apple search ads

Apple Search Ads TTRs and how to maximize them?

Apple Search Ads TTRs are the first measurement touchpoint of paid iOS campaigns. Learn what it means and how to maximize TTRs for App Store growth!

This past year, Apple Search Ads has created quite the buzz as the forerunner of privacy-first app marketing platforms. The release of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) with iOS 14.5 created chaos among app marketers, who feared losing out on the premium iOS user eyeballs. However, that was some time ago and the dust has settled. Apple Search Ads - a privacy-oriented, performance-focused, search-intent iOS app marketing platform ensures app marketers can continue to dazzle iPhone and iPad users with their ads. The first touchpoint at which this platform starts to showcase its magic is with Tap-through-Rates, commonly known as TTRs. Today's article will discuss how to maximize your Apple Search Ads TTRs for higher ROAS and lower CACs.

What is the Apple Search Ads platform?

The Apple Search Ads platform is an exclusive app marketing platform from the house of Apple, that caters only to iOS user acquisition and retention within the App Store ecosystem. The platform functions based on matching user search queries to the right ads. Ads can be positioned on the home page (Today Tab), just when the user is about to search for an app (Search Tab), and when the user has submitted a search query (Search Results Page). The ads are matched based on the users’ search history, download history, and search query matches to target keywords. The platform can be utilized to drive different categories of campaigns like brand campaigns, category leadership campaigns, competitor campaigns, brand discovery campaigns, seasonal campaigns, and regional campaigns. 

If this is your first time hearing about Apple Search Ads, here are a few resources on our website that you can refer to for a deeper understanding of how the entire Apple Search Ads ecosystem functions. 

What are Apple Search Ads TTRs or Tap-through-Rates and how to calculate it?

As discussed earlier, the iOS paid ads are positioned in three different touchpoints of the App Store - home page, search page, and search results page. Each of these placements coincides with a stage in the app discovery funnel. Ads positioned on the home page - Today Tab - target new and returning users who may not have used the app at all. This is great for brand building, brand recall, and special announcements. These users are majorly in the awareness stage. The ads in the second placement - Search Tab - are positioned to users who have expressed desire and interest in either the category or the brand itself. The ads for the Search Results Page are geared toward making high-quality users take distinctive actions like app download, sign up, or usage of any specific feature.

When the user clicks on any of these ads, the Apple Search Ads platform considers it as a Tap. The TTR is calculated as (No. of times the ad was tapped/ Total impressions received by the ad)*100. So for example, if your ad received 50000 clicks out of 100,000 impressions, then the ad has received a TTR of (50,000/100,000)*100 = 50%.

Apple Search Ads TTRs can be a good indicator of ad relevancy. The higher the TTRs, the more relevant the ad is to targeted users. It can also help to investigate any further issues down the funnel. If ads have high TTRs, but low downloads, it’s an obvious indicator that there’s something off with either the Custom Product Page (CPP) or the default App Store product page.

Key factors influencing Apple Search Ads TTRs

The TTRs of paid iOS ads depend upon several factors around ad relevance, the accuracy of targeting, and the overall quality of your ad creatives. Let’s take a closer look at how it all blends in together. 

Ad relevance

The ad placement in the App Store is a key factor to consider for ad relevancy. The ad positions cater to users in different stages of the acquisition funnel. For Today Tab and Search Tab, the ads are placed based on search and download history. Therefore, the chances of wrong targeting are lower. However, if the Today tab ad talks about the product generically, it may not see a high TTR. If you are looking to garner higher TTR for this ad placement, make the content special - frame it around an announcement, a launch, or any in-app events - something that makes a big bang and immediately attracts user interest. The home page of the App Store is designed to dazzle and the Today Tab ad must keep to that style to garner better TTRs.


Ads on Search Results Pages - where we get a sneak peek of the Custom Product Pages too, garners taps based on the relevancy to search queries. These ad placements are shown by matching the user’s search query to the advertiser’s set targeted keywords. How do Apple Search Ads keywords match types work? We have it covered in detail, in this article. If an ad shows up but makes no indication to the search query of the user, the advertiser will lose out on the TTR. For example, if the user inputs summer clothes for plus sized women and gets shown an ad that only showcases slimmer body types, it’s not getting tapped. 

Accuracy of keyword targeting

This is more applicable for Search Results Page ads. In the Apple Search Ads platform, search queries or keywords help to determine the various audience segments that are targeted by the ads. To ensure that the audiences are being targeted correctly, the target keyword list has to be in line with the brand’s USPs, the specific user problems they are solving, and product capabilities that are helping to resolve user problems. A spray-and-pray campaign on Apple Search Ads is not the best idea to secure maximum TTRs. To optimize ads for better TTRs, campaigns should ideally be subdivided into ad groups for granular, persona-based targeting. This also helps to amplify the ad relevancy factor, which in turn secures higher TTRs.

