Apple Search Ads: What Impact Do They Have On ASO?

Byline: Laurie Galazzo, Inbound Marketing Manager at AppTweak.

At WWDC16, Apple introduced the arrival of Search Ads, which will be displayed in the App Store search results. But how and when will these ads appear? How will they affect App Store Optimization (ASO) and app discoverability? Everything you need to know below.

App Store discoverability: looking for a needle in a haystack

App Store discoverability has always been a controversial topic, subjected to a lot of criticisms due to its lack of relevance and accuracy.

With over 2 million apps in the store, smaller app developers struggle to get their app known while big publishers spend thousands on (mobile) marketing to keep their apps top-of-mind.

Although Apple already made several efforts to improve its ecosystem in favor of indie developers, the amelioration of its algorithm remains a great challenge.

Given that about 65% of downloads are coming directly from searches on the App Store, the importance of optimizing app store discoverability is capital.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is therefore becoming increasingly popular. Often referred as “Mobile SEO”, ASO is the process of improving each element of an app weighting in the algorithm. If done effectively, this technique can increase app rankings and keywords rankings, which will make the app found easier.

Recently – and for the first time – Apple has announced the arrival of Search Ads. They will give the App Store research experience a whole new feel. One of the main objectives behind these paid ads is to enhance app store discoverability.

Search Ads, “relevant to what the user searched for”

Among other changes – such as the comeback of the “Categories” tab for easier navigation or the improvements on the “Featured” section – Apple has officially introduced Search ads in the App Store.

Publishers will now be able to bid on Search Ads to make their app appear at the very top of the search results (similar to Google search).

Only one Search Ad at a time will be displayed and it will show the same content as other apps in the App Store listing. To indicate its difference with organic app results, Search Ads will be colored in blue, showing an “Ad” icon.

Apple Search Ads

Image courtesy: Apple

These Search Ads will be relevant to the search query and to the user’s intent. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, has actually insisted on the protection of consumers, claiming that their browsing experience will only be enriched with relevant results.

Indeed, no matter how much publishers will be willing to pay for an ad, their ad stands no chances to be displayed if it’s not entirely relevant to the search.

Plus, Schiller mentioned that these ads will not be shown to anyone under 13 and that users will be able to opt-out from any ad data or location tracking (through iOS settings).

Most importantly, Apple claims that it will not share any search user data with app developers nor create any search profiles of app store users. Only basic demographics and users behaviors towards the ad will be stored internally in order to display the most relevant ads.

Search Ads: a fair system for developers

Search Ads will definitely reshape app store discoverability, giving even more importance to keywords research.

Through this new implementation, Apple is going to review its UI and improve user experience in order to encourage users to benefit from these new ads and stimulate app store browsing even more.

The point is to create a whole new environment that will be profitable to all 3 major stakeholders: Apple; App Store users; app marketers & app developers.

  • Apple will make more money and will generate more activity on its store.
  • App Store users will get relevant and useful results, without being overwhelmed or flooded by intrusive ads.
  • App marketers & app developers will have new opportunities to market their apps through an auction system, on which they won’t pay unless users tap the ad (iAD network technology).

Schiller has actually highlighted the accessibility and the viability of these ads for smaller app developers. Since there will be no minimums and no exclusives, Search Ads will be affordable to indie developers, which are thus given the chance to participate and display their ads as well.  

What about App Store Optimization (ASO)?

As mentioned, relevance will be the most important factor ruling Search Ads display. In order to make sure the ads properly match the apps, Apple announced that app descriptions will be scanned, along with app names.

Although app descriptions don’t have any impact on the App Store algorithm in terms of ASO, they already have a capital importance for SEO. Now, app descriptions are getting even more important for the role they will play regarding Apple’s Search Match feature.

Apple will indeed automatically match ads to relevant searches in the store. It will therefore be essential to include relevant, descriptive and contextually linked keywords, as well as potential searched terms, in app descriptions.

Plus, as keywords research will most likely be encouraged, keywords Search Volume will grow higher. Search Ads won’t make organic results disappear. Just like SEO didn’t disappear with Google ads.

Keywords optimization and App Store Optimization will undoubtedly remain crucial to drive more downloads. Some ASO tools like AppTweak can be very helpful here.

Apple Search Ads

Finally, for app publishers using ads, they will most likely see an increase in their download volumes and conversion rates, as the ads displayed will be delivered to app store users at the right time, matching a specific research.

Since Apple’s algorithm takes downloads and conversion into account to rank apps, app developers will see a positive impact on their organic rankings if their ad campaign was successful.

Search Ads are available in beta and will be broadly rolled out this fall.


About the author:

Laurie is Inbound Marketing Manager at AppTweak. Passionate by new technologies and apps, she loves finding new ideas to spread valuable content on App Store Optimization and App Marketing. She’s in charge of the company’s blog, crafting articles helping users to increase their app downloads and rankings. She’s also at the head of the ASO University, teaching App Store Optimization basics through video tutorials, all available for free on the AppTweak blog.

  • Maciej Urban

    Nice article.

  • Muhammad Hilal

    awesome article. need some info about search ads.