Apple Search Ads is super useful. It’s unlike most app marketing platforms because of the level of control you can leverage with keyword targeting while maintaining ease of succinct messaging through screenshots and copy you apply on your app’s page. Conveniently, this is the only landing page and ad copy source that you will ever need, which is great because it’s the only option you have. Yes, there is a lot of guesswork taken out of the equation leaving a simple and straightforward management system for your app marketing. I love Apple Search Ads — except when I don’t.


Although ASA is essential to my app marketing strategy and provides a unique blend of automation and control, I’m rarely able to accomplish big tasks quickly on this platform. I’ve had to accept a lot of small setbacks and workarounds that I don’t encounter with Google Ads or Bing. In this article, I’ll share some of the “normal” quirks to expect when setting up campaigns and managing ASA. There are so many features to Apple and this article will not cover all of them, but we’ll look at a few of my common practices regarding Campaign Builds, Bidding, and Creative Sets.


Campaign Builds

It is difficult to multitask in ASA. Although it accepts upload sheets (.csv only), it organizes the content in your upload sheet by Campaign ID, Ad Group ID, and Keyword ID. These IDs must be generated by the platform. This means when I approach a campaign build I first build out my foundation — Complete campaign settings and targeting and ad group settings and targeting.


This is backward from what I’m used to in Google Ads and Bing but, although it takes time to complete, I appreciate the amount of thought and focus I have to put into each campaign. In other platforms, I would likely make settings changes after I’ve uploaded a full campaign with keywords and ad copy. I like the intentional structuring process.


Once the foundational shell has been built in the interface, I’m able to look back to my upload sheet of keywords and apply the appropriate Campaign and Ad Group IDs to the keyword sets. My best practice is to work through one campaign at a time. Although I’ll upload multiple sets of keywords to multiple ad groups within the same campaign, I’ll often catch error messages if I try to mix uploads across different campaigns. I believe this could be alleviated if you were able to view all keywords in your account but, currently, that option is not available.

Keyword Template
Screenshot of the ASA keyword template downloaded from Apple’s Campaign Management page.

One extremely important item to note about ASA and bulk upload sheets is that you cannot delete keywords from your account. Your only options are to pause an unwanted keyword, remove your entire ad group, or remove your entire campaign. Also, you are unable to filter paused keywords from your view. “But Jenna, what’s the fuss?” The fuss is that I’ve mistakenly uploaded broad keywords to my exact match ad groups and accidentally cluttered my structure enough times to share this note with you. ASA’s help site will instruct you to create another upload sheet that lists “UPDATE” under the action column followed by your Keyword ID, the keyword in question, Match Type, Status, Bid, Campaign ID, and Ad Group ID to fix this problem, but I can report that this has never worked for me. Not once, not ever. I’m left with a graveyard of, paused, painfully simple mistakes.



When setting up campaigns and ad groups, you set your Max CPT (Cost Per Tap). For my purposes, I’m more concerned with setting my CPA goal from the ad group level. I’ve had better luck viewing Apple’s auction and bidding in the same way that I run Target CPA campaigns in Google Ads. At the end of the day, I’m more concerned with Cost Per Install. One way to manage your CPI goals is to bump your CPA goal higher than goal on ad groups that have a lower than goal Avg. CPA within your high traffic campaigns. Keep an eye on Avg. CPA from the campaign level and let that help guide your decisions.


Creative Sets

This is my favorite feature in Apple Search Ads. I’m big on congruence between ad copy and landing pages and with ASA it’s all automatic. Your default image and text ads are comprised of the copy on your app page + the first 3 screenshots (also from your app page). Your default image and text ads are automatically applied to all campaigns and ad groups. Something to note about defaults is that you cannot pause, delete, or edit these ads through the ASA platform. However, you can create new image ads to test how other screenshots (again, must be on your app page) run with your default. This has been an interesting and useful way for us to test out new creative sets (landscape images, videos, text-heavy screenshots) compare against the classic ads in a low-risk environment.


If you were to run a creative test and found that you wanted to apply your new, winning, findings as your default ad across the entire account you would need to change the order of the screenshots on your app’s page so that the first 3 screenshots reflected your new combination.


Other weird stuff about ASA

  • Your broad keywords are extremely broad — Run regular search query reports and apply negatives on both the campaign and ad group level. Applying negatives on only the campaign level will often not cut it as your only exclusion if it’s a truly irrelevant search term.
  • Know exactly the keyword, ad group, or campaign you are searching for when using the search bar in the interface — it is an “exact” filter, not a “contains” filter.
  • If you have multiple members of your team signed into the account at the same time, one of you will either encounter a white loading screen or simply not be able to log in.
  • Any changes to your custom date filter will reload the page. For example, I change my start date to the first of the month — page reloads. I change my end date — page reloads. I recognize this is an extremely small quirk, but I promise it’s worth mentioning.


Final Thoughts

I could not provide the value of work that I do without ASA. It’s a quirky platform, and I often have to get in the right headspace before starting a build from scratch, but it really delivers for app marketing. For all of the patience I have to have when building, I adore the ease of managing those thoughtfully crafted campaigns. That and our reps over at Apple have always provided in-depth insights while welcoming any and all questions.


In December, my quote was “all I want for Christmas is an Apple editor.” I always look forward to seeing what Apple is going to roll out next and have a short wishlist of capabilities I’d love to see:

  • An Apple Editor
  • Be able to view All Keywords from the Campaign Dashboard
  • More robust filtering options
  • Ability to edit keywords in the interface

What are your thoughts about ASA? Also, what do you know that I’m completely missing? Reach out on twitter at @ad_jennarator