1 December, 2016

The Evolution of Apple’s Ad Networks


Apple is no stranger to ad networks. In mid-2010 the company launched iAd, an ad network to compete with Google’s AdMob by providing placements in apps and promising to be more interactive than other networks. Unfortunately, the model that was offered by Apple failed 6 years after its launch. While many thought that Apple is backing away from its “iAd dream”, the company made its way back to the ad business, and Apple’s long-expected search ads are finally live. This news is extremely important for app developers and advertisers, since between 65-80 percent of all app installs happen after a search on either the App Store or Google Play.

Apple Search Ads launched in October 2016, as a more conservative approach to advertising. Apple made significant changes to iAd, which resulted in providing users with self-service, and an auction-based platform with no initial minimal spends. Apple’s search algorithm identifies the relevancy of the ad to the user’s search query, and only displays the ad if it matches. The matching system, in a way, correlates with Google’s Adwords search campaigns, in which higher matches and higher bids will appear before lower ones.

Due to the fact that Apple Search Ads lack elaborate targeting and more specific controls for optimization, the primary uses for the Apple Search Ads can be attributed to driving installs and app discovery. Therefore, a properly placed ad can drive installs through the roof. A secondary use for Apple Search Ads is to get insights into ASO. Apple makes it available to advertisers to see the popular keywords users search for, even before clicking on their ads. This will help app developers understand which keywords are important and trending and should be included in the app listing in order to increase organic installs and the relevance for future Apple Search Ads.

There are pros and cons to ads in Apple. Cons: advertisers have no control whatsoever over the ads, because Apple takes the information straight from the app listing, including the description line above the fold and screenshots. Therefore, you can’t optimize based on ads, do a creative analysis or any A/B testing for that matter. Pros: Apple Search Ads tend to attract more quality traffic. Also, no ads need to be reviewed or approved as is the case with Google AdWords. Thus, campaigns are instant! You set it up and it runs – no wait required.

Another important point is that the UI of Apple Search Ads goes counterintuitive to Apple’s Modus Operandi. It is very difficult to find your way around, see data in a practical way… even the backend is clunky, and it takes a long time to merely change the daily spend cap on each campaign.

In the first month since its launch, we at yellowHEAD faced a difficult time trying to push traffic, having to drive bids way up and even then we hardly saw any movement. However, from the initial results we noticed that this platform offers very quality traffic. Interestingly, from November 1st, when we assume Apple made a change and started to serve more ad inventory, we suddenly felt a drastic increase in traffic. Since then we learned how to harness the power of the newly adopted network to drive CPIs down and increase our trusted clients’ ROI.

Currently, the traffic volumes are relatively low in comparison to those of other ad networks, and even though Apple’s platform has some problems, we do notice that many app developers are driven to Apple Search Ads and rightfully so, seeing as Apple is putting a lot of effort to improve this platform. Therefore, we expect it to become an increasingly important network for app developers and advertisers as it possesses a lot of potential to become a major channel over time.


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