Ad creative quality

Honesty is truly the best policy to maximize your Apple Search Ads TTRs. In the App Store, app marketing creatives feature in Custom Product Pages (CPPs), default product page, Today Tab ads, and Search Results Page ads. For Today Tab ads, the linked CPP assets are animated. Search Results Page ads show a preview of the 3 creatives attached to the linked CPP. These creatives are either app preview videos or app screenshots. The creatives must get through some quick checklists to ensure higher TTRs.

  • Persona-based creatives - showcase the different types of users the app caters to
  • Product-led creatives - showcase specific features solving specific user problems
  • Creatives that are culturally nuanced in terms of images and communication language, especially for multiregional campaigns
  • Refrain from utilizing violent, vulgar, and incentivized communications
  • Refrain from the usage of overtly modified screenshots or too many stock images

5 best practices to maximize Apple Search Ads TTRs

Now that we know the factors that impact iOS paid ads TTRs, let’s take a look at some of the precautions to keep in mind when getting started on your Apple Search Ads campaigns. The industry average for TTRs is approximately 10%. However, with the right targeting, bidding, and optimization methods, brands can look at scaling their TTRs up to 42% and higher on the Apple Search Ads platform. 

Effective usage of keywords

Categorize your target keywords under the following heads - brand, category, competitor, seasonal, and multilingual local/native language keywords. Categorized keywords will help drive accurate targeting for the right campaigns. Keywords are the mirrors of the iOS users’ souls. Categorizing keywords also helps to understand the different personas of your target audience and can help with segmented targeting. To illustrate this, let’s look at an example: a health and fitness app, DocTalk,  can have multiple appropriate keywords like online doctor consultation, lab tests booking online, blood sample home collection, order prescription medicines online - each keyword reflects specific user personas as well as specific needs that can help to understand how to go about segmented targeting. 

Another way to utilize keywords for better Apple Search Ads TTRs is to maintain a negative keyword list. Negative keywords are search queries for which an ad appearance is not desired. Blocking ad appearances for irrelevant keywords ensures the overall TTR of the campaign maintains a healthy balance. 

Optimizing ad creatives and copy

This can be approached in two layers. 

Ad creatives and the copy must match ad placements or targeted keywords. Today Tab ads are all about news that dazzles and Search Results Page ads are all about matching the right app to the right search query. To ensure TTRs are maintained for these ad placements, ensure the creative communicates the theme. So for an app like DocTalk, the Today Tab ad can showcase a new feature that helps patients maintain their medical records in one single app. The Search Results Page creatives can showcase use cases of the app like booking teleconsultations, sample collections from home, online pathology tests booking, or even ordering prescription medicines for home delivery. 


To further amplify Apple Search Ads TTRs, consider localizing ad creatives and copy. So if the target regions for an app like DocTalk are Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore - be sure to add Chinese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese individuals as part of your creatives. Also utilize local language, and local pop culture to establish a bond of trust with your users.

A/B testing ad groups to find the right ad campaign

When setting up Apple Search Ads campaigns, set up ad groups under each campaign. These ad groups are to have different keyword groups to target. They can be broad groups as discussed above like brand, category, competitor, seasonal, and multilingual. But for best results, it is better to subdivide these into thematic groups. Once again, let’s see how this works for our health app, DocTalk. The app’s category campaign can be subdivided into the following ad groups - teleconsultation booking, path test bookings, and medicine home delivery. Each of these ad groups caters to variations of keywords around the same theme. 

A/B tests of such ad groups help understand what is it that your users love the most about your app and find useful. This insight can further help optimize your Apple Search Ads campaigns to maximize the TTRs.

Earmarking resources for discovery campaigns

Discovery campaigns in Apple Search Ads utilize the Search Match algorithm to help find new user groups for your app. The Search Match, when turned on, automatically allows ads to appear on keywords that were not targeted previously. These keywords are usually variations of the keywords set in other ad groups in the Apple Search Ads platform. Discovery campaigns can help secure more keyword and audience segmentation options that can help amplify the TTRs on brand, category, or competitor campaigns.

However, be careful in monitoring that Search Match does not end up being your Achilles heel - sometimes the algorithm causes ad appearances to irrelevant keywords that can bleed out your marketing resources. Continuously updating and refining the negative keywords list helps to ensure the algorithm works to its best potential.

Full-funnel Apple Search Ads campaign analysis

Apple Search Ads TTRs can majorly be improved if the app marketer has the full-funnel picture of campaign performance - pre-install to post-install. Platforms like Newton, integrate MMP data with the Apple Search Ads platform, to ensure app marketers get a keyword-level view of campaign performance. 

This way, app marketers can see which keywords drove high TTRs, downloads, registrations, app opens, purchases, and longer retention rates. The opposite also works - get insights into keywords that consistently failed to deliver across the funnel. This helps app marketers streamline the exact list of target keywords that lead to higher TTRs for paid iOS ads.


The team at Newton has been able to use the above-discussed practices to help amplify Apple Search Ads TTRs by 268% for our app marketers. The industry knowledge of the campaign managers further helped to collate learnings from various campaigns to optimize for higher TTRs and bottom-funnel conversions. If you would like to discuss more on how we built up this strategy for iOS app growth, feel free to connect with us here.

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