apple search ads

The multiverse of Apple Search Ads keywords

Apple Search Ads keywords are at the heart of crafting App Store success. Learn more on what they are and how to make the best use of iOS keywords.

At the very heart of Apple Search Ads campaigns are the millions of search queries iOS users utilize to find the right app for themselves. These search queries provide app marketers with the gateway to reach high-quality, high-intent users at the right time. But finding the right audience fit may feel like a needle in a haystack effort. And that’s where Apple Search Ads keywords start to weave its magic.

Table of Contents


What are Apple Search Ads keywords?

Apple Search Ads keywords are search queries used by iOS users to find out the apps of their choice. These search queries can be of various types. It can be your brand name, or brand tagline that the user types directly in the App Store search bar. Or it can be something related to your category, products, or services offered by your competitors. For example, a search query can be your brand name MakeMyCloset, or even your tagline or hashtag, like #makemyclosetonline or a one-stop online app to upgrade closets. A category search query for say MakeMyCloset can be like fast fashion online, latest fashion trends, custom styling online store, etc. Competitor search queries would be more aligned to phrases like say tailoring service online, winter fashion discount, or fashion gift ideas - services, or products your competitor is already well known for. 

Based on the length of the search queries, Apple Search Ads keywords can be short or long-tailed. They both have their strengths and weaknesses to explore for a balanced keyword research and selection. Short-tail Apple Search Ads keywords are usually one to three words long like holiday season gifts, black friday deals, fitness tracker app, and the like. Long tail keywords are more detailed search queries, like calorie tracking app for indian diet, halloween costume ideas for children, back-to-school offers for sophomores, or online hotel booking app for backpacking australia. 

Short-tail search queries often have higher volumes as well as higher competition. Long-tail keywords even though may show lesser volumes - they are an attractive option because of low competition and high-quality users. 

Check out our quick infographic on Apple Search Ads keywords - all you need to know about keyword types, campaigns, and best practices.

Is there a difference between paid and organic App Store keywords?

If we look at the utilization of search queries, there is not much difference between paid and organic keywords. More often than not, paid and organic App Store keyword strategies support each other to find the right balance of search queries to target for scaling premium iOS user acquisition. Organic keywords are the main focus keywords for which you want to establish a high Share of Voice (SoV) in the App Store. Organic keywords are primarily used in the app title, subtitle, app description, and the app metatext in App Store Connect. With organic keywords, there are only a few limited keywords and their variations that you can target.


However, the targeting limitation is lifted for paid keywords. You can target a vast number of keywords that are relevant to your app’s USPs, products/services, or the specific user problem it is solving. With paid keywords, you can look at scaling your brand’s SoV on not just your core focus keywords but also other categories of keywords. 

Based on the different usage objectives as well as types of keywords, we can break down the paid Apple Search Ads keywords into granular categories. Read on to learn more about how to research them correctly.

How to go about researching and choosing the right Apple Search Ads keywords?

When researching Apple Search Ads keywords it is important to keep a few things in mind to get the right start.

Align target keywords to your app’s offerings: It is tempting to target a variety of Apple Search Ads keywords that are connected to your app category. However, not all keywords or search queries are relevant to you. When getting started on research and selection, choose keywords that closely reflect your app’s USP, its unique offerings, and its key competitor differentiators/what sets it apart in the industry. 

The dominant language of communication in your target demography matters: Local marketing is rapidly gaining favor among mobile users, and iOS users are no different. This is especially important for premium iOS markets like Japan, the Middle East, Europe, and even North America where language diversity is quite pronounced. In markets like Saudi Arabia or Japan, users prefer to use Arabic or Japanese when typing on their mobiles or consuming content on their smartphones. Similarly in African or Indonesian markets, even if English is used, there are noticeable dialectical differences in how they type or search on their devices. 

Be mindful of cultural nuances, and pop culture trends: This is important for Apple Search Ads keyword research and selection for seasonal activities. For example, lunar new year gift ideas as a keyword will more likely perform better in South Asia as compared to North America, even though the latter has a sizeable Chinese and southeastern population. Similarly, keywords like halloween costumes for children will perform a lot better in the United States, and Europe as contrasted to India, even though Halloween marketing has become popular over the past couple of years in the South Asian country. This is to showcase the efficiency of your seasonal or trending keywords depending on how the users have accepted these terms in their regular vocabulary. 

Utilize generative AI to reduce time and labor while improving efficiency: The Apple Search Ads platform comes with a keyword recommendation tool that gives a basic idea about the keywords to target. However, if you are looking for more insight-led recommendations, you can utilize something like Newton’s GenAI Multilingual Keyword Recommendations Tool, which can help generate suggestions in multiple languages. Tools help to understand quickly the search queries that are popular in your regions, among your target demographics without having to pour over columns and columns of data to find the right keywords.

Do not underestimate low-traffic, low-competition, long-tail keywords: Apple Search Ads keywords with a high popularity score can feel like an easy set of keywords to target. But the higher the traffic, the higher the bid to win the ad placement auction. Therefore, to ensure your spending stays within budget, including a healthy mix of long-tail keywords. These keywords seldom have high traffic or high competition and are usually cheaper to bid on. But the best part about long-tail keywords is that they are very specific search queries that indicate a very high-intent, high-quality audience. Conversions through long-tail keywords can often end up being your champion user segment who is not only loyal to your app but actively advocates it.


Why a strong keyword strategy is crucial to Apple Search Ads success?

Apple Search Ads is a platform that prioritizes consumer data privacy. This means app advertisers can no longer access personal device data to get an in-depth idea about their user’s digital persona. With Apple Search Ads, app advertisers get the opportunity to drive consumer-centric, privacy-first performance campaigns. And a strong keyword strategy is at the heart of it all. 

Since keywords are essentially search queries by the user, popularity scores give us an idea about how many times your app or their category is being searched for. In this case, app marketers are building their ads around what the user is already looking for. This naturally creates high-intent pipelines that are waiting to be redirected to your app. With the right organic App Store optimizations and paid ad optimizations, Apple Search Ads keywords can end up becoming your most profitable mobile marketing channel. 

