which work differently in Search Ads and Google Ads. In addition, the Broad Match type is quite aggressive and matches not only the close variants of a keyword, but also irrelevant search queries which the system considers synonymous. As a result, several keywords may end up competing with one another for a search query.

As you can see in the screenshot above, 3 different keywords of two different Match Types have generated one search term ‘hidden objects game’.

Apple eliminates competition within one iTunes Connect account, in other words, the overlap doesn’t affect the cost. However, it dilutes the statistics, which makes it difficult to assess the real performance of a keyword. All the search terms are spread across different keywords, so the chances are you can either underestimate or overestimate the keyword performance.

There are two Apple Search Ads best practices to take control of your account:

  • Use Broad Match only to search for new keywords (Discovery campaigns are used to expand the list of keywords);
  • Use Negative keywords to eliminate competition between keywords in the Discovery and Exact Match groups.

Bonus: combine filters to put your account management on autopilot

SerchAdsHQ filters can efficiently be used for bulk optimization or overall automation of Apple Search Ads management.

Let’s say we want to reduce the loss from spend in Competitors campaigns, in other words, reduce bids for all the keywords outside your Target CPG. To do this:

  1. Filter out enabled Competitors campaigns (by name) in the US storefront;
  2. Select all the filtered campaigns and go to the Keywords tab, as shown in the screenshot:
Filtering keywords in SearchAdsHQ

The system will automatically apply the filter and show all the keywords for the selected campaigns. It doesn’t matter which account or app these campaigns are associated with.

  1. Filter out enabled Exact Match keywords with conversions and Cost per Goal above the specified threshold. In our case, it’s $20. Filter them by spend to see where you lose.
Optimizing Apple Search Ads with filters

These keywords don’t fall under your goals (Target CPG). One of the easiest methods to boost performance and reduce spend waste is to lower bids. Let’s reduce them by 20%.

  1. Select all the needed keywords. There are 10 in the screenshot below, but there can be more. To change bids in bulk, choose ‘Quick Edit’ and go to ‘Change CPT Bid’. Select the required options. If you don’t want the bid to be under or over a certain threshold, set a lower or upper limit.
Changing ASA CPT bid SearchAdsHQ

5. Choose ‘Continue to preview’ to make sure that everything is correct and apply changes. They immediately synchronize with your Apple Search Ads account.

You can go even further and fully automate this flow by using SearchAdsHQ automatic rules.

With the help of some filters and bulk operations, we’ve managed to optimize Apple Search Ads accounts in a few clicks. By using our platform and quite simple ad optimization techniques, you can analyze your Apple Search Ads performance twice faster and enhance your ad efficiency. –> Request SearchAdsHQ Demo

Download Complete Filters Cheat Sheet

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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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