app store advertising

Apple Search Ads Search Tab and how to use it?

Apple Search Ads Search Tab helps double down on your brand recall campaigns in the App Store. Learn more on how to use this iOS ad placement to potential!

The multiple ad placements in Apple Search Ads have iOS app marketers fascinated. They are very carefully curated in how they follow the user’s app discovery funnel. The Today Tab ad on the home page caters to user awareness and is all about instant attraction. We recently published an article on this placement, if you would like to read more about it. The next placement to follow is the Apple Search Ads Search Tab.

What is the Apple Search Ads Search Tab ad placement?

The Search Tab ads appear when an App Store user is just about to type in their query in the search bar. These ads cater to the user’s Desire and Interest stages of the app discovery funnel. Similar to Today Tab ads, Search Tab ads also get placed based on the user’s search and download history. Therefore, these ads target high-intent, and educated users, who are looking for something useful to push them to convert.

Today Tab ads vs. Search Tab ads

Even though the ads are placed based on user history, there are distinctive differences in the objectives the placements achieve.


Today Tab

Search Tab

Positioned on the home page of the App Store

Positioned on the Search page of the App Store

Beneficial to raise user awareness - branding, discovery, seasonal retargeting campaigns

Beneficial to raise user interest and brand recall - branding, category, retargeting campaigns

Displays app icon, title, subtitle, animated assets in the background; dynamic ad

Displays app icon, title, subtitle; static ad

Links to a contextual Custom Product Page (CPP)

Links to the default product page

Measure impressions, taps, downloads, retention, and average proceeds per user

Measure impressions, taps, downloads

Why consider the Search Tab iOS ad placement?

Over 70% of iOS users use the search bar to locate their app of choice. The page visitors come with a high intent to download useful apps. Therefore, grabbing their attention right when they are about to download an app, reaps fruits for brand recall. 

The Search Tab ads are shown to users who have been repeatedly searching for apps in your category. Better still, they may even have downloaded other players in your category and may be on the lookout for improved experiences. Positioning yourself in front of this high-intent audience can help boost your conversions by almost 20%. 

Search Tab ads are built to nurture the target audience. It’s an interesting placement to explore if you have long-term goals - building up high-quality audience pipelines, driving retargeting campaigns to churned users, and establishing category leadership among a high-intent audience.

How to set up a Search Tab ad?

When setting up your campaigns in the Apple Search Ads platform, select Search Tab as the inventory choice. The Search Tab ad picks up their assets from the App Store product page. Check to ensure the icon, app title, and subtitle are up to date. 

The ad appearance is greatly influenced by smart algorithms. Therefore, when you start your App Store growth journey, focus on continually refining your iOS organic and paid keywords. The more streamlined your target keywords, the easier for the algorithm to position your ads to the right audience.


How to make the best use of the Apple Search Ads Search Tab?

Utilize the placement for long-term objectives

The Search Tab placement is all about nurturing an interested audience. When structuring your overall Apple Search Ads strategy, utilize this ad placement in unison with other branding, category, or retargeting campaigns. To demonstrate this with an example: 

A medical app, DocTalk, has launched a special feature to keep all medical documents collated in a single place that can be easily accessed by all the patient’s doctors. The app initiated a special announcement campaign on the Today Tab. Simultaneously, it also initiated a Search Tab campaign. Since both placements work based on search and download history, the target audience overlaps. DocTalk is hoping the audience will see the big announcement on the home page, and will further be reminded about the app when they go ahead to download an app.

Remember to work the algorithm

Any ad placement that works around user history, depends upon an algorithm to place the right ads at the the right places. So how do we go about it in the App Store ecosystem?

If you are working on a limited budget, then focusing on organic App Store Optimization (ASO) can give the right indicators to the algorithm. The organic performance of the app, tells the App Store algorithm what your app is all about, who your app caters to, and what kind of users are primarily downloading your app. If you have dollars to spare, ensure your paid keyword campaigns are continually optimized for maximum efficiency. The performance of keyword-led campaigns, again gives further data to the App Store algorithm about what kind of search queries have delivered higher conversion rates.

Establish an A/B testing discipline for Apple Search Ads Search Tab

The Search Tab ad placement is not guided by any keyword match type. Therefore, the A/B testing has to be done at the product page level and the bid level. To understand the kind of optimizations needed for the product page, focus on the high-performing Custom Product Pages (CPPs). CPPs are just alternative product pages that give more in-depth details about the app. 

At the bid level, keep testing out bid ranges that are helping to drive high, but good-quality conversions. Search Tab ad placements don’t come cheap with CPA sometimes going as high as $28. However, expert campaign managers utilize their multi-vertical insights to adjust bid amounts accordingly for improved ROAS.

Prioritize product page refinement

There are very less chances of users not downloading the app after tapping a Search Tab ad. If Search Ads TTRs are high but downloads are low, it’s an indicator of expectation-reality mismatch. The product page is a key asset to drive Search Tab performance. Always keep screenshots clear, and as closely resembling the original app screenshots as possible. Keep other visual elements like icons, or stock images to the bare minimum required. Refrain from utilizing any misleading or incentivized content in the product page creative or descriptions. 

High-performing CPPs can help to identify what kind of content, creatives, features, and in-app products are garnering the highest interest. Refine the default product page accordingly to maximize Search Tab conversions.

MMP integration to secure granular performance analytics

Integrating Apple Search Ads with MMPs helps to amplify the performance of the overall platform. In the context of Search Tab ads, here’s how it helps. With the integration, it’s possible to see how Search Tab ads have yielded ROAS beyond the app download. A successful Search Tab ad will deliver quality conversion across the Registration, App Open/ Session, and Transaction phases of the complete user acquisition funnel. This full-funnel analysis helps to identify what kind of bid amounts are securing better ROIs and make informed decisions on ad placement budget distribution. The MMP integration naturally helps to secure better results for A/B testing too. This helps to save marketing budgets before the campaign is taken live on a larger scale.


Integrated Apple Search Ads platforms like Newton, have been working with 80+ global brands to script their end-to-end iOS app growth story. It has helped the team understand the platform deeply, and discover subtle nuances in keyword selection, bid optimization, and organic ASO, that complement and amplify performances of ad placements like the Today Tab, Search Tab, and Search Results Tab. If you would like to get on a discussion to understand how we amplify ad placement performances, feel free to connect with us.

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