Another reason why a strong keyword strategy is crucial is because the right keywords and keyword-campaign setups influence your brand’s ad performance in the App Store. Apple Search Ads provides a wonderful option of placements that coincide with the iOS user’s journey to discover and download apps.


  • Today Tab iOS ad placement attracts users right when they open the App Store application. This placement utilizes the user’s past search history and app download data to showcase relevant ads. 
  • Search Tab iOS ads appear right when the user is about to type their query in the App Store search bar. Here again, your ads appear to users who have previously shown interest in apps of your category. 
  • In the Search Results Page, the iOS ads appear right after a user has submitted their query. This helps you to appear vis-a-vis other players in your category to let the user know that more alternatives are available. 
  • Custom Product Pages (CPP) are another feature of Apple Search Ads multiple ad placements, that help to drive contextual advertising among the various subsegments of your user personas. A strong, detailed, granular keyword strategy helps to position your CPP-connected ads, like Today Tab ads or Search Results Page ads to the right high-intent, high-quality audiences. 

To ensure your ad placements are properly utilized for your campaigns, you need to get well-versed in Apple Search Ads keyword categories and their match types.

Apple Search Ads keywords categories

Let us break down this section into two clear parts - part one is Apple Search Ads keyword categories by type and secondly, Apple Search Ads keywords by objective.

Apple Search Ads keywords by type

There are three types of keywords that Apple campaigns anchor on - brand keywords, category keywords, and competitor keywords. Let’s take a look at what each of these means:

Brand keywords

These keywords are your brand name, brand tagline, or even your brand hashtag. This category of keywords is your most high-value keywords. These are the keywords where you want to achieve 100% Share of Voice (SoV) in the App Store. For example: if your brand name is RummyPass, your brand keywords can be your app name which is Rummy Pass, or even misspellings of your app name, like Rumy Pass, or Rammy Pass. In case you have a tagline like a multiplayer card game app or a hashtag like #dealtowin - these can also become part of your brand keywords. 

Brand keywords are the most important category to focus on for app marketers who are looking to establish a strong brand presence in the App Store, especially in their app category. However, as an app marketer, remember that putting your focus and ad investments in your brand keywords will only bear fruits if there’s already noise around your brand outside of the App Store. 

Brand keywords are best utilized when you know that users do look for you with your name, tagline, or hashtag and you do not want to miss out on these high-value, high-intent searches. For brand keywords, expect to face tough competition from direct players - protecting the authority of brand keywords is truly a full-time job to ensure you appear right when people are searching for your brand specifically. 

When it comes to fixing your list of brand keywords, make sure to include common misspellings of your brand name to stop any lead leakage at the search stage itself.

Category keywords

Apple Search Ads category keywords are search queries that are related to your app’s category. Users targeted through category keywords are high-intent users but they may or may not be aware of your brand specifically. These keywords help you to reach out to a considerably larger audience size as compared to brand keywords. 

Users who use category keywords, intent can be broadly classified as:
- users who have tried out apps in this category and are on the lookout for something better

- users who are first-timers in the category and are looking for a pleasant first impression

Apple Search Ads campaigns with a focus on category keywords truly set up the challenge to ramp up your contextual advertising communications to achieve maximum impact. Category keywords in Apple Search Ads do not just maximize reach. It can help you to: 

  • Identify your champion user personas who convert more and transact more
  • Streamline your brand representation for greater appeal to drive brand loyalty
  • Find brand new audience personas that were previously undiscovered, and untapped
  • Explore newer keyword suggestions that can help to bring your bids down while raising your conversion metrics

So what do category keywords look like? Say you are an organic produce delivery app, FarmtoPlate, your category keywords would look like online grocery app, fresh vegetable delivery, farm-to-table organic fruits, and so forth. 

Choose your category keywords such that they reflect your USPs, your offerings, and most importantly the user problem you are resolving with your app.

Competitor keywords

Well just like there are search queries for your app brand and app category, there are search queries in the App Store, that are quite common with users of your direct competitors. If you have reached a point in your app scale, where you feel confident to go head-on-head with your direct competition, this is the avenue to explore. 

Competitor keywords can be the name of your competing app’s brand name, their tagline, their hashtag, or USPs. For example, if your app helps homeowner’s associations with their accounting, a popular competitor keyword in your category could be the best community audit app

The biggest advantage to leveraging competitor keywords is your ads appear vis-a-vis competition to show users there’s an alternative available to them in case they are looking for something more. It also helps to show users the differences between you and your competitors, and most importantly what makes you special in your category, what is it that you offer which competition doesn’t. 

If you are looking to run advertisement campaigns that focus on how you are making your industry better, competitor keywords are the ones to target. 

To formulate a good list of competitor keywords, focus on your key competition differentiators and look for keywords that align with your differentiators. If you are feeling confident at this stage, you can even look at a list of keywords where your competitor has a higher SoV, that you might want to take a share of. 

Competition keyword targeting is usually recommended to players who are:

- aligned to take on their competition head-to-head and have the app features and budget to go for it

- matured enough in the market to command a strong positive sentiment for swaying competition user opinions


Apple Search Ads keywords by campaign objective - brand building, scaling conversions

While the search queries can be grouped according to their type, they can also be grouped in terms of how you want to utilize them in an Apple Search Ads campaign.

Multilingual keywords

About 85% of the global population uses a smartphone. Out of that, hardly 600 million people are native English speakers. Yet there’s less than 1% of online content in non-English languages. iOS apps looking to score big in Latin America, Europe, and Asia must incorporate a multilingual keyword strategy to speak to their users in their language. Intelligent Apple Search Ads platforms like Newton, offer keyword recommendations in over 20 languages across 60+ different countries. 

However, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when activating a multilingual Apple Search Ads keyword strategy. We have deep-dived into this topic in our blog on How to activate a local language iOS keyword strategy. To give a brief overview here: 

  • Be mindful of vocabulary differences for similar languages. If your target region has a high Spanish and Portuguese population - be careful of the keywords you target since most similar words have completely different meanings - for example if you are a pet supplies app and want to target the keyword dog toys - be careful with the right demography settings - perra means a dog in Spanish but a pear in Portuguese
  • Be aware of pop culture trends that deeply impact user search queries and also how they prefer to type in their local language
  • Even English keywords can have dialectical differences in how the search queries are typed in the App Store search bar, so be careful of commonly used dialects in English

Seasonal keywords

These keywords are the ones that are used only when it’s time for a specific event, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Diwali, Black Friday - Cyber Monday Sales, Back-to-School, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year Holidays, Easter, Labor Day, the 4th of July, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and so forth. Seasonal keywords usually have very high competition and need to be used carefully to ensure unnecessary budget leakage on App Store ads are not risked. 

We have an article on Apple Search Ads festive season user acquisition that focuses on the usage of seasonal keywords for paid App Store app marketing activities. 

While seasonal keywords can have high competition, which means costly bids, they have massive potential to boost your short-term ROAS goals. Seasonal keyword strategies work especially well for categories like Shopping, Travel, Food and Drinks, Finance, and Gaming. 

With seasonal Apple Search Ads keyword targeting brands have seen tap-through rates scaling over 179%. A few examples of seasonal Apple Search Ads keywords are mothers day gift ideas, valentines day travel offers, back-to-school supplies discount, top card games for Diwali, and similar search queries.

When utilizing seasonal keywords, remember to schedule and pause your campaigns once the peak season is over, to avoid budget leakage.

Special keywords

These keywords are search queries that are centered around moment marketing for events like viral trends, product launches, or special announcements. This can be especially helpful for apps in the entertainment, photo/video editing, and social media categories. For example, if an Instagram or TikTok post trend goes viral, keywords like glitch recap trend, its giving trend, what I ordered vs. what I got trend can be utilized to showcase the kind of entertainment content that can be built or distributed using your app. 

To leverage special keywords, your app marketing team needs to have their ears on the ground. They should be aware as and when a trend catches on to leverage these special keywords. While special keywords open doors to capture a huge audience's attention in a short period, it is quite important to have an execution SOP set up to avoid last minute rush in brainstorming an entire Apple Search Ads campaign. 

Some of the trends often end up being evergreen, like the Distracted Boyfriend template, which can become a part of your regular keyword list if you are a meme-making app. Special keywords can also be utilized by qCommerce, finance apps giving flash offers as part of events like Match Day Specials, eagerly-awaited movie releases, etc. 

Now that we have discussed all the categories by which you can segregate your Apple Search Ads keywords research and selection, it’s time to move on to the different match types of iOS keywords to utilize for successful Apple Search Ads campaigns.

Apple Search Ads keywords match types

Apple Search Ads keywords also need to be segregated based on the match type you wish to leverage for ad appearances. Based on your selected match types, Apple will showcase the relevant ads in response to users’ search queries. There are essentially three types of App Store keyword match types. Here’s a brief overview of each of them:

Exact match

Exact match as the name suggests refers to the settings where the ad appears when users type the exact search query as the keywords set to target. So for example, your set keyword to target is online grocery app - if the match type is set at the exact match, users who type online grocery app have the highest likelihood of seeing your ad appear. Exact match works best for brand keywords, including misspellings of brand names. 

The problem with this match type is you lose out on ad appearances that are relevant just because the search query differs from your set target keyword. So if a user types online grocery delivery app, your ad will not show even though this is a relevant search query for your app. 

Apart from brand keywords, you can also set exact matches for a few category keywords that are your core focus to rank on. Even competitor keywords can be set to exact match, if you are looking to compete for a higher Share of Voice on certain important competition search queries. 

But always remember - opt for an exact match only when you are a hundred percent sure that these keywords are important for you to establish dominance in the App Store.

Broad match

If you are looking to grab the eyeballs of a vast audience base, then broad match type is the way to go. With broad match, the Apple Search Ads platform allows your ads to appear for similar search queries that are not set up as part of your targeted keywords. For example, if your target keyword is online photo editor, and your keyword match type is set to Broad Match, it will also allow your ads to appear for similar keywords like online photo editing app, photo editing app, photo editor, etc.

The best part about this match type is you can discover high-performing, high-value keywords that were previously untapped. It also opens up newer audience segments to target within the App Store ecosystem. Broad match type is a great match type for category keyword-led campaigns. 

However, with a broad match, your ads might also appear for low-performing keyword variations. For example, if you are a travel app that only allows flight, train, and cab booking, and your target keyword is online travel booking app, your ads will also show up for similar keywords like online travel hotel booking app. Therefore, constantly monitoring that your ads are appearing for the right keywords is very important. 

Broad match can also be very useful for competitor keyword-led campaigns and even discovery campaigns where the flexibility of matching to search queries has a better chance of delivering conversions. 

The team recommends iOS app marketers go for broad match types once the learning phases of executing Apple Search Ads have matured enough to get an understanding of which core keywords are working best. Once your core keywords are locked, their relevant and suitable high-performing variations can be selected through A/B tests for broad match successes.

Search match

Search Match is an automated process where Apple Search Ads automatically shows your ad for your set of relevant target keywords. This helps to discover keywords beyond your selected list of Apple Search Ads keywords. Discovery campaigns are where search matches work the best. For this to work, you need to turn on Search Match at the ad group level of discovery campaigns.

Even though the match types sound similar, there are some differences between Search Match and Broad Match. The former allows randomized, automated ad appearances with almost no control over which keywords ads will appear. The latter matches ads to keywords that very closely resemble the set keywords. An example to illustrate this: say you are a cosmetics marketplace app - if you are targeting a keyword like deals on bronze eyeshadow palette, with Search Match on, there’s a scope of your ad appearing for similar but irrelevant keywords like deals on fashion accessories which is not one of your app’s offerings. With broad match type, the ad may appear for other keywords but something that is more closely related, like bronze eyeshadow offers. 

This is why iOS app marketers are often advised to explore Search Match once they are confident about their target keyword list after A/B testing the other match types - exact and broad match. Search Match is a great way to ensure your target keyword list does not hit a saturation point and there are always new keywords being discovered, that yield equally high results. 

