apple search ads

The ultimate Apple Search Ads placements step-by-step guide

Apple Search Ads placements are the different App Store user engagement touchpoints. Read along to unravel what it means and how it impacts iOS growth!

Apple estimates approximately 250 million iPhones will be shipped out in the next year. At the moment, Apple boasts over 1.8 billion active users globally, with the number only rising. Interestingly the bulk of this user base are millennials and GenZ - the two youngest groups of workforce out there. At a juncture like this, when two generational demographics are rising to become serious purchaser segments, iOS will play a crucial role in crafting the next big stories of app success. A key change driver in that process is the multiple Apple Search Ads placements and how they impact the app advertiser’s premium mobile marketing campaigns.

Table of Contents

Overview of Apple Search Ads as a premium app marketing channel

iPhone’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is a step towards the future of a privacy-first smartphone ecosystem. The other dominant smartphone OS is also looking at implementing Sandbox for Android to put consumer data safety first. A consumer-centric future is quite the inevitable progress in the landscape of smartphones and user data. Today, our mobile phones are the most integral parts of our lives. From the moment we wake up, till the time we go to bed - our smartphones are in line with our every move. 

Maintaining routines for productivity, listening to music for relaxation, keeping a check on our daily health, managing our finances, shopping, dating, eating out, and traveling - there’s an app involved every single step of the way. In such a context, where the human shares a rather intimate bond with their device, it makes sense to respect and protect that privacy. As smartphones become the hub of extremely private data, data protection laws like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the data privacy laws as set by California are only set to get more popular and stronger. To stay ahead of the winds of change, it is not surprising to see that device privacy is now being prioritized at the manufacturing level and app marketers have no choice, but to adapt to the changes and prepare for a game-changing year ahead. Apple Search Ads is one of the answers to navigate this challenge. 

What are Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads is a platform to advertise your app to iPhone users within the App Store. The platform utilizes iOS users’ search queries, popularly known as keywords, to position the right app in front of the right audience, to increase downloads, and in-app activity for the apps. 

In the Apple Search Ads platform, app marketers can set up paid ad campaigns to target App Store users. The app advertising campaigns through this platform are driven by the principle of search-intent marketing. Essentially, app marketers set up the list of keywords they want to target, set the bid amounts against each keyword or keyword group, and structure campaigns around the right Apple Search Ads placements for maximum impact.  

We recently released our concept study on Apple Search Ads keywords which gives a detailed idea of - what are Apple Search Ads keywords, the types of keywords, choosing the right iOS keywords, winning Apple Search Ads keywords bidding options, and actionable insights on mastering Apple Search Ads keywords strategy. 

Once you have mastered Apple Search Ads keywords - it is time to move on to setting up your Apple Search Ads campaigns and optimizing the impact of your Apple Search Ads multiple ad placements. 

Why are app marketers increasingly investing in Apple Search Ads?


There are primarily three reasons why app marketers are increasingly gravitating toward Apple Search Ads as a premium user acquisition channel. 

Reason 1: The iOS user base is young and enthusiastic to explore their needs

Millennials and GenZ are the early adopters of iOS devices - iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, etc. These two generations are the youngest working force and are rapidly increasing their consumerist appetite. Today, the youngest Millennial is at a stage where they are looking to stabilize their lifestyle - looking to build families, purchase their first homes, and experience a lot of milestones like professional successes at the higher echelons, first car, first child, and so forth. This generation is the one that businesses are now looking at as a serious buyer segment. On the other hand, the older GenZs are just starting on their career paths - they are earning for the first time and making for an attractive audience to target if instant gratification is the mantra of app monetization for you. This generation is also on the constant lookout for the next ‘cool thing’, and is, therefore extremely open to trying out new brands, and new offerings. In the 16-24 years age group, 44% of users prefer iPhone as contrasted to 30% preference for Android.

Reason 2: The iOS user base has a higher spending power compared to Android users

The average annual income of an iPhone user is almost 44% higher than the average annual income of an Android user. The average iOS user spends $1 for in-app purchases as contrasted to $0.47 for Android users. Therefore, the average revenue per user (ARPU) for iOS users is naturally higher. In markets like the US, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, iOS enjoys a high penetration ranging from 46-70%. Each of these markets makes it lucrative for app advertisers to penetrate and win considering the high lifetime value and quality of the user. Even in a country like India, where iOS penetration is low, popular categories like qCommerce note a 25-30% of daily orders come in through iOS users where the average cart value is usually higher. Even in the finance categories, iOS can help achieve about 2000% ROAS when leveraged correctly.


Reason 3: The mobile marketing initiatives can be tracked down to the last stage of the funnel

The typical app user acquisition funnel follows the following pattern: the user discovers an app category, looks for suggestions of apps in the discovered category, finds an app that suits their requirements, downloads them, registers or signs up, and then eventually either purchases an item, watches in-app content, or plays a game. To know if your user acquisition campaign has been truly successful, it is important to track the conversion performance at each of this stage. 

In the vanilla version of the Apple Search Ads platform, app advertisers can track impressions, tap-through rates on ads, and of course downloads. However, the platform’s flexibility allows for MMP integration which helps to track post-install funnel metrics too. It is now possible to see the full funnel beyond app installs - be it registrations, game plays, purchases, or watching a movie. This gives a massive advantage to iOS app marketers, wherein they know exactly how their iOS ad budgets have been utilized and what part of the ad spends has provided them with positive ROAS and ROIs. Just in case, this integration feels tricky, platforms like Newton help with the seamless process of integration, tracking, and acting upon the recommendations from custom campaign performance reports.

Introduction to Apple Search Ads placements

Apple Search Ads placements refer to the ads in the App Store at different stages of the user’s app journey. From this moment henceforth, we will analyze and dissect each aspect of the multiple ad placements on Apple Search Ads and how it impacts the iOS app marketer’s campaign management decisions.

