Marketing a mobile app involves defining a target audience, learning how to reach them, and engaging them effectively as they move further along the user journey.
With 2.8 million apps available on Google Play, and 1.9 on Apple, app marketers know all too well how hard it is to stand out from the crowd. While millions of start-ups focus on mobile app development, the end game is to get users engaging with the app, or all your hard work is worthless. For SaaS marketers, nudging the users to move past the free trial is yet another challenge.
To help you navigate the treacherous waters of app marketing, we’ve compiled our findings from multiple campaigns across the 3 most potent app promotion platforms.
The power trio of Apple Search Ads (ASA), Google App Campaigns (GAC, previously known as Universal App Campaigns), and Facebook App Ads can help you scale rapidly.
We’ve weighed their pros and cons, so you can seize the best growth opportunities for your app and decide how to allocate your marketing budget.
Apple Search Ads (ASA)
iPhone users are reaching over 100 million solely in the United States. This makes the Apple Store one of the most treasured platforms for mobile applications’ marketers. With such an abundance of apps for any needs and wants, how do you stand out?
To boost your app discovery and place it among the top search results of the Apple Store, you should consider a few tactics. The most straightforward way is investing in paid ads. Otherwise, your application will be well hidden in Apple’s endless list of offers.
Why Run Apple Search Ads for Your App?
Apple Search Ads’ average conversion rate is 50%, ranking the platform’s traffic among the highest converting of all app marketing channels.
Additionally, iOS users have a strong commercial intent. In the SEE-THINK-DO marketing framework, app store searches are comfortably nested at the bottom-of-the-funnel. This highly-motivated audience is already in the app store, ready to go from THINK to DO stage, and click ‘download’.
How can you nudge them and ease their conversion? Apple Search Ads offer you a premium placement – showing your ad first on search results. No more scrolling to find your app on the list. See how Candy Crash and Headspace show first.
While this sounds like everything that ASO (app store optimization) marketers have ever dreamed of, there are still several factors that may prevent the user from converting.
Some Downsides of Apple Search Ads
The options for search ads and discovery on Apple’s store look promising, but there are quite a few limitations you should be aware of. Few discovery searches, data discrepancies, limited control on the creatives, and untrackable ROAS (return on ad spend) pose their challenges to your marketing efforts.
The way searches happen in ASA differs significantly from queries in Google search. Over 50% of the searches on the app store are branded. Meaning that the search ends there. One way you can turn this in your favor is by bidding on your competitors’ brands.
Only 34% of the queries are discovery-centric, including keywords of a more general type.
Another drawback when running Apple Search Ads is related to data discrepancies with mobile measurement providers. The range for such discrepancies is between 20 and 70%. What this means, is that up to 70% of the revenue can be attributed to organic traffic or other marketing channels – quite a lot to stomach.
What causes the issue with ASA? Among other factors, re-downloads, limited ad tracking (LAT), and an attribution window difference.
When it comes to the creatives you can use for your ads, your choice is limited. It depends on the description and the images you already have on your app store listing page. You cannot create new ones, nor choose a specific order of appearance. You got to use screenshots and fixed combinations of Creative Sets only.
And last but not least in importance, it is impossible to track your ROI or ROAS. You can track only installs, not trials or paid subscriptions. There is no option to import other data to get an overarching graph for results. You’d need to count on other marketing channels to be able to measure these KPIs.
How to Create a Winning Apple Search Ad Campaign
When creating an ad campaign on ASA, as a rule of thumb you should consider what keywords the audience uses to navigate the store. Then, make good use of your visuals, and, finally, measure the results.
While an iOS user may type in between 2 or 3 keywords on a single search, you’d need to target that query in all possible keyword variations. Set your campaign with the following:
- Brand keywords
- General – Exact Match
- General – Broad Match
- Search Match
For your ads’ visuals, keep in mind that the order in which you upload the images matters. They are basically screenshots and app previews. You can add up to 20 variations, then the Apple Search Ads intelligent automation will play its part. The creative with higher customer response will be displayed more often.
For customer targeting, you can choose age, gender, location, and device (iPhone or iPad). Take into account that if you segment by gender/age, you automatically exclude users with Limited Ad Tracking Enabled. It’s usually better to target them as they are considered more valuable, being more technologically savvy. Also, you have an option to select new or returning users.
Testing and measuring your ASA performance against other app marketing channels will help you build an overall view of what serves you and your clients best.
Running Google App Campaigns (GAC)
A growing network of SaaS marketers and app developers are using Google’s App Campaigns.
Google App Campaigns (formerly Google Universal App Campaigns or UAC) are mobile app ad campaigns that can reach consumers across Google’s digital properties to drive app install and in-app actions.
They are a marketing omnichannel that can get you the largest exposure. Your ads will appear not only on Search, but also on Google Play, YouTube, Discover on Google Search, and the vast Google Display Network.
Aren’t Google App Campaigns suitable for Android apps only? Not at all. The targeting options include promoting iOS apps, too. Find about all the settings you can use for your GAC marketing campaign.
How Do Google App Campaigns Work?
No wonder they used to call it Universal App Campaigns – with this channel, you can advertise across all оf Google’s most significant properties in a single campaign. The platform has some unique features, too.
