app store advertising

How do you grow your brand with the Apple Search Ads discovery campaign?

Apple Search Ads discovery campaign is a privacy-focused strategy to acquire new iOS users. Learn how to leverage it for your App Store brand building.

Apple Search Ads campaigns are making quite the noise and for all the right reasons. The platform is increasingly getting popular for its privacy-oriented technology. The average ATT opt-in rate is at 34%, an increase from 29% in 2022. The gaming vertical sees one of the highest opt-in rates, while the UAE ranks first with almost half of the iOS users opting in for ATT. With iOS users increasingly preferring data privacy, app marketers wonder how to reach newer users and scale their growth. To answer that question, in today’s article, we are deep-diving into the Apple Search Ads discovery campaign.

Apple Search Ads campaigns - a quick overview

Apple Search Ads is a keyword-led marketing platform that helps app marketers with user acquisition and retargeting of iOS users within the App Store. There are primarily four main types of Apple Search Ads campaigns. 

Brand campaigns: Brand campaigns are meant to strengthen their position in the App Store. If you are looking to execute a keyword-led campaign for this, exact matches for brand names, and taglines can be leveraged to reach out to the right audience. 

Category campaigns: This type of Apple Search Ads campaign is utilized to establish category dominance in the App Store. For keyword-led category campaigns, category keywords are leveraged with a broad match or exact match setting. 

Competitor campaigns: If you are getting good results with brand and category campaigns, Apple Search Ads competitor campaigns can prove a great avenue to diversify incremental scale. For keyword-led campaigns, utilize competitor keywords with a broad or exact match setting. 

Discovery campaigns: Apple Search Ads discovery campaign helps to find previously untapped audience segments. For such campaigns, the automated Search Match can guide app marketers to target the right search queries for acquiring new users.


Apart from these four main campaigns, app marketers utilizing Apple Search Ads campaigns can also execute regional and seasonal campaigns via the platform. 

Regional campaigns: Localized campaigns for specific geographic regions. For such campaigns, usually, multilingual keywords are targeted. 

Seasonal campaigns: Campaigns targeted for specific festivities in specific regions. With such campaigns, app marketers can target seasonal keywords like lunar new year shopping, black friday deals, halloween costume ideas, etc. They can also look at customizing their iOS Custom Product Pages (CPPs) to reflect the season’s vibe and offerings. 

Apple Search Ads keywords are a crucial part of running successful Apple Search Ads campaigns. If you would like to learn more about them, download our infographic here.

Benefits of Apple Search Ads discovery campaign

Mature iOS app marketers utilize Apple Search Ads discovery campaign to amplify the reach and scale of app growth within the App Store ecosystem. The App Store is visited weekly by about 650 million visitors. These users are quite high intent as their sole purpose in the App Store is to discover and download apps that can help resolve their unique problems. With iOS discovery campaigns, app marketers can: 

  • Find out lookalike audience cohorts of their champion user personas
  • Reveal high-value keywords that were previously untargeted
  • Avoid campaign stagnancy by constantly discovering and retargeting newer audience segments
  • Maximize reach limits among more audience personas

How to set up an Apple Search Ads discovery campaign?

In a previous article, we discussed a few points to keep in mind when getting started on Apple Search Ads campaigns. Reiterating a few key points to keep in mind before starting any iOS paid campaigns. 

  • Have an active App Store Connect account where the app icon, title, subtitle, promotional text, app preview video, and app screenshots are all updated
  • Signup for an Apple Search Ads account
  • Link it to a working credit card to ensure ad spends are regularly paid off

From the Apple Search Ads costing perspective, apart from the ad spend budget, don’t forget to consider the commission fee - 30% for the first year, and 15% for subsequent years of all in-app purchases. For smaller businesses with less than $ 1 million turnover, the commission fee is 15%.

To curate good quality Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns, here’s a list of some popular tried-and-tested suggestions. 

Finetune your Apple Search Ads keyword strategy

Since discovery campaigns are majorly automated, a lot of background work is necessary to ensure the automation works to the advertiser’s advantage. One of the key areas to put in the effort is the iOS keyword strategy - both paid and organic. 

From the organic perspective, having a good App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy is essential to telling Apple what is your app all about. For ASO, advertisers need to focus on finding a few core keywords around which the overall keyword strategy can evolve. Monitoring ASO performance boosts organic download velocity, which helps to create credibility for the app to prospective users. 