The importance of the ad placements

If you look at each of the ad placements that Apple Search Ads offers, you truly cannot ignore the thoughtfulness of it all. The ad placements by Apple are structured such that they give the app advertisers an opportunity to engage their audience at each stage of the pre-install funnel. Having such a visibility structure positively impacts app marketers to: 

  • Have multiple campaigns running simultaneously for different audiences based on the stages of their conversion or awareness about the brand
  • It provides a seamless flow to stay in touch with the audience the entire time they are navigating around the App Store
  • It gives the choice back in the hands of the app marketer to decide on what pre-install campaign objectives to champion and what can be considered redundant

Now let’s look at how the Apple Search Ads placements impact the user funnel stage. 

The Awareness Stage

The first stage of the funnel - this is the part where the app advertiser is dealing with an audience segment who has just about learned the category of your business. This audience segment is of two types:
- they know about your brand specifically and are clear they are looking for you

- they know about your category but not the specific players in that category

If the app advertiser is making a good first impression, this is perhaps the easiest funnel stage to convert. The very first page of the App Store features the Today Tab ad placement. So judging by the iOS users’ search queries and previous download histories, the Today Tab will display relevant ads to the user right when they open the App Store application on their iPhones or iPads. 

No wonder the first page of the App Store is a vibrant delight to behold as it caters to introducing the user to the variety of useful apps that are just waiting to be downloaded. 

The Desire Stage

So now the user has enough information about the app category, possibly a considerably good idea of what to expect in general from the various apps in the category. And with that information, they have decided to engage with the category. 

This stage of the funnel requires slightly more effort to convert. The users in this funnel stage are educated and informed. They are in all probability, pretty clear about what is it that they are looking for. The Search Tab ad placements coincide with this part of the user’s pre-install journey. 

The ad appears right when the user is about to type in their search queries in the App Store search bar. This helps to enforce immediate top-of-mind recall just in case the user is looking to download the advertised app.

These ad placements are also decided based on the users’ search history and download history. 

The Interest Stage

Now that the user is educated and quite interested in engaging with a specific app category, it is time to drive their interest towards a specific brand. The Search Results Page ad placement is crucial to drive conversions at this funnel stage. 

The ad placement here is driven based on keyword targeting and finally provides the opportunity for the advertiser to grab the users’ mindshare right after they have submitted a specific search query. 

For example, if an iOS user has submitted a query shopping app for plus size clothes, advertisers can ensure their ads appear at this stage if the query is relevant to them. To do this, the advertiser can set the above keyword as an exact match or a broad match when setting up their Apple Search Ads campaigns. 

If you would like to know more about navigating around the different Apple Search Ads keyword match types to figure out the best ad placements for iOS campaigns, you can go through our article on Figuring out the right Apple Search Ads keyword match types.

The Action Stage

The final part of the funnel is where it only matters if the user downloaded the app or not. In the context of Apple Search Ads, this stage of the funnel is a culmination of utilizing the above three ad placements in the first three funnel stages. To activate this part of the funnel, Custom Product Pages (CPP) play a very important role. 

In a privacy-first app advertising ecosystem, contextuality is of utmost importance. The ads that appear to the user based on their search queries must represent the user’s requirements, needs, and how the user fits into the brand story. CPPs allow app advertisers to make their Today Tab ads, and Search Results Page ads more contextual. 

The CPPs are customizable in terms of creatives and content. This gives the opportunity to iOS app marketers to showcase the full extent of who their brand is, who their brand caters to, and what are the varying ways in which they provide user delight once the app is downloaded.


App marketing objectives and Apple Search Ads placements

When an app marketer gets started on the Apple Search Ads platform, there are several campaigns they can get started on. However, it is important to be clear about why Apple Search Ads was adopted as a strategy in the first place. Based on this clarity, it becomes easier to understand how to structure your paid App Store campaigns and how to use Apple Search Ads' multiple ad placements. Here’s a little bit of detail on how the campaign objective and ad placement synergy works. 

Establish a brand presence in the App Store

Brand presence in the App Store can go a long way to generate traction for your app’s growth in terms of user base and in-app revenue. The awareness and interest stage of the funnel plays a crucial role here, in getting the app a place in the App Store top apps leaderboard. Today Tab and Search Tab iOS ads can help to catapult the brand’s Share of Voice (SOV) in the App Store. The nature of the ad placements is such that it helps to drive: 

  • Interesting initiatives your brand is taking to further the satisfaction and experience of its user base.
  • Build credibility as a sought-after brand in the specific category
  • Launches of new products, services, in-app features, announcements of brand collaborations, social initiatives, and anything that helps to create a sense of community, or FOMO for that matter.

If you are doing brand campaigns or discovery campaigns for your app, then the Today Tab ad placement and the Search Tab ad placement can be great media spaces to start from in your journey of App Store success.

Establish category leadership in the App Store

The interest and desire stage of the funnel is crucial to build category leadership in the App Store. Search Tab and Search Results Tab iOS ads help app advertisers strengthen their credibility as remarkable players in their category. These ad placements allow the user to: 

  • Understand that there are credible alternatives in the specific app category
  • Get a little taste of what to expect from the app, once it is downloaded

These ad placements can also be a great way to establish why a specific app is different from others in the market, and how they fit in to resolve the various user problems in their category. Category campaigns can see great benefits in designing campaigns around the Search Tab and Search Results Page iOS ad placements. 

Establish a formidable challenger position for your brand in the App Store

App Store advertising is a brilliant strategy to look at if competition campaigns are the heart of your app marketing strategy. If the app’s competitor has a strong presence on the App Store, the Apple Search Ads placements have a solution in place to help other brands take up the position of the formidable challenger. 

Custom Product Pages (CPPs) become a key driver to achieve this objective. The flexibility to customize CPPs allows app advertisers to use the very limited App Store media space to say a lot about them. 

