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Ads are finally coming to the Apple App Store

Apple has announced some changes to the App Store. The most notable change is that finally search ads are coming. App discovery has been a major issue for years. With over 1.5 million apps on the store, it is near impossible to stand out as a small app.

The search ads will be shown on auction basis, apparently with no preference going to the large apps over the smaller ones. It is finally possible for apps to get visibility. There are a bunch of questions though on how the search ads will function.

What will it cost to advertise your app?

It is likely that the App Store Ads will function similarly to Adwords. Apple said that it will bring back the Categories tab for easier navigation, but it is unlikely that you will be able to bid on categories. Even if that were possible, it is likely that the large app companies would dominate, because they can afford to bid more. App developers will more likely be able to bid for keywords, just like in Adwords. Developers can bid for search terms that users enter in the search field. The ad would then pop up if the user searches for a term the developer is bidding for.

Will user behaviour change?

The question is if the bidding on the App Store can really work as well as it does in Adwords. Google Search is utilized extensively, the search engine processes 100bn searches every month. That is a lot. So you can imagine that there are countless search terms advertisers can bid for. User behaviour on Google Search is probably different to user behaviour on the App Store though, and might need to change in order for the search ads to be successful.

The question is how diverse the search terms in the App Store are. It is hard to imagine that many users are looking for long tail keywords, and many searches are probably branded (e.g. a user is searching for “Facebook Messenger”). That makes it very difficult for developers to bid for search terms, since either competition will be very high due to the limited amount of non-branded searches, or developers will be bidding for branded keywords which give a lower CTR (click-through-rate), and thus spike the cost of the bid.

If users are searching for long tail keywords, then the search ads really will help small apps be discovered. If that is not the case, search ads may not solve the issue of app discovery. It is possible that users will change their behaviour though. As the App Store changes, users will notice that small apps that normally did not show up are now placed more prominently. That might jumpstart the users to search for apps they previously had no idea existed.

Will ASO change as well?

Considering that the change made to the App Store is huge, ASO (App Store Optimization) for iOS will probably see a shift as well. Although it will only take an effect on the App Store (not the Play Store, since they act independently), marketers should definitely get ready for a shift.


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