— 24 Jul 2020

Apple Search Ads and SearchAdsHQ for Mobile Game Advertising

Anastasia Sidoryk

When it comes to Apple Search Ads, gaming publishers have specific goals and challenges related to the ads channel. Running ads for a game is not the same as for a subscription app. And it comes as no surprise that mobile games marketers will have specific expectations about the third-party platform to manage Apple Search Ads. 

If you’re a game publisher looking for such a platform, this article is for you. We’ve tried to explain why you should seriously consider SearchAdsHQ for mobile game advertising and satisfying your key Apple Search Ads goals. 

1. Getting an in-depth Apple Search Ads overview 

1) You want to have Apple Search Ads & MMPs metrics in one place

Apple Search Ads dashboard unites top-funnel metrics up to the download of your game. But to analyze revenue and in-app events that follow your game’s install, you resort to the third party tracker.  

Going between Apple Search Ads dashboard and your MMP dashboard can be frustrating and time-consuming. SearchAdsHQ brings two data sources together in real-time mode, so you don’t have to waste time on merging vital metrics:

SearchAdsHQ dashboard_Metrics
SearchAdsHQ dashboard

In addition, based on the data from the two sources, you have to routinely perform calculations to understand where optimization is needed. And for this optimization to be introduced, you have to go back to Apple Search Ads dashboard again. 

SearchAdsHQ combines actionable analytics and optimization functionality. 

Firstly, the platform will calculate your vital metrics automatically and show them on your dashboard. To name a few, you get CPI, ROAS and cohorted ROAS to see how quickly users bring you revenue. 

Secondly, the stats are available across the entire account structure down to a keyword, so you will be able to see which one brings you more installs and revenue.  

And last but not least, optimization is performed right from the same dashboard. Using flexible SearchAdsHQ filters you can identify the keywords that perform well or poorly, and change their bids accordingly in bulk. All these things can be automated as well.

2) You want to get a performance snapshot for all games in your portfolio

Unlike publishers of subscription apps, game publishers, especially big ones, combine multiple titles in one portfolio. If you’re one of them, you might want to get the full picture of what’s happening with all your games and compare their performance.

SearchAdsHQ generates the “Total Summary” report so that you can quickly check your main stats for all your games:

SearchAdsHQ_Total Summary
SearchAdsHQ main dashboard

In a click, you can jump from account to account, or from game to game, and compare them in terms of performance – all from one dashboard.

3) You want to compare main keywords across campaigns & locations 

Of all the keywords that you bid on, you might keep an eye on a few ones that bring you most of the volume and revenue. If you’re a big publisher, users are likely to search you by branded search terms, such as “clash of clans” for example.  

You’ll most likely include this prominent keyword [clash of clans] in different campaigns across multiple locations, and you will want to compare its performance (Impressions, CPI or ROAS) across the account structure. To simplify the comparison for you, SearchAdsHQ aggregates the performance of a keyword by the needed metrics and visualize it on a chart: 

SearchAdsHQ_dashboard_comparing keywords on a chart
SearchAdsHQ dashboard: comparing keywords on a chart

Sometimes, some obvious trends spotted from a graph may help you make data-based optimization decisions.

2. Cracking Limit Ad Tracking to get True ROAS 

While discrepancies between Apple Search Ads and MMP reporting can be caused by re-downloads, open latencies, etc., LAT is by far the biggest contributor to the mismatch. 

There are different hacks on how to crack Limit Ad Tracking, including for True ROAS. You might have your own formulas to get the metric and gauge it manually, which is time-consuming though.

Instead, you can entrust this to SearchAdsHQ. The platform has a default column with unadjusted ROAS (Revenue / Spend * 100%), but you can also configure the custom columns based on custom formulas. For example, we usually suggest the following one:

SearchAdsHQ csutom column configuration
Formula configuration popup in SearchAdsHQ

Q [0.5-1.0] is a decreasing coefficient that accounts for the converting quality of your LAT On users. Our recommendation is Q = 0.9. 

Once the formula is set up, the platform will calculate the metric automatically and show it on the SearchAdsHQ dashboard as a custom column. From now on, you have the correct metric to optimize bids for.

Download the Cheat Sheet with all formulas to calculate adjusted metrics.   

3. Managing time on Apple Search Ads: automation and bulk 

Automation can take over your workload across multiple Apple Search Ads processes, which is especially helpful when you have to manage multiple accounts and promote a big portfolio of games. Monitoring, managing, optimizing and scaling – all can be automated with SearchAdsHQ. 