Starting with Google’s machine learning, once you pass the benchmark of minimum conversions, the AI will find an audience that likes similar apps. The powerful automation will optimize either for installs or for in-app actions according to the goals you set.
Another advantage of GAC is that they are very easy to set up. The platform automatically pulls the data from your app’s listing such as app name, app store images, or description.
To launch your Google app campaign, you’d need to provide up to 5 headlines, descriptions, images, and videos.
Some Limitations of Google App Campaigns
Even though optimization is the cherry on the cake for PPC experts, they’d find their hands tied with GAC’s options. The platform does not give you control over targeting, which seriously limits any campaign optimization work.
There is not much you can do about ad copies, either. You simply have to trust Google’s AI to test all available choices and give greater visibility to the top-performing ad sets.
Looking for a search term report? You won’t find it in Google’s app campaigns. At least, not yet.
How to Make the Most of Your Google App Campaign
There are a few best practices you can use to achieve better results with GAC.
Watch the bid to budget ratios and try to increase them. You shouldn’t make big changes at once, because this would create swings in the performance. The algorithm would start exploring new audiences and expand the timeframe for acquiring new data.
Do you wish to promote your app in a different language? Structure your campaigns based on the markets you will target, once you reach substantial budgets. A market clustering and bidding strategy lets you control the delivery.
Always add visual content to every single GAC you run. Google suggests to use these 3 components for creative excellence:
- Landscape Image
- Landscape Video
- Portrait Video.
Video assets, naturally, would be a bit more costly. But video content marketing is worth the effort for driving your engagement metrics up.
Make data-driven decisions and use your creative thinking. You’d be on the right track to boost the performance of your paid ads.
Marketing With Facebook App Ads
With roughly 2.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook is still the world’s biggest social platform. It should be high up on your list of marketing channels if you plan to do app marketing right. The average CPI (cost per app install) for 2020 is roughly $3.40.
What Are Facebook App Ads
Facebook App Ads have advanced targeting options like no other platform. They come with all
the targeting options that regular Facebook ads use. In addition to that, you can set your Facebook campaign to target a particular OS version. Finding the tech geeks in front of the screens of their brand new devices has never been easier.
You can also choose to run your ads when the users are connected to Wi-Fi for optimal speed. This works exceptionally well for playable ad formats. They are just one of the many creative ways you can select for app promotion.
And not to forget about the option for deep-links when doing remarketing. A deep-linking is a ‘shortcut’ that directly takes the buyer to the piece of content within your app that triggered the click. It’s a smart way to personalize the buyers’ journey. As app marketing becomes more and more UX-orientated, creating such a seamless experience for your customers is vital.
Facebook App Ads can effectively optimize for both installs and in-app actions, which is another handy feature. Plus, you can leverage the platform’s strengths and use some creative ways to visualize and showcase your app.
What Are the Cons of Promoting Your App on Facebook
Although setting up Facebook SDK (Software Development Kit) might be easy for a developer, app marketers might find it challenging. It is the only way your app can send accurate data to Facebook.
SDK enables a higher level of tracking and ad targeting. App events are crucial for your business goals and campaign adjustments. SDK integration issues often lead to discrepancies in the results you obtain.
Another slight disadvantage of app ads on this social platform is that the average CPI has been rising in the past years. AdEspresso’s research shows an increase of $2 between the CPI rates of 2019 and 2020.
How to Optimize Your Facebook App Ads
Similarly to GAC, you can optimize your Facebook App Ads both for installs and in-app actions. You can select the bid type in the ad set level. If you go after ‘app installs’ you tell the algorithm to maximize your application’s reach.
Should you choose app event optimization, the system would target users who are likely to take a specific action. Let’s say that in-app purchases are valuable to your business. You can optimize your ads for those purchases.
Facebook lookalike audiences are another tool to drive more app downloads once you have a solid user database. You’d need to create at least 2 custom audiences for the testing – one audience based on users that installed the app, and another with users that took in-app actions.
For Facebook, there is also the option to test out automated app ads – they pretty much resemble UAC campaigns on Google Ads as you don’t set any targeting and have limited options to optimize.
Another vast field for testing conversion rate optimizations is in the creatives. Whatever format you choose (carousel, single image, or video), make sure it:
- Shows what your app does
- Highlights the value of your app
- Drives the action you aim for.
What’s Best for Marketing Your App: ASA, GAC, or Facebook App Ads?
When you have a limited budget and too many channel opportunities, it’s not easy to decide if you should go for Apple Store, Google, or Facebook app campaigns. The same goes for any marketers, facing the classic dilemma of allocating marketing budgets to Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
To figure out what channels work best for you, look around. Are your competitors using these channels? If you are promoting a game, app stores are definitely top of mind. This can also mean that you can take ‘the road less traveled’ and focus all your efforts on social media platforms to secure a more significant market share in a less-competitive space.
Which platform can help you increase your app downloads? The best approach is to have hands-on experience and run tests on each channel. The results will let you see what works best for your app.
We have run enough trials and errors in promoting different apps, so you don’t have to. If you wish to minimize the risk, consult our team of PPC experts, so you don’t have to start from scratch.