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  • Scott Kaplan

Apple Search Ads in 2021

My how time flies! It felt like only yesterday that Apple was launching their Apple Search Ads platform. Hard to believe this year marks the 5th anniversary of the ad network. Given it’s a new year and there’s been so much going on in the mobile App universe, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight two likely and big changes (or non-changes) coming up.


Apple Ads Reach to Expand


As reported by AdWeek last year, Apple added “supplySources” and “adChannelType” fields to its Campaign Management API. Makes sense given the breadth of potential inventory across Apple’s properties. Recently, there have been actual sightings in the wild of Apple Ads appearing in new slots...not just the app store search engine results page (SERP). Shot out to 9TO5Mac who showcased an example of an Apple Ad appearing in the “Suggested” section on the search tab. The Suggested section isn’t triggered by a search query. Per 9TO5Mac, these ads only show on devices that are part of the iOS 14.5 Beta.


This “should” bode well for advertisers looking to scale as the iOS ecosystem monetizes well. Practitioners should, however, be mindful that non-search-query-triggered ad slots are upper funnel. They’ll drive more impressions, and perhaps more installs. Great. However, downstream engagement could take a hit. The key is what levers Apple Ads offers its users. If they bundle all their Ad properties into one, that could hinder ROAS. If they offer it as a separate targeting option that can be budgeted and bid separately, app marketers are golden.


Apple Ads Attribution “Should” Be Fine


The mantra “No news is good news,” applies here...or at least should. With the roll-out of iOS 14.5, App tracking transparency (ATT) framework, attribution of course has become a hot topic. I’m by no means an expert on this topic and recommend checking out Mobile Dev Memo as well as Branch’s iOS 14.5 Central Resource Hub to stay up-to-date on this topic.


Now that we’ve got that disclosure out of the way, based on everything I’ve been hearing Apple attribution data will continue to be passed through at the desired dimensions -- campaigns, ad groups, keywords, etc. Again, Mobile Dev Memo highlights the specifics in great detail in the article “Apple privileges its own ad network with ATT. What’s its privacy endgame?”.


What’s a Marketer to Do?


Staying current is obviously imperative. With regard to new Apple Ad properties, follow Apple Search Ads News closely and periodically poke into your console to see if new targeting options are available. Certainly, when Apple rolls out the new feature, there will be tons of best practices on how to manage. I highly-doubt you’ll be blindsided. As for Attribution, again, monitor attribution data coming from your MMP. If the unexpected happens and there’s significant data loss, then myriad resources will be available on how to manage the sparse data.


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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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