Let us take an example of a jewelry app here. Jewelry as a category is driven by user trust. It is not uncommon to find brand loyalists who have shopped jewelry from the same brand for decades. This is especially true for users looking to purchase gold or diamond jewelry. In such a context, establishing a challenger position for a new jewelry app might get complicated. And this is where CPPs come into play. So say this jewelry app has put forward ads in the Today Tab to announce new launches, utilized the Search Tab to position itself as a credible player, and leveraged the Search Results page to position itself as a great match to the user’s search queries. But from the mere ads, it is not enough to know this brand-new jewelry app. The CPPs however are the mirror to the brand’s soul. With Custom Product Pages, the jewelry app can show products, pricing, and new designs that can help to showcase why they are different from other players, what they have in their stock that others don’t, what makes them a trustworthy app over brands who have functioned in the market for decades, and most importantly how they are planning to delight their customers in a way that other jewelry brands don’t.

Ad placements in Apple Search Ads campaigns

Choosing the inventory that the Apple Search Ads campaigns will target, are pretty easy and self-explanatory. The method is simple. But before we get into that, make sure a few prerequisites are taken into consideration to get started on taking complete advantage of the multiple ad placements on Apple Search Ads. 

Prerequisites to keep in mind

- Be ready with the associated Apple ID in App Store Connect

- Make sure the app is live on the App Store

- Determine the countries and regions where to run the appropriate ads

- Fix a campaign-wise budget for Apple Search Ads

- Register on an Apple Search Ads account

- Establish a seamless payment process to ensure ads run without a hitch

Once the above list is all checked off, the app marketer is ready to fire up their Apple Search Ads campaigns and take advantage of the varying ad placements. 

- Apple Search Ads Advanced Campaigns -> click Create Campaign

- Choose the desired app to promote, in case you have multiple apps listed

- Name your campaign according to the objective: Brand campaigns to establish a strong presence in the App Store, Category and Competitor campaigns to secure an authoritative Share of Voice (SoV) in the App Store, Discovery campaigns to target new, untapped audience segments for incremental scale

- Select the ad placement that you are looking to leverage based on the audience funnel stage that you want your campaign to target

- Select the right demographic targets; consider making ad groups of the campaigns if they are targeting multiple regions or a variety of demographic segments

- Set up your bid budgets daily; fix the scheduling of the campaigns

- Preview your ads and activate them

Now that we have a basic understanding in place on how to get the campaigns structured, without further ado, let’s get started in exploring the intricate world of Apple Search Ads placements.

Exploring the multiple types of Apple Search Ads placements

As we discussed earlier, the Apple Search Ads placements follow a structure that coincides with the user’s journey of app discovery in the App Store. We have discussed briefly the nomenclature of the placements and a bit about what purposes in the scope of app marketing objectives they serve. Now we will take a closer look at what each of these placements are, how to set them up, and how to optimize their performance for maximum impact. 

Just in case you are looking for a quick overview of this section, feel free to download our infographic on the topic.

Today Tab iOS ad placement

What is the Today Tab iOS ad placement?

The Today Tab ad placement is the first ad placement that greets the App Store user. 650 million users start their App Store journey weekly from the Today Tab. This is a premium placement for an app’s ad because it puts the brand name out there right when the iOS user is beginning to interact with the App Store. 

If you look at the Today Tab, it is a haven of What’s Trending. It positions the app ad on a vibrant page and makes it look like one of the key brands trending among other iOS users.  

Apple puts quite a lot of attention on how Today Tab looks, seeing it already released 2 updates this year to enhance this ad placement’s overall performance. You can check out a history of the updates, right here.

When to use the Today Tab iOS ad?

Special occasions. The Today Tab ad placement is all about creating an impression on your user with a bang. It is a great placement if you are looking to give a boost to your brand-building or app discovery initiatives. Today Tab ads are usually connected to a Custom Product Page (CPP), which gives access to a fair bit of media space to get your special communications out there in the best possible manner. Few special occasions to use the Today Tab ad for: 

  • New product, service, or feature launch
  • Celebrating significant app milestones
  • Announcing important brand news like collaborations, social projects, or seasonal events

How to create a Today Tab iOS ad?

The Today Tab ad features the app title, subtitle, app icon, and animated assets from the CPP. So always make sure that these assets are up to date on your App Store Connect page. The Today Tab requires a Custom Product Page as its tap destination. These CPPs can again be set up on the App Store Connect page. 

It is also recommended to localize the CPPs based on the region and other geographical, and demographical factors. This is done to keep the ad communication as contextual as possible, to help drive higher conversions. Once the ad requirements are set up, Apple will look into the proper approvals to make your ad live.

How to ensure Today Tab ad placements are always approved once set up?

Apple suggests a few guidelines to help with speedy approvals. Here’s a quick overview:

- Refrain from using any violent or sexually explicit content in your Today Tab ad - be it the icon, app name, subtitle, or even the Custom Product Page assets. Once the icon, name, and subtitle are approved for one Today Tab ad, they will not need to be approved again, unless they are edited/updated on App Store Connect. 

- Avoid using incentivized communication in your Today Tab ads. For example - avoid ad copies like “50% discount on the first purchase if you sign up in the next 5 hours”

- Localization is important and your app name and subtitle must match the dominant, local language where you intend to run the ad

- Avoid using content like “App of the Day” in your Today Tab ad copies to ensure there’s no misleading advertising

What are the ad flexibility options with the Today Tab iOS ad?

With the Today Tab ad, the app advertiser can get insights into the following details: 

Ad performance: Measure present and historical performance metrics like impressions, taps, average cost-per-taps, and installs. With these metrics, the app advertiser can get insights into two things: 

- how users perceive the human side of the brand and how much are they willing to engage with the brand beyond just purchases

- how new, previously untapped users perceive the brand and if they are showing any inclination towards engaging with what it has to offer

Ad edits: For ease of ad categorization, it is possible to change the name of the Today Tab ads to reflect the right purpose and objective of activating this ad placement. This can also help to keep all ad nomenclatures uniform, that are crucial for app marketers to track and record the variety of campaigns executed. 