Since Search Match is majorly automated, this can be utilized to find low-competition, but high-intent, high-performing keywords which can help to stabilize your Apple Search Ads keyword campaign budgets.

Negative keywords

In the first three match types, we talked about how you need to stay vigilant that your ad does not appear for irrelevant keywords increasing your Apple Search Ads budget. So how do we get that done? That’s where Apple Search Ads negative keywords come into the picture. 

Negative keywords are a set of keywords for which you do not want your ads to appear at all. During your routine tracking of Apple Search Ads keywords performances, look at keywords that are not relevant to your app, not performing as well as you thought, or keywords that are high-competition but low-yield. Add these keywords to your negative keywords list and continually refine the list to ensure your brand’s Share of Voice (SoV) is not diluted by keywords that don’t relate to your offerings and brand position. 

Having an updated negative keyword list improves the efficiency of your broad match type keyword campaigns as well as discovery campaigns where Search Match is kept on. This also helps to ensure your precious marketing dollars are not leaking in ad appearances that are not at all related to your targeted audience group. 

What do negative keywords look like? To illustrate this let us look at the fictitious app FarmToPlate whose USP is home delivery of farm fresh produce like vegetables and fruits only. So while FarmToPlate would get good traction for ad appearances like online vegetable delivery, organic fruits online, fresh vegetables at home, farm fresh fruits direct to home, the brand will end up wasting costs for ad appearances on similar but unrelated keywords like grocery delivery at home, fresh meat delivery online, doorstep food delivery, etc. 

If you are looking to get a bird’s eye view of the multiverse of Apple Search Ads keywords, you can download our infographic on the topic.

Apple Search Ads keywords match type overview - Pros & Cons

Exact match


- Ad appears for exactly the keywords you choose to target

- Great fit for brand campaigns where brand names, taglines, hashtags, or even brand name misspellings can be set to exact match

- Helps to boost the brand’s Share of Voice on important keywords required to boost category rankings


- High possibility of missing out on relevant, high-value keywords.

- If exact matches are set for too many keywords, it will cause your bid amounts to shoot through the roof, making it difficult to sustain Apple Search Ads campaigns

Broad match


- Ad appears for variations of target keywords

- Maximizes campaign reach among lookalike audience segments

- Helps to discover previously untapped keywords as well as audience groups


- Requires constant monitoring to filter out low-performing keywords to minimize unnecessary budget leakage

- Longish learning periods to understand which keyword groups are working or underperforming with broad match types

Search match


- Ad appears for keywords that were hitherto not targeted

- Maximizes reach among newer audience groups 

- Automated process, therefore saves time and effort with keyword selection


- Not recommended for app advertisers just starting with Apple Search Ads campaigns

- Suggested to use when Apple Search Ads initiatives have matured enough to identify a strong list of focus keywords and their variations to target as well as an exhaustive list of negative keywords to block ad appearances; not beginner-friendly


Best practices to keep in mind for Apple Search Ads keyword match types selection

There are pros and cons to everything in life, and Apple Search Ads keyword match types are no different. However, we make the best use of the good parts available to us. And that’s where a few best practices come in to choose the most suitable match type for you. 

Best practice 1: Choose your keyword match type based on campaign objective

In Apple Search Ads, your campaigns can have multiple objectives based on the growth stage of your brand. Some of the common campaign objectives we see at Newton are increasing the brand’s Share of Voice in the App Store, driving full-funnel user acquisition, discovering new audience groups, and increasing transactions for post-install in-app events. 

If you are running a brand campaign or category campaign and want to establish a strong SoV for your brand or category keywords, then exact match type is a good option to look at. So keywords like your brand names, category USPs, and problem solution statements can all be set to exact match type. Similarly, if you are looking to increase your target audience pool and scale your iOS app growth, broad match and search match can be of great help. 

Best practice 2: Budget is important when strategizing bid distribution

Every marketing team dreams of unlimited ad budgets, but hey, not all dreams come true. To ensure you make the best use of your Apple Search Ads budget, select your match types based on what you can spend. If you want to prioritize an exact match type, check if the keywords have a good balance between high-traffic, high-competition keywords and low-traffic, high-quality keywords. For broad matches, distribute bidding budgets based on the real-time performance of the ad groups. Invest in search matches, once you have a robust list of keywords to target and negative keywords to not target at all. 

Best practice 3: A/B testing is invaluable to find your suitable match type

There are no right or wrong formulae for choosing Apple Search Ads keyword match types. A/B testing is the way to go. So a priority for iOS app advertisers, especially the ones starting out, keep a small portion of marketing spending aside to run continuous A/B tests for keywords or Apple Search Ads keyword groups. A/B testing will help you understand which core brand, competitor, category, multilingual, seasonal, or special keywords work best for you. Armed with these results, you can make an informed decision on which keywords will yield better results with which match type.

Best practice 4: Adopt hybrid layering of match types to balance your Apple Search Ads keyword campaign expense

Look out for opportunities in your Apple Search Ads keyword campaigns for hybrid layering of match types. Hybrid layering refers to utilizing more than one match type to run your Apple Search Ads campaigns. These campaigns can usually be subdivided into ad groups. iOS app marketers have the flexibility to select different match types for different ad groups. This helps to distribute Apple Search Ads keyword bidding budget judiciously across different marketing objectives according to priority. This also helps you to compare match types at a campaign level, to ensure you can make the right optimization decisions to maximize ROAS.

A lot of information about Apple Search Ads keywords. The infographic on the topic simplifies the common concepts for a quick read - check it out!

Apple Search Ads keywords bidding

Apple Search Ads keyword bidding refers to the process of placing bids on iOS keywords to win the auction for ad placements in the Today Tab page, Search Tab, or Search Results page. The bid amount of an App Store keyword is based on the popularity score. The higher the popularity score, the higher the bid amount to win the auction.

How to maximize Apple Search Ads ROAS with keyword bidding?

