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  • Scott Kaplan

Apple Search Ads Discovery Campaigns

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

An Apple Search Ads best practice is to run a “discovery campaign.” A discovery campaign, as the name implies, allow for the discovery of new targeted keywords by mining search terms (i.e., what the user types in the App Store search box).

This post takes a deeper look into discovery campaigns, including providing an overview of how they work and their benefits. This post assumes you already have an understanding of the basics of Apple Search Ads Advanced. If you need a refresher, check out our whitepaper, “A Practical Guide to Apple Search Ads.”


How Discovery Campaigns Work

Discovery campaigns rely on broad match and search match to mine search terms, that can then be added as targeted keywords that can be bid on. There are a few ways you can setup discovery campaigns.


1) One discovery campaign with two ad groups, one ad group for search match, one for broad match.

2) Two discovery campaigns with one ad group each for search match and broad match.


Whether you go with 1 or 2 is up to personal preference. I prefer the second option -- 1:1 campaign-to-ad group pairing. I also like the control of having separate budgets should you need to scale up/down spend for one campaign type.


Either way, you’ll want to negative exact match all your targeted keywords. This ensures any search queries that serve are unique and incremental.


Discovery Campaign Budget & Bidding

I recommend allocating enough funds with your non-discovery (let’s call them “performance”) campaigns to hit your performance goals. Then, free up additional funds for discovery. So, if your goal is 100 installs at a $2 CPI, allocate at least $200 to performance campaigns. Add another 10-20% above that $200 to fund discovery campaigns.


If you’ve got separate campaigns for search match and broad match, split up budget evenly in the beginning. Then, re-allocate budget if you like. Since the intent isn’t so much performance for discovery campaigns, you shouldn’t be tinkering with optimizations much. Assume that discovery campaigns will be on their own unprofitable. The intention is to mine search terms as targeted exact match keywords. Those targeted keywords (hopefully) should become profitable when you optimize them for CPI or post-install metrics.


For broad match discovery campaigns, you may want to consider setting bids 20-30% lower than you would for exact match targeted keywords. For search match, you have to set you bid at the ad group level. Again, you may want to consider setting bids 20-30% lower than exact match targeted keywords.


Search Term Mining

You can view search terms triggered by discovery campaigns in either the campaign view in the console or under custom reports. Make sure you select a long date range (30+ days). The narrower the date range, the less data you’ll have. In turn, Apple will group many terms as “low volume terms.” This provides little value. The more data you have, the more likely Apple will show the actual terms triggering your ads. You can then add those terms as targeted keywords.


I recommend having a performance threshold (based on your criteria), before adding search terms as targeted keywords. Many search terms that match can be highly irrelevant. Additionally, if a search term is irrelevant or performs poorly, consider adding it as a negative.


General Comments

I strongly recommend using discovery campaigns. In addition to facilitating keyword expansion, they also provide insight into how Apple’s interpreting your app store listing metadata. Furthermore, they also can provide an additional lever for driving volume.


If you have experience with discovery campaigns, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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1. App Store data from all available countries and regions (excluding China), 2018 (https://searchads.apple.com).
2. Appsflyer 2019 Performance Index (https://www.appsflyer.com/performance-index).

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