Ad scheduling: Even if the ad is approved, the iOS app advertiser can decide to pause or activate Today Tab ads. If you have set up multiple Today Tab ads, please note only one ad will stay active at a time. In case you activate a paused Today Tab ad, the running active ad will pause and the new ad will then be running by itself.

Ad rejection downloads: In case you are facing too many rejections, downloading a copy of the reasons can help to understand where you are going wrong and how to fix it.

Things that can go wrong when creating a Today Tab ad and how to correct them?

When you are setting up a Today Tab ad, a few things can go wrong. And that’s fine. There’s always a way to rectify mistakes. 

Incompatible Custom Product Page: There could be a few reasons why this would happen - the CPPs are perhaps not localized for the target region or the assets on the App Store Connect page are only compatible for iPads. Today Tab ads don’t run on iPads and therefore, assets that are only for iPads do not get picked up by the CPP connected to the ad as its tap destination. 

Ad on hold: Primarily three reasons can put a Today Tab ad on hold - awaiting approvals, disabled Custom Product Pages, and incompatible ad assets and language. Approval issues are easy to mitigate as long as they are not violent, explicit, and misleading. Problematic CPPs usually indicate that the page assets have been deleted or disabled from the App Store Connect. 

Ad rejected: This primarily happens when the app’s icon, name, and subtitle are not in compliance with Apple’s advertising guidelines. These are fixed by ensuring they do not talk about censored content, or misleading and incentivized information in the ad content. 

Wrong CPP as tap destination: Just in case, a Today Tab ad has been mistakenly linked to the wrong CPP, create a new ad, connect the right CPP to the new ad, and activate the new ad. Once the new ad with the correct CPP is activated, the old ad with the wrong CPP will automatically be paused.

Takeaway for Today Tab ad placement

Key benefit: Positions your ad in front of over half a billion people right when they are starting their app discovery journey.

Key challenge: The ad is at the risk of getting lost in the vibrant Today Tab page if it does not stand out enough in terms of the animated assets; no access to iPad users.


Search Tab iOS ad placement

What is the Search Tab iOS ad placement?

The second ad placement to feature in the App Store ecosystem. This ad placement appears just below the Search bar, right before the user starts typing out their search queries. These ads are displayed based on the previous queries that the user had input in the App Store search bar. It also takes into account the user’s App Store download history, to put forward the best suitable ad. 

70% of all App Store visitors use the Search bar to look for their required app. The Search Tab ad placements cater to the audience who have been looking into specific app categories but haven’t been able to find the right app for themselves yet. This ad placement is quite important to garner credibility. The higher the placement on the Search Tab, the more chances of the user perceiving the app as a trustworthy platform with whom their data can be shared and transactions can be performed.

When to use the Search Tab iOS ad?

When you are ready to claim that category leader title. The very nature of the functionality of this ad placement, helps app advertisers to target users who are in the ‘desire’ stage of the funnel. They are aware of the app category, the features the top apps of the category provide, and to what extent the user problems can be resolved by the apps in the category. 

Therefore, it becomes essential to establish that credibility factor. With the Search Tab Apple Search Ads placements, you can show your user that other iOS audiences trust your brand and use your app to resolve their problems or requirements.

How to create a Search Tab iOS ad?

Like Today Tab ads, Search Tab iOS ads are also created from the assets uploaded in the App Store Connect. These ads feature the app icon, the app title, and the subtitle. 

A bit of organic App Store Optimization comes into play to ensure the app’s ads appear in the Search Tab ad placements for the right devices. Remember, the users’ history of search queries is key to deciding which ad will be showcased to the user. Therefore, make sure that the focus keywords of your category are well-placed in the title, subtitle, and app description. 

For example, if you are a real-money gaming app and you would like to be featured in the Search Tab placements, ensure your App Store Connect content features keywords like real-money gaming, card games with real money, betting games online, and the like. 

Another important thing to keep in mind when setting up a Search Tab ad for an iOS app is custom targeting. You can customize the targeting by: 

  • Device type: Target both iPhone and iPad users with your Search Tab ads
  • Customer type: With Search Tab ads you can not only target new users but also get back into the minds of returning users as well as users of your other apps, in case you have more than one app hosted on your App Store Connect account.
  • The location that you want to target like a specific country or a geographical region
  • The targeting can also be filtered by age and gender
  • Even dayparting or controlling ad appearances during certain days or times of the week are also possible with Search Tab Apple Search Ads placements

What could go wrong with a Search Tab iOS ad and how to fix it?

Search Tab ads, like Today Tab ads are shown to the user based on the history of the search queries they put in Apple Search Ads. Therefore, unless there is a good synergy between your target keywords and the user queries, you risk wasting this ad placement on non-relevant ad appearances. This can have a heavy impact on your Apple Search Ads spending. 

To mitigate this issue, check for the following: 

  1. The target keywords in your campaign settings are properly researched and A/B tested for efficacy. We have a few best practices compiled here on how to get the perfectly optimized Apple Search Ads keywords list.
  2. You are constantly refining your App Store Optimization and the organic focus keywords that appear in your app’s App Store Connect content

Takeaway for Search Tab ad placement

Key benefit: Reach users before they search for an app.

Key challenge: Your organic and paid keywords strategy has to be constantly refined to ensure a certain standard of quality is maintained for this ad placement.


Search Results Page iOS ad placement

What is the Search Results Page iOS ad placement?

After the user has typed in their queries in the App Store Search bar, ad placements matching the query are shown. These matches, as we discussed above, are enabled by the Apple Search Ads keyword match types. If you are looking at the user’s App Store journey, this would be the third ad placement they would land upon. 

