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  • Scott Kaplan

Bidding on Your Branded Keywords in Apple Search Ads: A Practical Approach (Part #2 Incrementality)

Updated: May 15

People are weary of bidding on branded terms in Apple Search Ads and in SEM in general. For good reason. After all, branded paid search terms cannibalize branded organic results. In my blog post Bidding on Your Branded Keywords in Apple Search Ads: A Practical Approach (Part #1), I explained the importance of bidding on your brand terms and provided bidding tips.


In the final installment of this two-part series, I’ll provide a framework to address the concerns around bidding on your brand’s terms while taking into consideration incrementality.


But before, I dive into specifics, I can’t emphasize enough the following:


DO NOT LET PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF GOOD!


1) The debate around bidding on branded paid search terms has been around for 20 years.

2) I’ve never seen anyone perfectly measure branded paid search cannibalization rates.


Step #1: Come up with an Incrementality Multiplier

There are a few approaches you can take to come up with a multiplier.


A) Pause branded terms in your apple search ads account. See if there’s a commensurate lift in organic iOS App Store Downloads. For example, let’s say you get 800 installs from Branded Apple Search Ads keywords and 1,000 direct and organic downloads in a month. The following month with branded keywords paused, you get 1,600 direct and organic downloads. Assuming all other factors are held constant, you could assert that branded terms added 200 additional installs (800 - 600) or had a 25% incrementality rate.

There are several variants of this approach: You can do geo splits, rotate brand terms on/off overall several time periods to see if the shifts are consistent. The list goes on and on.

If you don’t have Apple Search Ads data, you can use web-based paid search as a proxy if you’ve run Google Ads or Bing search campaigns.

Word of Caution: This approach requires some serious analytical rigor and assumes all other factors are held constant.

B) Come up with a general rule of thumb and adjust it depending on your risk tolerance. In my experience, the incrementality rate in lift studies has been about 20% for brand/non-brand paid search. That’s a good starting point. From there, if you want to be more aggressive, increase it. If you want to be conservative, lower it. I wouldn't go below a 10% incrementality rate or above a 75% incrementality rate. Split the difference and call it 50%.


Step #2: Multiply the Incrementality Multiplier to Your Target Cost Per Install

Let’s assume your campaign objective is installs and cost per installs. Simply apply the incrementality multiplier to your target cost per install. You’ve now got your new target cost per install for branded terms.


For example, let’s assume your overall cost per install is $1. If you have a 25% incrementality multiplier, the formula would be: $1 x 25% = $0.25. That would be the most you’d want to spend on a branded search term.


Wrapping It Up

The process of bidding on branded terms is a bit art and science. Steer clear of your perfectionism but don’t be naive—A lot of your branded terms are cannibalistic. You’re throwing away good money if you don’t factor that in. What has your experience been like with incrementality ad bidding on branded terms? Any wins or learnings you’d like to share?


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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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