5 best practices to crack Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming category

Wondering how to make the most of Apple Search Ads for user acquisition in gaming category? Check out our latest article on tried-and tested methods!

These days, there’s at least one gamer in every household. Mobile games have truly united the generations of smartphone users with sheer entertainment value. Whether a user is in their 50s or their 20s, there’s a mobile game for everyone. In the App Store, gaming apps make up over 12% share of all apps available. Top iOS gaming apps like Roblox make over 3 million USD in revenue per day, making the gaming category very lucrative to app developers. App Store as a hotspot for gaming apps doesn’t just end there -  61% of all mobile gaming revenue comes from iOS users. If you are looking to leverage paid options to scale app growth, then this blog is for you. Read along for some of our tried-and-tested best practices to crack Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming.

Things to remember for Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming category

  • The bulk of iPhone users are within the 16-34 age group. This plays an important role in deciding the App Store positioning of your gaming app to appeal to a younger audience.
  • A few popular gaming categories in the App Store are battle royale, action, strategy, puzzle, racing, and arcade games. Another gaming sector that’s fast popularizing is real-money gaming. iPhone users usually earn approximately 40% more than Android users. With Apple Search Ads, your app is positioned in front of a premium audience who has the propensity to make purchases within the gaming app.
  • Some of the gamer personas popular on the App Store are big spenders, low and mid-range spenders, and offer takers. Competitive and social gamers also make up quite a chunk of the dominant gamer personas in the App Store. 

The benefits and challenges of executing an Apple Search Ads gaming app user acquisition campaigns

The primary challenge to scaling an iOS gaming app’s growth is the tough competition within the App Store. It’s quite necessary to build up a strong Share of Voice (SoV) within the App Store gaming category. For gaming apps, it’s often recommended to have a holistic organic and paid strategy in place. 

With Apple Search Ads, you can granularize your reach-out messages to cater to each sub-segment of your target gamer audience. And since the whole platform is based on search intent marketing, it helps to position your app to a high-intent gaming audience. Gaming apps have been known to record a 60% lower cost per install while scaling other KPIs like retention rate, ROI, and unique user acquisition.


5 best practices amplifying Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming category

Best practice 1: Diversify target keywords across English and non-English languages

Most gaming apps have a global audience and are localized on the App Store. With such a diversity of gamers, it is important to be aware of how search queries vary in different geographies and linguistic demographics. There are about 1.92 billion gamers worldwide who experience the App Store in their native language of Chinese, Korean, Spanish, German, Arabic, or Hindi. Regularly audit the search queries coming up and update your App Store and Apple Search Ads keyword lists accordingly. 

When preparing a keyword list for App Store gaming apps, categorize keywords into brand, category, competitor, and negative keywords. This will help to ease refining your target keywords, and also save Apple Search Ads spends from not displaying your ads to irrelevant search queries. If you are looking for more detailed insights on a multiple-language approach for Apple Search Ads, you can check out our article on iOS local language keyword strategy.

Team suggestion: Look for misspellings or popular app nicknames in the search queries of your gaming app. By utilizing a broad match type, ensure to not lose out on a high-intent audience who are already looking for you.

Best practice 2: Ideate creatives to reflect the gaming app experience expected by the users

A key thing to remember here is when you are showcasing your app screenshots, keep them as close to the original as possible. One of the top negative feedback for gaming app churns is not getting the game that was shown in screenshots or app previews. While authenticity gets you a good first impression, there are still more options to personalize gaming app creatives. 

One feature to utilize here is Apple Search Ads custom product pages or CPP. CPPs are mostly created from existing App Store Connect content and creatives. They are like personalized landing pages of your app within the App Store. Up to 35 CPPs can be generated to create a strong contextual advertising campaign for iOS gaming app growth. CPPs are localizable and can be edited to amplify special feature launches, offers, launches of new in-game products, and persona-based messages for target gamers.

Team suggestion: Personalize your CPPs to ease tracking and campaign readiness. Utilize them to discover lookalike audience pools who have a high propensity to download gaming apps. Customized CPPs linked to discovery campaigns, can help you reach out to a hitherto untapped audience segment within the App Store. The discovery campaign ads are placed based on the user’s previous search queries and app download history. With CPPs, you can also check for redownloads, in-app engagement, as well as in-app purchases.