This ad placement has a high favorability among app marketers because this is where their iOS keywords expertise truly comes into the picture. Search Results Page ads appear when the search query is either an exact match, a broad match, or a Search Match to your set of high-intent, high-priority target keywords. 

Another special feature of this ad placement is the preview of the Custom Product Pages (CPP) which is the tap destination for your ad.

When to use the Search Results Page iOS ad?

The Today Tab ad placement and Search Tab ad placement are dependent on the history of previous queries and downloads. However, with the Search Results Page, the targeting is happening in real-time, and app advertisers still have a chance to grab user attention even after they have typed in their query. No wonder, this placement is usually at the top of the choice list for competitor campaigns, where there is a higher scope to rank around competitor keywords and acquire users who would have been lost to competitors. 

There are a few other campaigns for which this inventory makes a great choice - seasonal campaigns, regional campaigns, and discovery campaigns. All these campaign categories require a focus on contextual advertising. 

To set context, since the introduction of ATT iPhone users can opt out of all app tracking. This means iOS app advertisers often have to work based on aggregate user data, like overall impressions in a particular region or demography, the ARPU from campaigns run, etc. Therefore, the iPhone app marketer often has to confront a repetitive question - how to make the ads personalized? The Custom Product Pages (CPPs) are an answer to that. We will discuss this in more detail a little further down.

How to create a Search Results Page for Apple Search Ads placements?

Search Results Page Apple Search Ads placements can be created while setting up the campaigns on the advanced platform. Since this placement is entirely driven by keyword-targeting, the first step is to get a robust Apple Search Ads keywords list in place. Make sure they are A/B tested and refined to deliver maximum performance. 

Once the keywords are set, decide if you would like to segregate your campaigns into ad groups. It is recommended to break down your Search Results Page-oriented Apple Search Ads campaigns into smaller ad groups for multiple reasons: 

  • Clarity of the ad shown: Multiple ad groups can cater to multiple themes so that audiences view the version of the ads that’s most relevant to them. For example, if you are a finance app that works as an aggregator for investment funds - you can create multiple ad groups that focus on different fund types like equity funds, retirement funds, and global, and foreign stocks
  • Keyword performance: Similar keywords can be grouped and utilized by each ad group for targeting. This will help understand which keyword bundles are more relevant for the brand’s performance in the App Store and which ones can be categorized as redundant. The redundant keywords then can be added to the negative keyword list to ensure marketing spends are not wasted on irrelevant ad placements. 

  • Personalization of the ad: Since this ad placement shows a preview of the Custom Product Page that is added as its tap destination, it helps to make ads more personalized based on the ad groups. So for example, if you have set up an ad group with a keyword bundle all related to the variations of mutual funds investment app, you can choose to show a CPP that says more about the mutual funds you offer in your app. 

In the case of Discovery campaigns where the Search Results Page is chosen as an ad placement, turning on Search Match can help amplify undiscovered, untapped, but relevant ad placements.

Once the keywords are selected and the ad groups structured to form stellar campaigns, check the Custom Product Page linked to the ad. Customize as necessary and make sure your App Store Connect assets are updated as per your latest app, brand messaging, etc.

What could go wrong with Search Results Page iOS ads and how to fix it?

Irrelevant ad placements. This ad placement works on a match type. So the ad is showing only for two reasons - either the search queries have matched to the target keywords OR the Search Match automation has positioned the ad to untargeted queries. 

Therefore, if the ad placements are not yielding conversions, here’s how to approach the problem. 

  • The easiest solution is to turn off Search Match. This automated match type works best for mature campaigns on the Apple Search Ads platform. Before you get started on utilizing Search Matches, ensure there has been a considerable learning phase about different types of campaigns on Apple Search Ads. Only then will it be possible to come up with an exhaustive high-performing Apple Search Ads keywords target list, which can become the foundation on which the Search Match algorithm works. 

  • There’s usually a very low margin of error in terms of exact matches. Commonly exact matches are utilized for app names, misspellings of the app name, and a common tagline or hashtag that the app might have. So in case your brand keyword exact matches are yielding irrelevant ad placements, have a look if the spellings are set properly. Sometimes, missing out on a single letter in your target set keywords, even by mistake, can cost ad placements for exact match types. When it comes to broad match types yielding irrelevant ad placements, analyze at the keyword level - which target keyword or keyword groups have caused low-quality impressions, which keyword-led ad groups contributed to the lowest retention rates, high churns, etc. Keep refining your lists to remove underperforming keywords to optimize the ad placements for high-quality visibility, reach, and conversions.

Takeaway for Search Results Page ad placement

Key benefit: Convert users in real-time as they are searching for apps in your category to download.

Key challenge: Irrelevant ad placements lead to low-quality impressions and conversions.


Custom Product Pages (CPP) in Apple Search Ads placements

What are iOS CPPs or Custom Product Pages?

When you are setting up an App Store Connect account for your app, it also requires you to submit a 30-second app preview video and 10 relatable screenshots of the app. When setting up Apple Search Ads campaigns, for Today Tab and Search Results Page ad placements, the tap destination can be selected as a Custom Product Page. 

CPPs are auto-generated by utilizing the app assets from App Store Connect. About 35 CPPs can be generated from the assets uploaded. The Custom Product Pages serves as a landing page for your app within the App Store ecosystem. 

The best part about Apple Search Ads Custom Product Pages is that they are completely customizable and localizable. Therefore, they make a great asset for contextual campaigns without taking the user out of the App Store infrastructure.

When to use Custom Product Pages (CPPs) to run Apple Search Ads campaigns?

CPPs can be utilized for two purposes. 

  • Ad placement choice is either Today Tab ad or Search Results Page ad
  • Executing contextual campaigns like seasonal campaigns, local region campaigns, and new user discovery campaigns. 

