An essential guide on how to use Apple Search Ads to boost App Store Optimization (ASO)

Search Ads by ASO

It’s been two years since Apple introduced Search Ads in 13 storefronts*, and it’s clear to anyone in the industry that they have been a huge success. Setting them up is easy, with those developing campaigns needing to choose between the simple ASA Basic (pay-per-install, simple setup) and more complex Advanced (pay-per-tap, more features) approaches. The quality of installs that can be achieved using both is superb, but scalability is a significant challenge facing mobile marketers.

Search Ads are effective at driving highly relevant installs, but that’s not all. There are two additional benefits of using Apple Search Ads when it comes to organic App Store Optimization (ASO):

          1) Collecting data about keywords for ASO.

          2) Conversion rate optimization.

Usage Apple Search Ads

In research we conducted, 83% of respondents in the advanced ASO community use ASA for driving their organic ASO strategy (detailed tips how to set up your strategy can be find here: It’s used by experts, but before working with us, not one of AppAgent’s clients did so.

This demonstrates to us that not everyone is aware of how to effectively use Apple Search Ads. So, within this blog, we will share with you several app store optimization best practice processes that you can use with Apple Search Ads on iOS.

We will also cover how to use keyword volume estimator (popularity score), to provide useful metrics that you can use to analyze and understand the relevance of keywords for your mobile app; how to measure the value of each keyword; and how to test app videos and app screenshots with ASA.

iOS keywords optimization

Compared to Android, App Store Optimization on iOS is easier because the algorithm is less advanced. The ultimate goal for keyword optimization is to use the most searched for, relevant and least competitive keywords in your app title, subtitle and keyword field. It’s essential that you create as many combinations from these keywords you can to target long-tail phrases. (You can read more about how this works this in a previous post)

For that purpose, at AppAgent we combine data from ASO tools like AppTweak with the search traffic information available in Apple Search Ads – where search volume is represented by a blue bar, on a scale from 0 to 100, that measures the traffic for each specific word.

You question why we don’t use the popularity score available in ASO tools. We have discovered that, from time to time, the value differs – making the data unreliable. As a result, we prefer to invest extra effort in double checking the volume in Search Ads.

Apptweak for Apple Search Ads

The great thing about Apple Search Ads is that you can use the Search Match function to identify new keywords. With Search Match on, your ad is automatically matched to new search terms based on the metadata from your App Store listing, information about similar apps in the same genre, and other available search data.

App Store optimization tip Search Match

The ability to check the relevance of keywords is where Apple Search Ads proves invaluable. Within just a few hours you can fully understand which keywords to optimize in your ASO efforts simply by running a small test campaign to collect data. By analyzing the Tap Through Rate (similar to Click Through Rate on the web), the conversion rate in the store, and the actual number of downloads you can begin to develop a more effective ASO strategy. Also, you can explore LTV per keyword using an attribution tool for campaigns analysis.

App Store optimization tip

Another top tip from AppAgent staffer Jiri is to test if using the name of a competitor in your keywords increases app downloads and revenue. Using mobile attribution we were able to observe that even though our client (check the ASO case study) was achieving decent traffic by using a major competitor’s name, very few purchases happened after the install. Naturally, as a result of this, we have excluded such keywords from’s Search Ads and reallocated the budget to target phrases that more effectively drive revenue.

ASA can help you narrow down your ASO strategy, but it’s not a goldmine. ASO is a long-term strategy and your goal should be to constantly increase organic downloads. A key learning point is look at ASA data from a longer perspective so you can see the true trend and performance of each keyword.

Also, don’t rely solely on ASA data. You still need to study the App Store itself and ask questions like: “what do the popular keywords look like?“, “do they make sense for my app in terms of competition and relevancy?” etc.

App Store listing optimization

Earlier this year Apple introduced Creative Sets which can be used – to some extent – for A/B testing your store listing. Until that point, marketers have had to use 3rd party testing tools like Storemaven or Splitmetrics to test creatives. These are basically fake HTML App Store landing pages, after which the user is redirected to the real store, for A/B testing.

The Creative Set is limited and only allows you to test app previews and screenshots. You’re unable to test app icons, promotional text or app descriptions. The number of A/B tests you can do isn’t limited, but all assets which you want to test must be submitted with a new version of the app in the App Store Connect and pass the review process. This means that all submitted assets will be visible in the store to any user visiting the app page, so beware!

Also, screenshots and app previews are not testable on brand keywords as Apple only delivers the text version for 99% of times. So in other words, you could test new creative set only for generic and competition terms.

App Store optimization tip

Once you pass the review process you can use approved assets in your Search Ads Ad Group, where you can monitor the performance of different groups. The order in which you upload assets is fixed and you can’t change them for the purposes of an A/B test. After the test is completed, low performing assets could be removed again from the store page in the App Store Connect.

App store optimization tips and tricks

Personally, I would highly recommend testing your app preview videos using Apple Search Ads Creative Sets. App previews on iOS are such a big deal when it comes to the impact on conversion rates that you need the most accurate data when A/B testing them.

We have found that 3rd party services are unable to match the lightning-fast video playback speed users experience on the App Store. Any delay in the loading time on a fake HTML page would have a major impact on user behaviour, and negatively impact the result of the A/B test.

That’s all for today. I hope that you have found some interesting information that will be useful for your mobile marketing efforts. If you would like to be the first to receive new articles and updates from AppAgent then don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

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🤝   Get help with the launch of your app or game, growth strategy, app and marketing analytics, ASO, user acquisition, video and playable ads production by reaching us at peter at appagent dot com.

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