On the Apple Search Ads side, ensure all keyword categories are streamlined to list only the most high-value, high-performing brand, category, competitor, long-tail, multilingual, and seasonal keywords. Do not forget to refine the negative keywords list regularly to keep track of irrelevant keywords for your campaigns.

Integrate with a full-funnel analytics platform

The Apple Search Ads platform is flexible enough to be integrated with MMPs like Appsflyer, Branch, or Adjust to name a few. This integration will allow app marketers to review their campaigns at the pre-install and post-install phases. Integrated platforms like Newton, help advertisers to identify which keywords, bid ranges, keyword match types, and iOS CPPs have performed to deliver the highest high-LTV users.


With these insights, app marketers can power up their Apple Search Ads discovery campaigns. 

  • Identify the exact keywords to feed the algorithm for a fruitful campaign
  • Get a fair idea of an ad spend estimate for the discovery campaigns
  • Customize creatives associated with discovery campaign ads based on high-performing CPPs
  • Identify the keywords that have worked best with broad match type

Set up a well-structured Apple Search Ads discovery campaign

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to setting up a structured Apple Search Ads discovery campaign:

  1. Create a new campaign and name it Discovery to avoid any confusion about the campaign objective.

  2. Create ad groups under the main campaign; these ad groups can cater to various themes, like gender-based, region-based, product-based, or problem-based. Breaking a campaign down into ad groups helps to target various subsegments of the ideal user persona. 

  3. Feed all the high-performing keywords to the campaign as exact match negative keywords - this is done to ensure the Discovery campaign is not competing against other Brand, Category, or Competitor campaigns the advertiser might be running with exact or broad match types.

  4. Add a list of high-value keywords as Broad Match to indicate the algorithm for the kind of iOS search queries the brand wants to discover.

  5. Turn Search Match on to allow the algorithm to find untargeted keywords, maximizing the campaign performance among lookalike audience groups.

Maintaining an Apple Search Ads discovery campaign

During the campaign duration, regularly check on the keywords that are being targeted by the Discovery campaign. In the ad groups of the campaign, look for ‘Search Terms’ and sort them by search volume. Once the sorting is done, utilize full-funnel analytics to check which new search queries have driven high impressions, TTRs, and higher Share of Voice (SOV), and have also contributed to post-install event conversions. 

The high-performing keywords can then be transitioned to existing brand or category campaigns. The low-performing keywords can be updated on the negative keywords list to optimize the further performance of discovery campaigns.

Common mistakes to avoid for executing an Apple Search Ads discovery campaign

Discovery campaigns when used correctly can be a great asset to resolve any stagnancy occurring in the app’s iOS growth journey. However, not being mindful in the initial stages about a few things can quickly cause this campaign to ill perform.

  • Discovery campaigns are not for Apple Search Ads starters. Try this out only after building up some experience of running paid campaigns on the Apple Search Ads platform.

  • Not putting in time to optimize the app’s ASO - this prohibits the App Store algorithm from understanding more about your app. 

  • Not maintaining a refined list of keywords and negative keywords. Refined lists get the discovery campaigns starting on the right note.

  • No regular monitoring leads to budget wastage on irrelevant ad placements.

Apple Search Ads discovery campaign case study

A leading gaming app in Vietnam, VLTK1M, has had a strong brand presence in the country among PC gamers. However, the brand wanted to diversify its gamer persona for the mobile version of the game. They wanted to appeal to younger mid-core to casual gamers, including women. This was quite the deviation from their traditional male, hard-core gamer persona.


The gaming brand ran discovery and brand campaigns simultaneously to discover and convert new gamers. For their discovery campaigns, they found high-performing keywords and transitioned them to exact-match brand campaign keywords. Additionally, they also matched ads to the name of the game and the name of the parent company. This helped them to secure a strong position in the App Store just days ahead of the launch of their gaming app. 

With Search Tab ad placements, VLTK1M was able to drive incremental installs with competitive costs as compared to other user acquisition channels. 

The impact of the successful launch campaign was as follows:

  • 109% increase in MoM revenue
  • 12X Day 14 ROAS
  • 20% downloads from Search Tab ad placement

If you are looking to achieve a similar incremental scale for your iOS app, feel free to connect with our Apple Search Ads campaign managers to help set up high-performing paid iOS campaigns. 

Similar posts