Apple’s App Store Paid Search Product: Impact on App Discoverability for Brands (Updated)

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Apple’s App Store Paid Search Product: Impact on App Discoverability for Brands (Updated)

Apple is introducing Search Ads within the U.S. App Store, coming this fall.


Apps continue to transform the mobile experience.  In fact, 23% of consumers now prefer to use mobile apps, vs. 20% who prefer mobile browsers (Quixey, Dec. 2015).  28.3% of people say they prefer apps vs. the mobile Web because apps provide better user experiences.  By 2017, mobile users will spend 3 hours and 23 minutes per day in-app, vs. only 52 mins on the mobile Web (eMarketer, 2015).  And today, 95% of U.S. smartphone users leverage apps, which ranks above mobile search, social networking, gaming, messaging and music listening (eMarketer, 2016).

When it comes to finding apps, 47% of all U.S. iPhone users search the App Store (Forbes, 2015).  But having your app in the store doesn’t guarantee that searchers will find it; amongst 1.5M apps, the large majority are buried and undiscoverable.  In fact, 50% of apps don’t get a single download.

New App Store paid search changes the game, giving brands the opportunity to surface their apps in-the-moment, when consumers have intent to download.

Mobile app install ads—which link directly to Google Play or the App Store—are already effective in driving app downloads for brands.  App install ads are currently featured in Google Search and Display, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Gemini and even Google Maps (e.g. Uber download ads).  Additionally, Search Ads on Google Play have existed since Feb. 2015:

App Post

Search Ads on Google Play

But unlike most app install ads, App Store search ads bring advertisers even closer to the moment of intent, where Apple users are actively searching for apps to download.  App Store ads would open an opportunity to engage iOS users; iOS currently has 32% market share globally vs. Android’s 61% share (NetMarketShare, 2016).  According to comScore, iOS users also have different characteristics than Android users, including skewing younger and more affluent, and also being more likely to engage in mobile commerce.  App Store search will give brands more access to these audiences.


As app usage continues to grow, all brands must consider developing, and then promoting, their apps.  App Store search will become a vital vehicle for delivering upon consumer intent.  Key strategies include:

  • Extension of Current App Download Campaigns: Search (e.g. Google search) is already a primary driver of app downloads, and now the App Store joins the mix. Brands should leverage key learnings from existing app download campaigns—keywords, copy, optimization—to extend performance to the App Store.
  • Beyond Brand: According to Forbes, only 5% of App Store searches include the name of the app. Most app store searchers use generic keywords like “fitness tracker,” “hotel reservations,” “restaurants,” etc.  Thus, the biggest opportunity for brands in the App Store is to curate relevant generic keyword lists to surface their apps to the top.
  • Earned Integration: If Apple takes a similar approach as Google, app ads could contain elements like user reviews and stars. Excellent user experiences will thus translate into more downloads.  Brands must actively engage in conversations with app customers and incorporate their feedback.
  • Organic App Store Optimization (ASO): Beyond paid search, don’t forget about organic search App Store Optimization (ASO). App titles, descriptions, screenshots and icons all play a role in where your app ranks organically.  To illustrate, through ASO, Performics drove 120K+ downloads for a previously unknown ride-sharing app.
  • Holistic App Download Strategies: Consider holistic paid-organic App Store strategies to dominate the app search results for mission-critical queries. This should include paid promotion campaigns (new App Store, Google Search, Facebook, etc.), as well as longer-term ASO strategies.

The $4.6B mobile app install market is expected to grow to $6.8B in 2019 (BI Intelligence).  The App Store’s paid search product may be a boon for not only Apple, but also brands looking to engage consumers in the moments they want apps.

For more info on App Store Paid Search and ASO Strategies, please contact your performance account team today.

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