The Today Tab ad placement is commonly utilized for special communications like a brand announcement or a feature/service launch. In this regard, the CPPs help to provide more context to the Today Tab ad and help to educate the user further about the brand. 

For contextual campaigns, CPPs are a great way to run thematic ads and make each sub-segment of your target user feel represented in the brand’s communication. For example, ahead of January, you would want to run a Lunar New Year campaign only for your Southeast Asian audience. In this regard, you can utilize an ad group level that is geared to all search queries related to Lunar New Year - link the tap destination to a CPP that showcases how your app’s offering fits into popular Lunar New Year plans of celebrations. 

Similarly, for discovery campaigns, CPPs can be utilized to represent the champion sub-segments. For example, a fashion app’s CPP could be oriented around their champion user personas like the budding fashionista, the trendsetter, or the glam diva; showcasing the various persona sub-segments gives an understanding of what kind of fashion styles can be expected from the app.

How to create iOS Custom Product Pages (CPPs) to run Apple Search Ads campaigns?

The Apple Search Ads placements for Custom Product Pages or CPPs are curated from the app preview and app screenshot assets uploaded to the App Store Connect account. About 35 product page combinations can be generated from these assets. The user can usually see 3 creatives when they see the preview of the page on Search Results Page ads. 

To make sure that CPPs are always up to date, app marketers must ensure the app assets are always updated in the App Store Connect account. It’s not just the creatives that are an important part of the CPPs - it also picks up the content from the app title, subtitle, description, and promotional text. So ensure the core messaging of the app is in the same vein as the keywords you are targeting. For example, if the targeted keyword is dating app for queer folks and the CPP shows elements that are commonly associated with heteronormative dating - it might create a gap between expectation and reality, and make the advertiser lose out on precious ad placements and ad spending.

What could go wrong with iOS Custom Product Pages (CPPs) and how to fix it?

CPPs can often be disapproved if certain Apple Advertising guidelines are not followed. The assets shown on CPP - both creatives and text have to maintain a few hygiene checks. 

  • Any violent or sexually explicit content is discouraged from CPPs and the usage of the same will get the CPP disapproved. Now if the CPP has been chosen as a tap destination for a Today Tab ad or a Search Results Page ad, post-disapproval the ad groups or campaigns cannot run unless the CPP is updated. 
  • Incentivized content like offers, Play to Win, and similar promotional ads are also not recommended for CPPs. 
  • Usage of content like Game of the Day, or App of the Month that gives a misleading idea about the app’s ranking is another common mistake that app marketers make in their CPP content.
  • If the CPP is not localized as per the region where the campaign or ad group is running, it will again be rejected for that particular campaign.
  • CPPs where app screenshots are not clear or overtly animated to twist how the app looks, also do not make the cut.

By keeping these simple hygiene checks in mind, app marketers can ensure their CPPs are approved and within the guidelines of the App Store. 

With Custom Product Pages, you can measure KPIs like impressions, downloads, redownloads, conversion rates, retention rates, and average transaction value per user at an ad group level. This makes it a favorite for app marketers to track the success of their contextually driven campaigns.

Takeaway for iOS CPP ad placement

Key benefit: Drives contextual advertising within the privacy-focused App Store ecosystem. 

Key challenge: Requires continued updation of app assets in App Store Connect to ensure the CPPs can pick up the right assets to create relevant product pages.


Matching Apple Search Ads placements to campaign objectives for maximum performance

The various Apple Search Ads placements are very tempting to explore for app marketers. Team Newton’s experience of handling Apple Search Ads campaigns for global clients across international markets, has helped us to arrive at a few learnings that can help app marketers prioritize their placement choices, as well as optimize the ad appearances for each placement to garner maximum high-quality visibility, reach, and conversions.

As we discussed previously in this article, the Apple Search Ads placements coincide with the App Store user’s app discovery funnel stages. Therefore, before getting started on setting up the campaign structure and selecting the ad placement, app marketers must be very clear about their campaign objectives and understand how their targeted audience group will respond to the ads.

iOS ad placement for brand awareness in the App Store

For starters, if you are looking to activate a brand awareness campaign on the App Store, the brand must make sure there’s enough popularity around it outside the App Store. This popularity can be for several reasons - it’s an established brand in the market that is foraying into the App Store space; a brand content has gone viral and sparked a sudden interest in the brand; there’s a competitor who is grabbing a lot of user interest for the industry as a whole. In such cases, first identify what is the source of the brand’s popularity or how industry events can positively impact the planned brand campaign.

When running brand awareness campaigns, where you are possibly interacting with your iOS users for the first time on the App Store, Today Tab ad placement is a great choice to attract that big-bang attention. This ad placement helps the audience to recall your brand from other platforms. Say, one of your Instagram marketing reels went viral and now you want to leverage that positive audience sentiment and convert them into meaningful downloads - for your iOS users the euphoria can continue with a Today Tab ad. You may want to update the app subtitle to reflect a popular hashtag from the viral reel to build that connection and continuity of your messaging. For example, the app subtitle can say something like The app from #PayItForward. Since Today Tab ads lead to a pre-selected Custom Product Page, this feature then can be further utilized to build more interest in your app. 

Not all the individuals who click on the Today Tab ads need to convert. To continue maximizing the performance, the audience can always be retargeted with the Search Tab ad placement. Essentially, the brand grabs the attention with the Today Tab ad and then moves on to the Search Tab placement to keep driving in the brand recall until conversions. 

Propelling App Store category leadership with Apple Search Ads placements

When it comes to category leadership, you are possibly at a stage where your App Store paid and organic efforts are just starting to show positive results. You are possibly considering scaling your efforts to reach out to a wider audience base. When you are running a category leadership campaign, you are reaching out to a fairly educated audience. This group at the very least knows what your vertical is all about, and what standard of product, service, and in-app features to expect from the different players in the industry.

