Apple Search Ads: A Beginner's Guide in 2023

All Basics you need to know about Apple Search Ads before getting started!

So you've chosen to step up your iOS app advertising. Good news: Apple Search Ads will be your secret weapon for increasing app visibility, downloads, and growth.

Apple Search Ads, which were introduced in 2016, allowed hundreds of developers and App Store publishers to get ahead of the competition and reach customers in the App Store. You can know more about Apple Search Ads' benefits.

In this article, we've included all the information you'll need to get started with Search Ads. You will understand what Apple search ads are, the difference between Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced campaigns, the benefits and drawbacks of each, the various types of Apple Ads campaigns, and the essential metrics that can be used to track the performance of ASA.

What are Apple Search Ads, and How Does it Work?

Apple Search Ads (ASA) are App Store adverts that appear in both the search results and the search tab. They enable advertisers to reach out to relevant people who are looking for Apps with keywords.

For example, if a user enters a term such as "dancing," they will get a relevant ad for an app bidding on the keyword "dancing" every time.

When a keyword is searched for in the App Store, an auction is performed between applications that want their ad to display for the specified keyword. Some applications bid a certain sum to have their adverts appear, and the successful app's ad appears at the top of the search results.

There are two versions of Apple Ads, depending on your demands and level of expertise:

  1. Apple Search Ads Basic 
  2. Apple Search Ads Advanced.
  3. Apple Search Ads Basic vs Advanced

Let's jump right into the 2 different types of Apple Search Ads and identify their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Apple Search Ads Basic 

As the name suggests, Apple Search Ads Basic is a simplified and automated version of Apple Search Ads. Its setup and following management are minimal efforts compared with the Advanced version. Regardless of that it is simple to set up, you will only be paid for the installations.

These are aimed at those who are new to mobile advertising. It truly takes only a few minutes to put them up and a few minutes to evaluate your progress on the quick-view dashboard. There is no long-term commitment; you may stop or suspend your app's advertising whenever you like.

It's worth mentioning that new accounts get a $100 credit. As a result, you may try out Apple Search Advertising Basic for free. Simple Search Advertising is available for budgets of up to $10,000 per app per month. For budgets greater than that, you must go to Advanced Choices.

The Benefits of Apple Search Ads Basics:

  • Pay just for installations at the price you select
  • Intelligent automation
  • Simple minimal management for budgets up to 10,000 USD per app, each month

When you use Apple Search Ads Basic as an advertiser, you are allowing Apple to decide most, if not all, of the campaign decisions. To create an Apple Search Ads Basic campaign, simply follow these steps:

  • Set the nations and areas where you want your adverts to appear on your own.
  • Design your campaign budget, which can range up to $10,000 per app. The budget includes max monthly budget and max budget for an installation, which is maxed CPI (cost-per-install).

Disadvantages of Apple Search Ads Basic:

Although Apple Search Ads Basic appears appealing and simple at first look, it might eventually be the demise of your entire advertising and app growth plan. Because you hand over the total management of your campaign to Apple, campaign optimization becomes opaque, and you lose control over where and how your money is spent.

As a result, for any iOS app developer or marketer, Apple Search Ads Basic is riddled with drawbacks.

  • There is no keyword refinement.
  • There is no audience refinement.
  • Budget constraint
  • There is a limit to the number of apps that can be advertised.
  • Access to the Attribution API is restricted.

Altogether, you may not get the best results with Apple Search Ads Basic. Therefore, if you are aiming to get the best out of your ads, try out Apple Search Ads Advanced, an undoubtedly powerful mobile advertising channel.

2. Apple Search Ads Advanced

In contrast to the Basic campaigns, Apple Search Ads Advanced gives you complete control over your whole app advertising campaign, which allows you to optimize your keywords and audience strategy. You'll also be able to access advanced analysis data to get a greater understanding of how your campaigns are functioning, providing you the chance to improve.

The Benefits of Apple Search Ads Advanced:

First, with Apple Search Ads Advanced, you are able to optimize your ad performance to improve return on advertisements by leveraging the following parameters

  • Ad groups
  • Keywords
  • Targeting
  • Budget
  • Schedule
  • Creatives
  • Custom Reporting

Second, regarding ad placements, unlike the basic version can only be showed at the search result page, Apple Search Ads Advanced gives you the possibility to promote your app advertisements on

  • Today tab
  • Search tab 
  • Search results 
  • other apps’ product pages while customers are browsing

ASA Advanced Ad placements (source: Apple)

Disadvantages of Apple Search Ads Advanced

The drawback of Apple Search Ads Advanced is that running a good campaign needs time and knowledge. In other words, you may need to invest some effort in determining the best parameters for your campaigns. Analyzing and adjusting your Apple Ads campaigns will not only help you develop your understanding of the platform, but will also help you achieve the required growth outcomes for your app.

Having said that, Apple Search Ads Advanced offers a variety of benefits for anybody trying to increase their app promotion efforts.

