• Scott Kaplan

Apple Search Ads: Basic or Advanced?

As you’re probably aware, Apple Search Ads offers two flavors: Apple Search Ads Basic & Apple Search Ads Advanced. There are pros and cons to both. Advanced takes more work. You can be up and running with Basic in minutes.

However, it doesn’t take much effort to obviate the need Basic. Go with Advanced.

Disclaimer: This post assumes you have a general understanding of both formats. If you don’t, check out the aforementioned links from Apple.

About Apple Search Ads Basic

Literally can take 5 minutes to setup. Select your app, location, maximum cost per install (CPI), monthly budget (can’t exceed $10K/mo) and status. You’re done. The dashboard provides an all-in-one view of performance and settings. There’s also a download option if you want to slice and dice data in a spreadsheet.

I love the simplified intent behind Basic. At Adoya, we’re all about being turnkey. Growth marketers fall in love too much with levers and features.


The Challenge with Search Ads Basic

Sadly, Basic oversimplifies things and has some notable limitations:

Limitation #1: Questionable matching

As far as my colleagues and I have been able to tell, Apple Search Ads basic is a pure Search Match campaign.

Search Match is where Apple uses its AI to serve your ad to queries it deems relevant. Search Match is awesome for harvesting new keyword ideas through search query mining but I would NEVER put all my eggs in one basket on it.

Search Match campaigns are notorious for generating volume and hitting CPI targets while matching on many irrelevant queries. If you manage it great, but if not (and you can’t through Basic), you’re hosed.

Here’s a sample of queries that search-matched to one of our clients: an on-demand dry cleaning app. This questionable matching I’ve seen with other clients too.

Before I get hate mail, let me reiterate – Search Match has its place. Just proceed with caution.

Limitation #2: No Lower Funnel Optimizations

With Basic you’re paying for upper funnel performance: Installs and CPI. Exclusively chasing upper funnel metrics (i.e., “vanity metrics”) is a great way to run your business into the ground.

With Basic you’re not able to optimize for downstream performance through pulling in keyword-level data via an attribution/mobile measurement partner (MMP).

Even Advanced has limitations with down-funnel optimizations. Basic only exacerbates things.

Tips for Easily Managing Search Ads Advanced

Setting up a lightweight Advanced account will take a 1-2 hours. Time well spent. You can also get the best of both worlds – efficiency and scale.

Below are high-level recommendations. In the interest of brevity, I’m leaving out nuances like settings, etc. If you need up with this, give us a shout!


Step #1: Create an Exact Match Campaign

Keyword selection: Pick 20 keywords that include your brand, top 5-10 competitors and top 5-10 non-brand (i.e., “generic”) keywords that most reflect your business.

Match type: Go with “Exact Match”. This will ensure that the search query typed will be the same as the keyword you selected. These keywords will also get passed through your MMP should you want to optimize on down-funnel performance. Even if you don’t have an MMP, your judgement as to what’s relevant will make a difference.

Bids: Set the keyword bid equal to your maximum cost per install. Then, at the Ad Group level, under CPA goal, enter your maximum cost per install. This will ensure that you have aggressive bids while not going over your max CPI.

Budget: Allocate between 60%-80% of your total daily budget to Exact. The amount depends on your risk tolerance. Higher percentage = lower risk tolerance.

Step 2: Create a Search Match Campaign

Good news! Don’t worry about Keywords or Match Types. Just ensure Search Match is “On”.

Bids: At the Ad Group level, set the bid equal to your maximum cost per install. Then, under CPA goal, enter your maximum cost per install. This will ensure that you have aggressive bids while not going over your max CPI.

Budget: Allocate between 20%-40% of your total daily budget to Search Match. The amount depends on your risk tolerance. This is the inverse of above. Higher percentage = higher risk tolerance.

In this step, you’ve created a poor man's Search Ads Basic.

In Summary

Be mindful of Search Ads Basic. You’ll nail high-level KPIs but at the cost of being relevant. Go with Advanced but keep it simple. Scale at your leisure.

Do you have experience with Search Ads Basic & Advanced? How has it fared for you?

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1. App Store data from all available countries and regions (excluding China), 2018 (
2. Appsflyer 2019 Performance Index (

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