1) You want to automate bid changing to hit Target ROAS 

Think about the way you work with bids when you run Apple Search Ads for your game. You have to regularly track underperforming and well-performing keywords and then change bids. Monitoring and bid changing is done manually, which takes much time.  

Instead, you can configure a couple of rules in SearchAdsHQ with a gradual bid increase or decrease. Let’s say you check ROAS on day 7, and your Target ROAS D7 = 50%.

Rule settings for well-performing keywords:

Action: Change keyword bid
Increase by 10%
Once in 3 days
ROAS D7 greater than 60%
Date range: 
Custom Number of day is 15           Excluding 8 days

Rule settings for underperforming keywords: 

Action: Change keyword bid
Decrease by 10%
Once in 3 days
Spend > $200 
ROAS D7 less than 40%
Date range: 
Custom Number of day is 15          Excluding 8 days

The two rules will monitor keywords falling under the outlined conditions and decrease/increase bids by the indicated percent once in 3 days automatically. Pay attention to the date range: SearchAdsHQ enables you to customize it and make an offset by excluding 8 days to form a fully baked cohort

Read more on how to manage bids using automated rules for games.  

Overall, automation helps react to certain circumstances quickly without deep-diving each and every day, while giving you certain control as you set the rules yourself. 

Read all you need to know on how to automate Apple Search Ads using SearchAdsHQ. The platform supports automation for keywords, search terms and campaigns. 

2) You want to spend less time on duplicating Creative Sets 

If you promote a game on the App Store with Apple Search Ads, you are very likely to experiment with Creative Sets. Testing what resonates better with your audience can significantly improve TTR of your ads and generate more downloads.

With all the advantages, working with Creative Sets may be challenging in terms of duplicating. Usually, you have to copy a set into one ad group at a time. This process can take a while when you run Apple Search Ads for multiple games across different locations and have a complex account overall. 

With SearchAdsHQ this process will take 10 minutes. We’ve got bulk duplication for Apple Search Ads Creative Sets – you just have to select the required ad groups for copying and the chosen sets will be duplicated in a few clicks:

SearchAdsHQ_Bulk duplication for Creative Sets
SearchAdsHQ dashboard: Creative Sets duplication

Creative Sets testing provides you with data on the tap-through rate and conversion. However, if the two metrics are not enough for you, consider using a specialized A/B testing solution – SplitMetrics. A/B test your creatives in three environments – App Store product page, App Store search results page or category page – and get in-depth analytics for all the elements under testing. Request demo.

4. How to scale Apple Search Ads using SearchAdsHQ

Scaling is a burning issue for gaming marketers. Only a limited set of keywords may be especially effective, but you might want to gain traction via other keywords. Looking for new ones that might work and boosting impressions for good converters can be done with SearchAdsHQ. 

1) You want to boost impressions & traffic volume 

As for impressions, there’s no way to know why you fall short of them until you gradually raise the CPT bid and the keyword might start getting impressions. Instead of manually changing bids for keywords and wasting time on monitoring, you might configure an automated rule that will do that for you: 

Rule settings: 

Change keyword bid
Increase bid by $0.1 
Upper bid limit $2
Conditions: Impressions less than 2
Date range: Previous 3 days

You might set a comfortable upper limit as a top threshold for a rule, and forget about tracking the process every minute. 

SearchAdsHQ offers multiple automated rules focused on scaling. Here’re some of them to name a few:  

  • Rules that help automatically transfer search terms generated in a discovery campaign;
  • Rules that help get yet more conversions at a lower cost (Adjust bid by Target KPI). 

Read on SearchAdsHQ rules in detail in our guide on Apple Search Ads automation.

2) You want to find new strong keywords

Let’s say you’re a big publisher that launches multiple titles. For each game that you market via Apple Search Ads, you need to generate keyword ideas to bid on and then add it to the account. 

Generating keyword ideas from scratch through Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns may take some time. To speed up the process, you might like the built-in Keyword Planner inside SearchAdsHQ. Insert your competitor and see what they rank for, get search popularity for each keyword, and most importantly, instantly add the best keywords to the needed campaigns and ad groups:

SearchAdsHQ built-in Keyword Planner
SearchAdsHQ built-in Keyword Planner

Wrapping up

Choosing the right platform to manage and automate Apple Search Ads is a very important decision as it can affect your performance and revenue. If you still have second thoughts on SearchAdsHQ for mobile game advertising, bring them to us – request a demo tour with one of our specialists. Ask them any questions and see how the platform works.  

Optimize your Apple Search Ads campaigns with SplitMetrics Acquire
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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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