3. Apple Search Ads Basic vs Advanced


Campaign Types for Apple Search Ads

Here, we have listed 4 types of Campaigns:

  1. Apple Search Ads Discovery Campaigns - Customers searching for popular search terms related to your service/offering thus targeting a wider audience 
  2. Apple Search Ads Brand Campaigns — Customers searching directly for your app
  3. Apple Search Ads Category Campaigns — Customers searching for apps in your same category
  4. Apple Search Ads Competitor Campaigns — Customers searching for apps similar to yoursasa-campaign-structure-outline

1. Apple Search Ads Discovery Campaigns

The Discovery campaign aims to reach a larger audience by mining for popular search phrases to utilize as keywords. The main goal of the Apple Discovery Campaign is to find new useful keywords related to your app. You can leverage broad match keywords and Search Match in this campaign to automatically match your ad to relevant search phrases. You should establish two separate ad groups:

Broad match ad group: All the keywords from the other three campaign types are included in the broad match ad group, but the match type has to be set to broad and Search Match should be turned off.

Search match ad group: The Search Match ad group has no keywords, It is used to display your ad for relevant App Store searches.

You'll be reaching a substantially broader audience, and as a result, your impressions will most surely be high. Add all the keywords from your brand, category, and competition campaigns as exact match negative keywords to your discovery campaign.

2. Apple Search Ads Brand Campaigns

Bid on keywords that are either your brand name or related to your brand. The major goal here is to protect your brand. Keep in mind that exact-match keywords are used in Brand Campaigns. These are an important source of installs since you will score well for your specific brand terms in general.

As a consequence, the chances of competitors running campaigns on your brand's keywords and stealing your audience are pretty significant. Brand promotions target App Store users who are already seeking your brand and software. They are high-intent customers, which indicates they came to the App Store with a specific aim in mind rather than merely browsing. 

3. Apple Search Ads Category Campaigns

Bid on general keywords related to the app’s category, gameplay, or core functionality. Non-branded keywords are used in Category Campaigns to help your ad appear when customers search for what your app does or the category it is in. 

This indicates that you are seeking to attract a relevant audience who is already searching for your app or a similar app through this campaign.

4. Apple Search Ads Competitor Campaigns

Bid on your competitors’ names or keywords that they are bidding on. Exact Match keywords are often used in competitor campaigns. Here, you're attempting to persuade store visitors who are looking for your rivals to install your app instead.

You must ensure that the keywords contain the names and name variants of your rivals.

Related reading: 

Apple Search Ads Set-up tutorial(Step-by-step guide)
Apple Search Ads Best Practices
Apple Search Ads Attribution and Analytics Tools

Tracking Apple Search Ads Post-install Performance with Funnel Analysis

We already have a report covering all metrics on the Apple Search Ads dashboard before, however, Apple’s dashboard mainly tracks the performance of app installs, which is not granular and precise enough for subscription apps to evaluate the lifetime customer value. So, for subscription app advertising with ASA, you’d better integrate Apple Search Ads attribution API or Campaign Management API into your subscription platform like, to track the lifetime value of your installs. funnel analysis enables app developers/marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing channels with entire app users' life value, from installs >> trials >> subscriptions >> churn. Check out how help measure Apple Search Ads performance at the ad campaign, ad group, and keyword level.

If you are using Apple Search Ads Basic, integrating attribution API to with just a few lines of coding, you can track the subscription conversions of your ASA installs at the campaign level.

If you are using Apple Search Ads Advanced, you can analyze the post-install performance of ASA at the keywords level, to find out the best ROI keywords and improve your ROAS. Currently, we support both Adjust attribution and the ASA attribution for keywords performance analysis.

* Funnel Analysis is included in Free Plan 


Apple Search Ads is a powerful and accessible channel to boost iOS app installs as well as the organic ranking for iOS apps. It is the only way to promote apps directly within the Apple App Store, making it an instant goldmine for first, increasing brand awareness, and second, pushing downloads.

If you want to advertise your app in a nation with a larger iOS market share, Apple Search Ads are the best option! Check out funnel analysis demo to see how it can help improve the return on Apple Search Ads.

Track ASA Post-install Performance 

FAQs about Apple Search Ads

1. Are Apple Search ads worth it?

Yes. Apple search ads, if done right, can bring a lot of targeted users to your apps. It is a popular and effective app marketing method to increase installs, promote app brands and grow your app business.

2. What is the difference between Apple search ads basic and advanced?

Apple Search Ads Basic is a simplified and automated version of Apple Search Ads: Just finish the setup and it will work automatically. The ads are displayed on app store search results and you pay by cost per install(CPI). 

While with Apple Search Ads Advanced, app marketers have full control over the app advertising campaign, being able to decide the keywords, campaign audience and also the ads budgets. The ads can be shown on app store search results, the app store today tab, the search tap and other apps’ product pages. You pay the ads by cost per tap(CPT).  

3. How much does it cost per tap Apple search ads?

There is no fixed price for CPT in Apple Search Ads. It depends on the bids of you and your competitors for a single keyword. The one with the highest bid wins the audition. The actual amount you’ll pay is based on what your next closest bidder is willing to pay. You have control over the highest bid for a specific keyword. 

Apple Search Ads: A Beginner's Guide in 2023

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