A common complaint that iOS app advertisers have is that the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is often high for their ad campaigns. While that is true in the case of iOS premium user acquisition, there are ways to bypass this complexity with a robust Apple Search Ads keyword bidding plan. With a good keyword bidding strategy in place, you can focus on maximizing ROAS on your ad campaigns. Here are a few tips to remember when crafting your keyword bidding strategy: 

Maintain a bid balance among your keyword list

When you are making your target Apple Search Ads keywords list, make sure your top targets are a good balance of short-tail, high-traffic keywords, and also long-tail, low-traffic keywords. The higher the competition on the keywords, the more the bid amount required to win the auction. Therefore, choose judiciously which keywords you would like to invest in. Distribute your bid budget to ensure you do not overspend on Apple Search Ads campaigns.

Always keep a portion of your budget to A/B test your keyword bid strategy

So once you have figured out the priorities of your bid distribution, test and find out if your assumptions are working. Some ways you can A/B test your bid strategy: 

- Run test campaigns for exact match type brand keywords to find out which brand keywords are working for you and optimize your bid distribution for larger campaigns accordingly. 

- Look at test ad groups for category campaigns and competitor campaigns, with broad match type to see which category keywords are helping you with higher conversions and discovering new audience groups.

- Test out a campaign with hybrid match type layering too, to see if it helps you run your ad campaigns at a lower cost.

- Try this out only if you have been using Apple Search Ads for some time - test out how bids on Search Match are working for you to discover audience groups and high-potential keywords. 

Have a local language iOS keyword bidding strategy in place

This is helpful if you are a global brand or operating in non-English markets. Having a local language iOS keyword strategy helps you to stay within your budget. Such keywords are usually low competition and require lesser bidding costs. With local keywords, you also end up targeting a high-intent, high-quality audience group. About 87% of non-English speaking internet users say they don’t prefer to transact on English-only platforms. Thanks to generative AI, Apple Search Ads multilingual keyword recommendation tools help to automate this part of the job.

Make provisions in your Apple Search Ads keywords bidding budget for seasonal campaigns

If you are in popular categories like Shopping, Finance, Travel, Food & Drink, Gaming, and Social Media, then well-timed seasonal campaigns can go a long way to boost your ROAS. Strategize your keyword bidding strategy to incorporate seasonal campaigns like special days, back-to-school, festive days, etc. Seasonal keywords like halloween costume ideas, thanksgiving recipes, black friday deals, diwali offers, can get highly competitive closer to D-days. So bid on these keywords at lower costs to target the early birds. As the time gets more competitive, bid on keywords that are more specific like black friday gaming laptop deals, halloween costume ideas for plus-sized women, diwali offers on hotel booking in india which are low cost but target high-intent audiences with a high interest to interact with your app.

Daypart campaigns and save the moolah

For most of the apps, the users are not looking for you throughout the day. If you are a food delivery app, then breakfast, lunch, and dinner timelines are when your app sees maximum engagement. Similarly, gaming apps see more engagement in the evenings and over the weekends. Credit apps may see more interaction during the end of the month, or just the week before payday. When strategizing a keyword bidding plan, account for day parting some of the keyword-level campaigns to reduce cost on high-value but expensive keywords.

To get a more detailed insight into Apple Search Ads keywords bidding and how to win the auction, check out our short article.

Why is continuous Apple Search Ads keyword bidding optimization important?

Millions of App Store visitors are typing in their search queries every day. These search queries are impacted by a variety of factors - there’s a new brand in town, something went viral, or pop culture trends are impacting how users communicate online. Therefore, your target keywords and how much to bid on them require regular monitoring and optimization. 

Of course, there are evergreen keywords like your brand keywords, your top 5 category keywords, and top competitor keywords where you can achieve automation by running campaigns and optimizing them. However, when running campaigns targeting the core keywords’ variations, that’s when monitoring and optimizing becomes important. A few things to keep in mind when tracking your Apple Search Ads keywords bidding performance: 

  • Check for bid amounts that are too high but are not yielding good conversions in lower funnel goals, like transactions, game plays, or watch time 
  • Check if seasonal keyword campaigns are paused off-season to stop unnecessary bids and budget leakage
  • Check for more long-tail/multilingual keywords that are performing well and see if the bid needs to be raised for scaling ROAS
  • Check which match types are yielding better results and optimize your bid distribution accordingly
  • For dayparted campaigns, check for periods that are working spectacularly and decide if you would like to focus your bid share on lesser but more effective campaigns

How to optimize an Apple Search Ads keywords strategy?

Optimizing Apple Search Ads keyword strategy is quite the process and requires disciplined maintenance of the campaigns running on the platform. Here’s a step-by-step approach to make your campaign optimization easier. At Newton, our AI and data-led platform and team of Apple Search Ads campaign experts guide iOS app advertisers to streamline their campaigns with ease. 

Balanced target keywords for Apple Search Ads campaigns

Always update your Apple Search Ads keywords list to keep a good balance of high-performing but reasonably-priced keywords. To achieve this, identify your top brand, category, and competitor keywords. Make sure your top 5 or top 10 list has a good mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Similarly, identify top seasonal keywords and top local language keywords. Once you have identified your high-performing keywords across categories, focus on the match types that yield the best results. Armed with this insight, you can now look at streamlining your Apple Search Ads campaign types. Here’s a quick guide on setting up your ad campaigns for maximum impact. 

While you are keeping a watch on your keyword categories and match types, don’t forget about updating your negative keywords list. Keep a lookout for keywords that don’t perform well or are irrelevant to your app. Add them to the negative keywords list so that your ad spends are never wasted on ad appearances that are not useful to your campaign goals.

Seasonal optimization of App Store keywords

Not all seasonal keywords are appropriate for your brands. Keep some bandwidth to refine your seasonal keyword list. As previously discussed, seasonal keywords can get quite expensive to bid on. To make the best use of seasonality in the Apple Search Ads platform, try to streamline your list to target more specific search queries. A few examples of long-tail seasonal keywords: diwali multiplayer card games for adults, thanksgiving gift ideas for parents, black friday offers on partywear, etc. Long-tail keywords always indicate a high-intent user who has already made purchase decisions. 

