Apple Search Ads Campaign Strategy

apple search ads


If your company or client wants to promote an app, Apple Search Ads is a great channel to reach people on the App Store. Apple Search Ads went live on October 5 and since then, I have set up multiple clients on the platform. Over time, I’ve come to find the campaign structure that works best for me and I wanted to share my tips.

Before we get into building campaigns, let’s take a look at the settings available at each level:

  • Campaign: Budget, Daily Cap – you can adjust both at any time.
  • Ad Group: Devices, Ad Scheduling, Default Bids, Search Match, Customer Types, Demographics, Locations.

As you can see, there are many more settings available at the ad group level compared to campaign level.

Initial Campaign Structure

The Apple Search Ad platform is not as sophisticated as traditional search channel platforms. Therefore, your campaign structure will be much more simple compared to what you are running on Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

I like to start with four campaigns right off the bat: Brand, Competitors, General, and Search Match.

apple search ad campaign structure
Below are some suggestions for how to setup these different campaigns.


For Brand, I typically stick to one ad group unless there are enough variations among branded terms to warrant splitting them into multiple ad groups. This campaign is pretty straight forward.


Competitor campaigns typically result in the highest amount of downloads for my client accounts. This makes sense, since many people who are searching on the app store are searching for a specific app. Take advantage of this.

I also like to break out each competitor into its own ad group to easily see performance differences. This campaign is also pretty straightforward.


The General campaign is built similar to a standard keyword targeted search campaign, with keywords split into ad groups based on category or theme. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Use your existing search campaigns to build out this General campaign. I also like to keep all match types within the same ad group (Apple Search only has broad and exact match types), but will break out ad groups by match type later if volume and performance warrants it.

You don’t have to be as strict with ad group relevance in Apple Search as you are in Google or Bing, since you aren’t creating ads specific to keyword groups. In fact, you aren’t creating ads at all.

Search Match

The fourth campaign is unique to Apple Search, and this is the Search Match campaign. I use it for keyword mining. Search Match is a feature that will automatically match your ad to relevant searches in the App Store, including the metadata from your App Store listing, information about similar apps in the genre and other search data. Search Match goes broader than broad and is similar to AdWords’ dynamic search ads.

This campaign only has one ad group with the Search Match feature turned on (it is an ad group level setting that is on by default). You can choose to add keywords or not, Search Match will work either way. My biggest suggestion is to make sure that any keywords that exist in other campaigns are added as exact match negatives to the Search Match campaign.

I run a search term report weekly for the Search Match campaign to see which searches are converting. If there is enough search volume, I add them to my General campaign (or Branded/Competitor depending on the search term). I then add those keywords as negatives to the Search Match campaign to cover all of my bases.

The ad group in the Search Match campaign is the only ad group in the account that uses the Search Match feature. If you want to follow this strategy, make sure when you are building ad groups in the Brand, Competitor, and General campaigns you remember to turn Search Match off (again, remember that it is on by default).

Campaign Expansion

Once I start getting data for my four initial campaigns, I decide if I want to break out additional campaigns. The main determiner I use when deciding if I should make a new campaign is, do I want a separate budget for a set of ad groups? You can navigate to the Reports section in each campaign to identify an performance differences for different segments. See the screenshot below.

Apple Search Ad Reports

For example, one of my clients was seeing a higher lead quality for iPhone users vs iPad users. We wanted to set lower bids and set a lower daily budget for iPads which led us to having two campaigns that are almost identical, except ad groups are targeting iPad instead of iPhone.

Apple Search doesn’t have a duplication or campaign upload feature, so it can take time to build out a new campaign by hand. The limitations of the interface definitely come into play in determining campaign structure. Fingers crossed more features roll out to make building more efficient.

I hope these tips help if you are getting started building Apple Search Ad campaigns.

Have any questions or additional tips? Please comment below!