Search Tab Apple Search Ads placements then become a good choice for this. With this ad placement, the app advertiser is sure they are targeting users who have either historically downloaded apps from the same category or they have searched for apps related to the category. Let’s demonstrate this with a simple example.

A productivity app called SelfCare+ is running a category leadership campaign on the iOS App Store. While setting up their category campaign, they chose the Search Tab ad placement. Now this is how the ad display will work:
- The ad for SelfCare+ will only appear for users who have previously downloaded productivity apps, health improvement apps, routine-making apps, and similar types of apps that help to build good personal habits.
- The ad for SelfCare+ will also appear to users who have repeatedly searched for similar products with queries like to-do list maker app online, free productivity improvement app, habit-building guide app, etc. This group of users may not have downloaded any app yet, but are showing a massive interest in this category.

What this means is the app marketer is approaching a high-intent audience who has decided to interact with their industry. However, they also have some specific requirements in their mind that are important to be met for a conversion. The Search Tab ad placements can become the starting point of a category leadership campaign. The retargeting phase of the campaign can move on to the Search Results page where there is more opportunity to show the iOS user what they are missing out on if they do not interact with your brand. 

As Suyash Misra, from the app marketing team of Zepto, remarked” It’s an unusual behavior that a user who has come to download App A, will see the ad of App B and go on to download App B. However, even if they don’t download App B, their presence in the App Store is important. Because now if the user is dissatisfied with the experience of App A, there’s a mindshare that App B is available as an alternative.”

Achieving competitive advantage with the multiple ad placements of Apple Search Ads

To achieve the pinnacle of success in the chaotic world of app marketing, the brand has to eventually challenge its competitors and perhaps the industry status quo to carve out a strong niche for itself. In the App Store, this can be achieved with competitor campaigns. In competitor campaigns, the brand is essentially targeting keywords where the competitors have a higher Share of Voice, and therefore a larger mindshare among iOS users. The objective is to sway this opinion in favor of the challenging brand.

Search Results Page ad placements are the perfect answer to this. Here, you are dealing with the most aggressive version of keyword targeting. For this, the concept of Apple Search Ads keywords match types needs to be crystal clear to the Apple Search Ads campaign manager. This ad placement is shown after the user has typed in their search queries. But there’s a fraction of a moment’s opportunity to change their minds about downloading a competitor app or grabbing their attention as the best app to download. No wonder, Apple allowed the preview of Custom Product Pages with this ad placement. The advertiser could use all the media space available to make a statement in less than 10 seconds. 

Establishment as a people’s brand in the App Store with Apple Search Ads Custom Product Pages

Custom Product Pages are not an ad placement in themselves. They are the tap destination for Today Tab ads and Search Results Page ads. The privacy-first approach of the Apple Search Ads platform requires marketers to get creative in their communications and deliver contextual advertising. The CPPs are valuable App Store media spaces that allow advertisers to speak intimately to the diverse audience they cater to. 

For example, a fashion app - Ethitrend - focuses on inclusive and sustainable fashion. With the 35 variations of Custom Product Pages, Ethitrend  has the opportunity to launch curated campaigns for their diverse personas like plus-sized shoppers, shoppers looking for vegan fashion, shoppers looking to purchase only ethically sourced fashion, shoppers looking to purchase only cruelty-free grooming products, etc. Now, if Ethitrend decides to launch a multilayered campaign, CPPs once again simplify the execution process. Say Ethitrend wants to run a localized Lunar New Year campaign focusing on in-app purchases of women’s products in the Singapore market. With CPPs, the brand can run a native language campaign by customizing the page in Malay or Mandarin, the dominant language spoken in Singapore. With the right targeting option, the campaign can also be geared to appear only for female iOS users in Singapore. The 3 creative slots of the Custom Product Pages, can help showcase the different types of female fashion requirements they cater to - inclusive sizes, trending varieties, and durable products. 

People do not buy from businesses anymore. They buy from other people. Therefore, it becomes important for brands to have the opportunity to tell their story to their audience at every interaction. In the App Store ecosystem, it is the Custom Product Pages that bring your brand alive to its users. 


Apple Search Ads placements case study

The finance sector is a generally competitive space. In the App Store, with over 80000 finance apps, fintech apps face tough competition in every region. Getting user interest requires constant campaign innovations, monitoring, and optimizations. This leading mobile payment app from Indonesia, in southeast Asia, wanted to secure a strong space in the App Store. The mobile payments app did not want to lose out on the opportunity to target its users at varying stages of the funnel - from consideration to installing the app. At the same time, the brand also wanted to keep its branding awareness campaign cost-efficient, while driving healthy ROIs. 

Team Newton advised the payments app to consider Today Tab ad placements for its campaigns. The idea was to target the audience right when they are visiting the App Store. It was all about letting them know that their trusted payments app was now on the App Store. 

The Today Tab ads opened doors to retarget the users with Search Result ad campaigns that matched ad appearances to keywords across brand, category, competitor, and discovery campaigns. With the Newton unified dashboard, it was possible to track the specific keywords that drove the final conversions and optimize the campaign accordingly for improved scale.


5 best practices to successfully master Apple Search Ads placements in the App Store

Like most things in life, it’s not exactly possible to get the Apple Search Ads placements right every time. It is all about time and patience - the app marketing team should have the opportunity to figure out the patterns in the campaign analytics to understand which ad placement is working best for the brand. However, there are a few best practices that can be kept in mind to make the right start in your App Store ads journey. 