Even though not exactly a seasonality feature, dayparting campaigns can also put you a step closer to your Apple Search Ads keyword optimization goals. Look for keywords that perform exceptionally well during certain times of the day, month, or even the year. Such App Store keywords can help to boost your campaign performances with the right scheduling.

Local keyword marketing to maximize impact

If you are a global brand or even an app with a strong non-English speaking market, localization possibly plays an important role in your app growth strategy. With that in mind, Apple Search Ads empowers iOS app marketers to localize their efforts down to the keyword level. It can get a bit puzzling for marketing teams to figure out the best-suited local language iOS keywords. And that’s where keyword recommendation tools play an important role in finding the right keywords. Local keywords help with App Store marketing optimization as they usually have lower CACs but higher ROAS associated with them. In markets like Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Germany, local language advertising just helps you with more brownie points from local users.


Another great advantage to optimizing a local language keyword list is crafting your Custom Product Pages (CPPs) to reflect the unique cultural representations of your audiences, and thereby create more impactful creatives to win your audience over. Over 89% of marketers are in fact, considering keeping localization strategies as part of their business growth initiatives for the upcoming months.

Monitoring and suitable real-time adjustments at campaign ad group level

A few things to monitor regularly to have a well-optimized Apple Search Ads keywords strategy: 

  • Brand, category, competition, seasonal keywords: what’s contributing to more lower-funnel conversions?
  • Exact, broad, search, or hybrid match types: what is helping to draw quality impressions and conversions?
  • Are there long-tail or local language keywords that are delivering consistently good results?
  • How is the performance of CPPs linked to keyword-led ad groups?
  • Are you regularly pausing or deleting underperforming campaigns?

When it comes to real-time adjustments, a few ways to go about it: 

  • Keep updating the keyword list of ad groups in brand, competitor, category, and discovery campaigns
  • Regulate match types as and when needed
  • See to it that the negative keyword list is always refined
  • Campaign activation, pauses, and deletions are regularly maintained for cleaner data insights
  • Update CPPs in line with the search queries being targeted in the ad groups

Advanced techniques to optimize iOS keyword performances

Integrate organic and paid keyword strategies

App Store Optimization or ASO can help you find the best combination of focus keywords that are crucial for your brand to capture and retain a high Share of Voice (SOV). The insights from your organic ranking and keyword performance can help to identify the strongest keyword groups to target for paid ads. Similarly, the reverse is also true. Utilize insights from your paid ads to see if your focus keywords and their variations in your app’s title, subtitle, and app description need an update or not.

Understand and leverage your user’s intent

CPPs are a great way to show your target audience that you do understand their unique problems and how your app helps to resolve them. Users who are very clear about what they are looking for will input long and specific search queries. If ROAS is the goal, then look to target such specific queries. If brand building or recall is the goal, look at how users are generally searching for apps in your category or how they are searching for your competitor. Do not target the keywords just because it is trending. Check if it is matching with your USPs as well as core features. For example, if you are a medical app then the category keyword otc drugs home delivery may not be the right fit while mental health professional teleconsultation could be just right for you. Look for as many opportunities as possible to make your communication clear and contextual to the users searching for your product or services.

Integrate your campaigns with mobile marketing attribution partners for a full-funnel view

When you integrate your Apple Search Ads campaigns with MMPs like Appsflyer, Adjust, Singular, Branch, etc. you can look at the complete funnel insights of your iOS campaign performances. This helps you to make quick decisions and also tells you which parts of your Apple Search Ads keywords strategy need extra attention. If you are not reaching enough people, then perhaps keywords linked to discovery campaigns and broad match types require more attention to streamline. If you are reaching a vast audience but downloads are low - look at your category campaign and competitor campaign keywords. If all’s going great at the impressions, and downloads stage, but users are churning too fast - you might want to look at your CPPs (make sure there’s the minimum difference between expectation and reality), specific search queries you are targeting like christmas gift ideas for senior citizens, and also if your ads are appearing for irrelevant keywords when broad match and search match are activated.

What are the common mistakes to avoid for Apple Search Ads keywords strategy?

Believe it or not, there are quite a few common mistakes that iOS app marketers repeatedly make that negatively impact their Apple Search Ads keywords campaign performance. Here’s Team Newton’s compilation of the top 4 common mistakes:

Overbidding and underbidding on Apple Search Ads keywords

iOS app marketers who are mostly starting, often get tempted by the popularity scores of Apple Search Ads keywords. Popularity score is a great indicator of how many people are utilizing the same search query. However, it is not exactly a quality score. A highly popular keyword might work for another player in your category but not necessarily you. For example, in the health and fitness app category, the keyword calorie tracking app may be extremely popular but might not work for you, if that’s not a feature you offer. When bidding on Apple Search Ads keywords, remember to focus on the performance. Do not start your campaigns with a blast. First, A/B test which App Store paid ad keywords works for you. Do not overbid on extremely popular keywords, and do not underbid on long-tail, low-traffic keywords. Focus on quality. 

Ignoring negative keywords list

Negative keywords bleed your precious marketing dollars. These are irrelevant keywords for which your ads should not make an appearance. Do not forget to mark such keywords as negative keywords in your Apple Search Ads campaign setups. Negative keywords can reduce the efficiency of your keyword-led campaigns by positioning your ads to the wrong target audience. If you do not refine this list regularly, a few red flags will start appearing - extremely high ad spends on low-performing campaigns, steep rise in CACs, lower ROAS, and lesser auction wins for important keywords since the bid budget is compromised on unnecessary keywords. 

Ideally update the negative keywords list monthly across brand, category, competitor, multilingual, and seasonal keywords. A refined negative keyword list is an easy method to streamline and optimize your high-value Apple Search Ads keywords-led campaigns.


Irregular updation of the target keyword list

Have a bi-weekly or monthly cadence to update your Apple Search Ads keywords target list across categories - brand, competitor, category, seasonal, and multilingual. Search queries are impacted by viral trends, the newest pop culture, trending hashtags, and local festivals. Therefore, it is important to prioritize which keywords you are targeting for which month or quarter, and why. If keywords are not updated timely, you risk losing your brand’s Share of Voice in the App Store to other players in your category. 