Best practice 3: Strategize multiple ad placements  to boost your Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming category for each funnel stage

Around 86% of GenZ play mobile games. With a large target market, gaming apps can easily take their pick for profitable ad placements. Today tab ads can make a great placement to announce exciting news like brand or influencer collaborations, launches of new skins, or other in-game assets, or some new deals on in-app purchases. It also grabs the eyeballs of new users when they are just starting their App Store journey. Search Results page can also be a great placement for gaming apps. With CPPs linked to the campaigns, it gives a more detailed outlook of your app, enticing users to download. If you are looking to grab your user’s eye right when they are to type their search queries, opt-in for Search tab ad placements. 

Team suggestion: Be careful with your App Store creative messaging when going for the different funnel stages. Two things to keep in mind: try to resolve the specific problem the new target audience group faces - for instance, if you are opting to use a Search Results inventory targeting audiences who say shops or orders from home deliveries a lot, opt for ideas like x gameplays translates to y reward points in your cart; secondly, customize your CPP creatives in terms of color, elements, user representation to suit the audience of different regions.

Best practice 4: App Store campaigns for moment marketing supercharge short-term iOS gaming app ROAS

It’s not just shopping apps that get all the attention during peak seasonal times. Gaming apps are rapidly getting popular during cricket season, festivals, and the holiday season. Always have pre-made seasonal campaigns that can be activated and paused during and after the moment. Be cautious about targeting the right keyword groups. For seasonal campaigns, you would preferably want to allocate your bid budget to seasonal keyword variations to get the right bang for your marketing buck. Make sure to tie in your offerings and features as part of your seasonal product pages. 

Team suggestion: When building your moment marketing campaigns, try to target the high-spenders and hardcore, competitive players. A few key moment marketing campaigns to utilize for App Store gaming apps: 

  • Multiplayer gaming features for New Year house parties, Father or Mother’s Day bonding activities, summer holidays
  • Offers and in-app gifting options for players during festivals like Diwali, Christmas, Lunar New Year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.
  • In-app purchase deals for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, or even Prime Day

Best practice 5: Track, monitor, and assess your user’s full-funnel app journey

At Newton, we get our campaigns integrated into a full funnel measurement from Day 1. With the help of campaign conversion data, MMP attribution data, and first-party in-app data - it is possible to track the entire lifetime journey of a user. Full-funnel tracking helps to identify the traits that are commonly shared among your champion users. With complete funnel stage tracking, you can easily identify the exact keywords or keyword groups, that are driving the bulk of your high-LTV user conversions. 

In the long term, this helps to identify your own custom keyword list that is carefully chosen to provide maximum visibility and conversions for paid App Store efforts. With full-funnel tracking, another interesting insight to uncover is low competition keywords that are driving the ROAS. This can significantly impact the reduction of iOS Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). 

Team suggestion: To activate full-funnel tracking, it is best to leverage artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and workflow automation to save time and avoid erroneous calculations. Predictive analytics and AI together can identify common trends in your successful ad campaigns and provide actionable recommendations to improve low-performing campaigns. Workflow automation relieves your marketing bandwidth to work on strategic initiatives to maximize App Store numbers.

Brand story: Apple Search Ads user acquisition in gaming category for real-money gaming apps

A leading real-money gaming app from India specializes in card-based gaming. In the App Store, RMG apps are required to geo-restrict in permissible zones and the app has to be hosted as a free app. Therefore with limited locations that could be targeted, this gaming app wanted to aim for a commanding Share of Voice(SoV) in the gaming app category, that would help boost downloads.


With the team’s expertise, we were able to identify the right set of keywords that would put the gaming app in front of the right audience segment. With a mix of brand-centric, competitor, and high-intent search queries, the advertiser was able to create specific ad group themes matching the keyword types. The contextual advertising driven through keyword optimization, positively impacted the keyword bidding strategy. The gaming app was able to achieve a 60% reduction in CAC, 42% growth in install rate, and 81% install-to-deposit rate.

We are just about getting started with gaming app season. If you are looking to try out something new for your premium user acquisition goals, feel free to connect with Team Newton. Alternatively, if you are just looking for an Apple Search Ads audit for your gaming app, raise a request for a complimentary audit.

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