Know your audience

When setting up the campaign structure, a few things are obvious - like customizing the demography, device type, age group, and location. If your campaign is aligned for both iPhone and iPad users, then choosing a Today Tab placement won’t make sense - the App Store application for iPads doesn’t have this placement available. Similarly, also understand the stage that you want to target. Is your audience at the awareness stage? Or are you targeting an educated segment who has shown interest in engaging? Or is your target audience already convinced to engage but is now only making that decision of which app to download - you or your competitors? In each of these stages, the communication will be different, and the response of your audience will also be different. Therefore, choose your placement wisely. At the awareness stage, a Today Tab ad to grab immediate attention makes sense. An educated segment might respond better to a Search Tab ad, while a decision-making segment may convert better with a Search Results Page ad placement. 

Apple Search Ads keywords optimization for high-quality ad placements

This is essential for all Apple Search Ads placements. There are two parts to this.

Organic App Store Optimization: The Today Tab ads and the Search Tab ads appear to users with a history of downloading similar apps or searching around keywords relevant to the vertical. Constant refining of your target keywords in the app title, subtitle, description, and promotional text helps to indicate to the algorithm that your app makes for a credible suggestion to users who have shown interest in your category. 

Paid keywords optimization: This is especially important for Search Results Page ad placements where the ad appearances are guided by keyword match types. The only way to ensure the match types are working perfectly is to constantly refine the target keyword list - keep adding high-intent keywords, regularly remove low-performing, irrelevant keywords, continue A/B testing local language keywords, and explore cheaper but high-quality long-tail keywords. With a good quality keyword list at the foundation, the impact of the ad placements is amplified.

Analyze competitor strategies

Keep a tab on the leading players of your vertical and their approach to Apple Search Ads placements. This will help to identify which ad placements are worth exploring for someone in your category, and which placements might not be the best bet for you. However, when analyzing where your competitors are placing themselves - remember what works for them, may not work for you. For example, in the Jewelry category, it’s very easy to find players who have been in the market for several decades. To garner immediate attention, if a newbie brand runs Today Tab ads vis-a-vis its more established competitors, it might not achieve great conversion numbers. However, if the newbie brand uses placements like Search Tab and Search Results Page to establish themselves as great alternatives to the established brands, that might help garner better conversions. Our experience with the Melorra campaign was somewhat around this theme of tackling strong competition with the right placements.

Utilize ad scheduling, geotargeting, and dayparting

The right ad placements depend a lot on when you are expecting your target audience to see the ad. Let’s play out a scenario here.

A qCommerce app, Ninja Essentials, wants to run a full-funnel iOS user acquisition campaign across Southeast Asia. A skeletal version of their campaign and ad placement plan might look like this: 







Linked CPP

Discovery campaign

Today Tab; Search Results Page


New users, returning users


5 pm - 5 am

The App to ensure weekends are always perfect

Brand campaign

Today Tab

First 10 days of the month

All users


5 pm - 10 pm

Monthly supply items in the app

Category campaign

Search Tab; Search Results Page

All days of month

Female users 18-40; new and returning

All regions

All day 

Last minute hygiene needs

Competitor campaign

Search Results Page

Weekends, Public holidays

All users


8 am - 11 am; 5 pm - 11 pm

Party supplies in <10 mins

If you look at the sample plan closely, Ninja Essentials, as a qCommerce app is trying to be there for their users at the right moments. Weekends are times when we plan social activities and might need something from the store at the last moment. By choosing the Today Tab and Search Results placements - they are capturing the user's attention right when opening the App Store and also after they have typed in a search query. In the second instance by being on the Today Tab for a specific need, at a specific time, Ninja Essentials is communicating to their customer that they are a reliable service provider to resolve their monthly supplies shopping needs. Similarly, by dayparting their competitor campaign ad placements, they are playing to their strengths vis-a-vis the competition’s offerings - like faster deliveries.

Study ad placement performances regularly

By scheduling, dayparting, and geotargeting the right ad placements, it is possible to get a very granular performance analysis of each placement. When measuring ad placement performances, look at:

  • Impressions, tap-through rates, downloads, signups, and transactions (shopping/gameplays/video plays/deposits, etc.)
  • Time of day when the ads receive maximum engagement
  • Specific days of high engagements and conversions
  • Compare the performance of multiple placements to similar times and days of the week/month
  • Also analyze how the ad placements are performing on different devices, and among different age groups, gender, and location

At Newton, we help our iOS app advertisers with a unified dashboard that helps to track all performance analytics in one place. The team of Apple Search Ads campaign experts helps with executing custom recommendations to streamline and maximize the best-performing Apple Search Ads placements.


Apple Search Ads placements are a well-designed series of ad placements within the App Store. App advertisers can now target iOS users right when they are about to download an app. The multiple ad placements available on the Apple Search Ads platform - Today Tab, Search Tab, Search Results Pages, Custom Product Pages (CPPs) - are positioned such that they allow the app marketers to interact with their audience at each stage of their app download journey. In this concept study, we introduce the Apple Search Ads platform and then dive into Apple’s rationale for introducing these different ad placements and how they fit into an app marketer’s campaign objectives. We then move on to discussing each of the ad placements - what they look like, how to set them up, when to use each of these ad placements, what are some of the things that could go wrong when activating these ad placements, and how app marketers can fix the issues. 

We also talk about a case study of a mobile payments app from Indonesia to provide a real-life example of how Apple Search Ads multiple ad placements come together to target and retarget iOS users for driving sustainable user acquisition initiatives. The case study helps to understand how to divide the campaigns into ad groups, and how to blend multiple ad placements to complete the acquisition loop. Closing the article are a few best practice suggestions from the team. 

Further resources:

  1. Apple Search Ads placements downloadable guide
  2. Apple Search Ads multiple ad placements workshop playlist
  3. Best practices to set up Apple Search Ads campaigns
  4. The multiverse of Apple Search Ads keywords
  5. Today Tab iOS ad placement updates to date

If you are looking to boost your Apple Search Ads placement strategy, feel free to connect with the Newton team for an expert consultation on aligning your placement choices to the right campaign goals.


Similar posts