Having a strong Share of Voice impacts your keyword bidding on Apple Search Ads as well as the appearance and performance of your ads. A brand with a strong SOV is perceived as a credible app and an appropriate suggestion to the audience for your targeted keywords. To maintain a healthy SOV score in your category, keep updating and refining your keywords list. 

Another important reason to do this is to leverage moment marketing for your App Store advertisements. With regular updates, you can keep a lookout for viral trends that can fit in with your brand story and can be leveraged in your App Store growth strategy. 

Lack of analytics to optimize your Apple Search Ads strategy

Most app advertisers focus on impressions and downloads when it comes to Apple Search Ads initiatives. However, with privacy-oriented marketing platforms, you need to look at more attribution and first-party data to make informed decisions about fixing your campaigns. For iOS app advertising, app marketers should look at data from the entirety of the journey - which keywords brought in the maximum impressions? Which keywords brought in maximum downloads? Which keyword-led conversions are generating the maximum ARPU (average revenue per user) after downloads and signups? To get this full-funnel transparency, integrate the Apple Search Ads platform with MMPs. Look at data pre-install as well as post-install to determine your champion App Store keywords.

Apple Search Ads keywords case study

Well, a lot can be told over theory on how to use Apple Search Ads keywords. However, practical aspects of the platform’s abilities can only be witnessed in real-life campaigns. Here we share a few stories with you on how Apple Search Ads keywords have powered brand success across important categories.

Apple Search Ads competitor keyword campaign

Melorra is a jewelry brand from India that has both an online and offline presence. The brand aims to make daily-wear gold jewelry accessible to urban Indian women. The gold jewelry industry in the country works on a fabric of trust and customers usually stick to a brand for a lifetime. Melorra had quite the tough competition in this space to make a name for itself. But the brand was truly up for the challenge. 

The context: Post the launch, the brand wanted to amplify digital customer acquisition. It identified the App Store as a key platform to drive user acquisition. 

The challenge: In the niche of women’s gold jewelry in India, the brand was pitted against stalwarts of the industry who have been in the market for decades and commanded a strong brand recall. The festive season was also around the corner, which was a key opportunity to secure some strong revenue goals. 

The solution: Melorra was bold enough to run competitor campaigns on Apple Search Ads. They made a detailed list of competitor keywords where the competition ranked and bid. They optimized their bid strategy to win auctions on competitor keywords, thereby winning over their Share of Voice. 

With search intent analysis, the brand was able to identify high-value search queries to target quality users. With automated bid optimization, Melorra could streamline its paid ad campaigns to secure maximum impact. 

Melorra scaled their impressions by 1.5X and scaled installs by 10% to help boost festive season goals.


Apple Search Ads multilingual keyword campaign

As we discussed previously in this article non-English speakers make up the bulk of internet users. In Arabian countries like Saudi Arabia, iOS penetration is over 40%. The dominant language of communication is Arabic and users prefer to type in their smartphones in Arabic script. Max Fashion, a fast-fashion brand targeting the youth of the Middle East market implemented Apple Search Ads to execute a local language iOS keyword campaign for App Store visitors. 

The context: Max Fashion wanted to appeal to the Middle Eastern youth in their native language.

The objective: Acquire Millennial and GenZ users to download the Max Fashion app and make their purchases in-app.

The solution: Max Fashion initiated Apple Search Ads campaigns focused on Arabic keywords recommended by our AI-powered multilingual Apple Search Ads keywords recommendation tool. The brand also integrated its campaigns with MMP data for full-funnel transparency, which helped to optimize the multilingual campaigns in real time for maximum ROAS. 

Max Fashion was able to record 4X surges in quarterly conversions, 2.5X ROAS in 60 days, and 11% higher conversion rates on local language App Store keywords.


Apple Search Ads full-funnel keyword campaign

You may have crafted some stellar Apple Search Ads campaigns and are looking at your Apple Search Ads keyword strategy meticulously. However, unless the campaign is integrated to show full-funnel performance, it can get difficult for iOS app marketers to optimize their App Store paid initiatives efficiently. In subcategories of popular verticals like finance, a full-funnel campaign view can go a long way to understanding how your prospect users are performing across the entire acquisition journey. 

OneCard is a mobile-first co-branded credit card created in collaboration with RBI-approved banks. The brand’s app helps credit card users to manage their card usage responsibly. 

The context: The finance app aims to be a household name for young working professionals who regularly use credit cards for their requirements. 

The objective: The brand wanted to scale its middle funnel conversions to increase card activation rates. They were also looking to enhance their tap-through rate and click-to-install and optimize their cost-per-install. 

The solution: OneCard focused on brand and generic keywords for their Apple Search Ads keywords strategy. They then linked the keyword-led campaigns to their MMP attribution system, to get a transparent full-funnel view of the campaign performance. With the analytics in place, the team of campaign experts assisted OneCard in optimizing their Apple Search Ads campaign performance for maximum mid-funnel conversions - registrations to virtual card activations.

OneCard achieved a 268% boost in tap-through rates, a 36% increase in conversion rates, and a 204% increase in virtual card activation rates.


Apple Search Ads keyword bidding optimization campaign

The cost-of-acquisition on the Apple Search Ads platform can often be a cause of concern for several iOS app marketers. Especially the ones without a limitless ad budget. However, with the right Apple Search Ads keywords targeting and bid optimization, it is quite possible to lower the CAC on the App Store paid ads. 

We recently worked with a real-money gaming app, that achieved just that.

The context: The real-money gaming app wanted to scale its user base in India among young working professionals.

The objective: The app aimed to command a dominant Share of Voice in the real-money gaming category in the App Store, to boost downloads, while keeping the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) in check. 

The solution: The team assisted the app marketing team in formulating a good list of Apple Search Ads keywords that could help the brand craft impactful ad campaigns. Once the App Store keyword research and selection was done, strategic campaigns were set up anchoring on brand and competitor keywords. The team also integrated the campaigns to receive full-funnel performance reports. With the help of an insights-laden unified dashboard, the team was able to optimize the Apple Search Ads keywords bidding strategy to scale down the CAC.

