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05 August 2016

IOS App Store Launches Search Ads Beta Modelled After AdWords


App Search Optimization versus Search Ads

Today, the number of mobile apps in major app stores exceeds more than 2 million. The same is true for Apple’s App Store, where one of the major issues faced by mobile app publishers today is in getting apps discovered by users. One of the techniques that remained popular until recently is App Search Optimization (ASO), which is the process of optimizing apps so that they rank higher on the app stores. However, the team at Apple has now introduced a new way called Search Ads for making your apps noticeable on Apple’s App Store. Introduced in the WWDC 2016 (Session 302 - iOS), (https://developer.Apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2016/302/). According to Apple:

“Search Ads is an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app within the U.S. App Store search results, helping people discover or reengage with your app at the very moment they are searching for apps like yours. Designed to give users a safe search experience, Search Ads sets a new standard for delivering relevant ads while respecting user privacy.”

iOS App Store Launches Search Ads Beta Modelled after AdWords
IOS App Store Launches Search Ads Beta Modelled After AdWords

Apple and the paid search business

It is clear that Apple is getting into the paid-search business. It allows app developers to pay for ads so that they can appear on the top of the search results in Apple’s App Store. This move comes as Apple takes a note from Google as well as Facebook to make its app offering more accessible and open than ever. With this innovation, it is also hoped that paid search ads could help solve the discoverability problem that iOS developers are currently facing.

The product launch is expected to happen this coming Fall, but developers have been invited to join the Beta. This launch certainly is expected to help solve the app-discovery problem for iOS developers. It is also interesting to note that Google had introduced search ads to the Google Play store.

Google Play and Search Ads

Several studies have pointed out that especially with Google Play, search as well as search ads help customers discover quite an amount of apps. Apple also is aiming to earn quite a bit in a similar way. According to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, Apple is working on a range of matters that include speeding up the time it takes for apps to go live, splitting app revenue between developers and the company and even improving app discovery. The company would even open up categories such as games.

Changes are long overdue

According to many analysts, the changes in Apple’s model are long overdue. In the current scenario, on the one hand, it is difficult for developers to get their apps noticed on the app store, while on the other, consumers are tired of downloading newer apps. In this paradoxical situation, the goal the company faces is to make the app store fresh and help app store developers maximize their revenue in a very tight market situation wherein new customers are hard to acquire while even retaining users is becoming a major problem.

Making Search Ads more effective

To make Search Ads more effective, it has become essential for Apple to reduce the time it takes to review apps. Hence, app store review has dropped to one day for many apps. While Google earlier relied on algorithms for app reviews, Apple relied on human powered reviews, which made the app review process slower.

Furthermore, while Apple has traditionally relied on the 70/30 split while sharing revenues between developers and itself, it will now introduce a different way of doing so. While Apple will still go by the 70/30 split in year one, the split will become 85/15 in the subsequent years.

With the introduction of search ads, Apple will try to address the app discovery issue that has been plaguing the app store since long. Some of its innovations include changing the ‘featured’ section so that it does not recommend the apps the user has already installed and bringing back the categories tab in the App Store.

The bottom line

Since there are around 1.5 million apps on the app store, search is a critical way that users discover apps these days. Hence, Apple has been stressing that change is important. With over 65 percent of apps downloaded on the store coming from a search query, the company cannot take any further chances. The company also emphasized that there would be only one ad per search and would be clearly labelled as such along with a blue background and an “Ad” icon.

The idea is that the ad will have the same content as the app’s app store listings. Moreover, the search ads will not be shown to the users who are under 13, if Apple can determine it. Finally, the search ads will be handled through an auction system that does not have any minimums or any exclusives, so that it can become accessible to smaller developers.

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