What Apple’s new Search Ads Basic ad tool means for app developers

by Lewis Leong on Dec 19, 2017

Last week, Apple introduced a new way for app developers to advertise their products in the App Store. The new tool, called Search Ads Basic, allows developers a simple way to pay per install without worrying about detailed targeting.

If Search Ads Basic sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s an evolution of Apple’s Search Ads product, which is now separated into two offerings: Basic and Advanced. Basic is geared toward small app developers who don’t have the time or resources to devote to user acquisition, while Search Ads Advanced allows for more targeted ads. Advanced lets devs find potential users by taking into account location, gender, keywords, and other data.

So now that Search Ads Basic is available, what does it mean for developers and their user acquisition strategies? Let’s take a deeper look at Apple’s pay-per-install ad product.

Apple App Store ads

The advantages and limitations of Search Ads Basic

The biggest reason to use Search Ads Basic is its simplicity and high-quality traffic. It targets users who are searching the App Store, meaning they are already in the state of mind to download apps. This means developers can expect CPIs to be around $1.50 or even lower with CTRs of around 50%, according to Search Engine Land. These numbers are impressive, and they’re multitudes higher than other types of digital advertising.

However, Search Ads Basic is extremely limited in terms of where and how ads show up. For example, app developers can spend a maximum budget of $5,000 per month and can’t control targeting or retargeting. In fact, the only parameters marketers can choose are budget and the amount they want to pay per install. The benefit of limited options in Basic is simpler usability. For example, Apple can suggest the maximum amount a developer should pay based on historical data. Search Ads Basic is all about simplicity, and it requires that users trust Apple’s data and algorithm to promote their apps properly.

Additionally, since both Search Ads Basic and Advanced have direct access to App Store data, Apple can help optimize developers’ marketing spend on its platform. This is a major advantage of Apple’s pay-per-install ad platform since it doesn’t make its App Store data available to third parties.

Apple Search Ads Basic dashboardSo who is Search Ads Basic for? Basically (pun intended), it’s for small developers who are starting out and don’t want to mess with the more granular targeting options that Search Ads Advanced has to offer. Search Ads Basic opens up Apple’s ad platform to developers of all sizes to help gain exposure for apps.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Search Ads Basic at this point is that it’s only available in the United States. However, since Search Ads Advanced is available around the world, it’s highly likely Apple will roll out Search Ads Basic to other countries in the future.

Just one part of the user acquisition equation

While Search Ads Basic may be great for developers who are just starting out, it should be used as a supplement to a more holistic UA strategy.

For example, Search Ads Basic doesn’t allow developers to create their own ads. They are built by Apple, which is great for those who don’t have the creative experience or resources to make ads, but it also means that the success of these ads will be highly dependent on App Store optimization (ASO). So even the user-friendly version of the platform doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all approach to UA.

At the end of the day, UA strategies need to be diversified in order to scale businesses. Many UA tactics can be utilized for little to no cost. Keeping on top of PR, for example, helps spread the word for an app organically. Developers can also work to cross-promote their apps within competitors’ apps, which is most common with mobile games.

Search Ads Basic doesn’t change the world of mobile UA. It’s a great way to experiment, but there’s much more to user acquisition than buying ads in the App Store. For more on user acquisition, be sure to read our blog post about 10 tips for doing UA on a budget and what causes UA costs fluctuate.

Lewis Leong is AppLovin's Content Marketing Manager.

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