The gaming app recorded a 42% growth in app install rates, an 81% install-to-deposit ratio, and a whopping 60% reduction in Apple Search Ads acquisition costs.

Team Newton's learnings from Apple Search Ads keywords campaigns

Thanks to the opportunity of working with several global brands across multiple verticals, the team has experienced multiple challenges that have helped them to learn the premium user acquisition platform better. We compile here some of our most valued learnings.

It is easy to lose sight of the goal sometimes

When you are running competitor campaigns on the App Store, more often than not the objective is to sway the competitor’s Share of Voice on the targeted keywords. And in that effort, it is quite easy to get tempted by keywords that are working extremely well for competition conversions. However, at times like these, it is important to prioritize what fits in with your brand. Targeting category and competitor keywords just because they yield higher conversions, can often backfire if they are not relevant to the app features, or what it offers in terms of products, services, and even seasonal deals. 

Talk to people in their language

People do not purchase from businesses, they purchase from people. It is important to create a relationship of trust and establish a connection with local iOS users. Targeting local language Apple Search Ads keywords, and crafting CPPs in the native language, helps to solidify trust in the brand. Especially when it comes to seasonal campaigns, special announcements, local language helps to retain the essence of the brand communication. Seeing their language and culture represented, makes users feel a sense of familiarity that impacts their download and transaction decisions.

Middle funnel optimizations are the way to go for scaling in-app transactions

Not integrating with MMPs, this is where you miss out on Apple Search Ads keywords campaign optimizations. To have a strong middle funnel, we learned it is important to minimize the gap between expectations and reality. Target keywords that are very clear about what you are offering. For example, thanksgiving dessert recipes is a great generic keyword to target but if your app deals only with special recipes, this can create a disconnect in the user and lead to a churn; instead, try targeting something like thanksgiving dessert recipes for diabetics. Another asset to optimize is the Custom Product Pages (CPPs) to have a correct representation of what your app offers. If we draw on the above example itself, say you are targeting the generic keyword thanksgiving dessert recipes for a Search Results Tab placement, ensure your CPPs represent diabetics, patients with food allergies, and special dietary requirements in the creatives to give complete information about who you are to the App Store user.

Full-funnel holistic campaign structure is the way to go

Apple Search Ads provide four ad placements in the App Store ecosystem that coincide with the four stages of the app user journey - awareness, interest, desire, and activation. Today Tab helps to attract users in the awareness stage. This is not particularly a keyword-led ad placement but it does show ads based on the user’s search query and app downloads history. Search Tab and Search Results Page ads help to acquire users in the interest and desire stage. Custom Product Pages (CPPs) linked to Today Tab ads and Search Results Page boost for the activation stage - this gives a visual representation of what to expect from the advertised app. Therefore, when building up your keyword campaigns, ensure to take advantage of all the inventories in different funnel stages for maximum app adoption.  

Brush up your Apple Search Ads keywords quickly with this handy infographic. Get your copy here.

Why are app marketers increasingly investing in Apple Search Ads keywords campaigns?

Because it is a premium user acquisition channel that gives exclusive access to high-quality iOS users. Mobile marketing has already entered the phase where it is set to be more consumer-focused and privacy-centric. Gone are the days when marketers would rely only on device-level data to make the right strategy calls for their user acquisition initiatives. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and Google’s Privacy Sandbox for Android, are heralding a new age in mobile advertising where privacy is the buzzword of the era.

Privacy-centric performance marketing

Data privacy is here to stay. Even prior to the ATT release, governments were taking the initiative to prioritize user data safety. The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for European Union residents and with California taking the lead in the United States with their data protection laws, we are looking at more restrictions coming on how much data is allowed to be tracked. App advertisers are being a true trooper about this - going about adopting platforms like Apple Search Ads to welcome the new way of mobile advertising. Apple Search Ads uses users’ search queries and history of past app downloads from the App Store to make contextual ad suggestions to their users. 

It gives an understanding of where the money is going

With Apple Search Ads, you can keep track of how your marketing budget is impacted by paid ads. Right from installs to purchases, app advertisers can track how their premium user acquisition campaigns are faring. If you spend say, $100 on Apple Search Ads keyword bids for your campaigns, it is possible to track which bid portions worked out great for you, and which did not. So the evergreen marketing problem - you know 50% of the spending is wasted, but you don’t know which 50% - is resolved. Now you can see which bids on which keywords did not work out for you, and eventually delivered poor campaign results. 

Apple users are famed for their high LTV

iOS users have more purchasing power than Android users. 67% of all consumer spending in 2022 is attributed to iOS users. Even in countries where iPhones have a lower penetration, like India or Southeast Asia, Apple Search Ads is still featuring as a key user acquisition channel simply because of how premium the iOS segment is. Their order values are usually higher and iOS users have quite a high brand loyalty and often end up as champion user personas of various popular app categories.

The ease of curating iOS-focused campaigns

Running iOS paid ad campaigns essentially focuses on four major steps - Apple Search Ads keywords, Apple Search Ads campaign and keyword bidding setups, monitoring, and real-time optimization.  The platform is quite automated and well-structured. With the keyword recommendations tool, finding the right keywords is just a matter of a few clicks. Max and min bid caps help to make judicious decisions on distributing keyword bids. Campaign setups are such that it is easy to layer and structure campaigns based on different objectives like brand building, brand recall, and category leadership which eventually lead to quality user acquisition. It also helps to set up local campaigns at scale with easy launch options that take minutes to activate a campaign in different geographies. 

Apple Search Ads keywords are quite an interesting universe to delve into for any iOS app marketer. It gives a unique insight into how users perceive your app, your competitors, and even the industry as a whole. It is a gateway to see what your users like and expect out of your app to win their loyalty. Since the ad appearances are just targeting search queries, it is more consumer-centric and contextual to what the user is looking for at the moment. The App Store is visited by over 650 million people every week - position yourself in front of this high-intent audience with the right Apple Search Ads keyword strategy. 

If you are looking for assistance to get started, or to refine and optimize your Apple Search Ads keywords strategy, feel free to connect with us and we will be happy to help you!

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