Universal App Campaigns were launched in mid-2015 as part of Google’s efforts to utilize machine-learning in its advertising product offerings. Google has since rebranded this effort as simply “App Campaigns”. The goal is for the machine-learning system to analyze, in real-time, hundreds of millions of signals to put your app in front of the best possible users. We saw Google’s push for automation in campaign management and optimization over the past few years. 

As it has been a few years since the launch, you are probably well aware of the differences between the old mobile app install campaigns and the App Campaigns you should be using for your app promotion ads. But if this is your first time venturing into apps, you can grab a history lesson from this post by Shannon Macklin.

As you create your App Campaigns, I’ve identified the 3 best practices to keep in mind to ensure that your efforts, combined with Google’s spectacular machine-learning capabilities, make for the optimal App Advertising endeavors that meet your (or your client’s) goals.

1. Pick the Right Campaign Goal

There are two possible campaign goals to choose from for your App Campaigns: “Install Volume” and “In-App Actions.” You want to identify the type of customer you’re targeting with your campaign and assign a value to each conversion (new user installs or in-app conversions such as level-ups or purchases). Both goals are going to optimize according to a set target CPI, but how you determine your target CPI should depend on which goal you’ve selected.

a) Install Volume

Choose install volume as your campaign goal if you want to focus on finding as many new users as possible to install your app. This goal is ideal for new apps, or apps with new updates/features.

When you optimize for install volume, Google recommends setting a campaign budget that is 50 times greater than your target CPI. For example, if your target CPI is $2, you should set a campaign budget of at least $100 according to Google. You also should ensure your campaign is not limited by budget, because Google’s algorithm needs enough conversion data to learn and optimize.

b) In-app Actions

Choose in-app actions as your campaign goal if you want to find users who are more likely to complete conversion actions like in-app purchases. With Universal App Campaigns, then, it is important to properly set up conversion events so you can track these actions and so Google’s algorithm can optimize for your unique conversion goals.

Google recommends choosing an action that occurs at least 10 times per day, and suggests a campaign budget of at least 10 times your target CPI (so, if your conversion action is a level-up in a game, you want to make sure that your app is bringing in at least 10 of these per day…and if your target CPI is $2, then your campaign budget should be at least $20.

Remember that you can have multiple campaigns for different goals! One of the ways you can focus on one campaign’s goals while continuing to run campaigns with another goal is to utilize your control over your target CPI and campaign budgets. Therefore:

2. Set the Right Bids and Budgets

Say you’re running two App campaigns – one with an “Install Volume” goal and one with a goal for “In-App Actions.” According to Google’s recommendations, you know that you need a target CPI and campaign budget that allow for Google’s algorithm to collect enough data while providing a return on your investment. But what if the customers you want to reach change throughout the year?

Google gives this example:

“Say it’s been a couple of months and you’ve added a social feature and new levels to your game. You want to get this update to as many new users as you can. You adjust the target CPI and budget UP for the campaign that’s focused on “Install Volume.” At the same time, you adjust the budget DOWN for the campaign that’s focused on “In-app actions.” You’re signaling to [Google Ads] yet another change in direction.”

By wisely altering your bids and budgets, you have control over the results of your campaigns that couple with the automation/optimization that Google brings to the table with machine learning.

Reminder: machine learning requires data to learn in order to optimize for performance goals. When you set up your campaign budgets and bids, make sure you give the campaign ample time to run before making changes – Google suggests allowing time to gain at least 100 conversions.

3. Go Deep with Creative

App campaigns are not immune to the shift toward responsive creatives. Like responsive search ads and responsive display ads, Google App Campaigns are going to perform best when given enough creative to scale.

a) The Basics

Google requires:

  • 2 headlines
  • 1 description line
  • Image assets not required

a) The Best

You can get by with just the basics. But you might find you aren’t getting the response you hoped for from your campaign. Google allows you to provide up to 5 headlines and up to 5 descriptions. You can also load up to 20 images and 20 videos. Google will mix and match to find the optimal ad to serve to the user.

40 creative assets for a single ad is a bit excessive. And you might find it hard to figure out which asset is performing best. Instead, I recommend providing 5 headlines, 5 descriptions and 4-10 creative assets per ad set.

Google recommends uploading at least 2 landscape images without any superimposed text or logo to ensure placement across all channels. And as always, ensure the images you are using have a high pixel density.

Giving Up (some) Control

While some of you may still be resistant to the change and the loss of some of the “control” we had with mobile app install campaigns of the past, App Campaigns are out-performing previous iterations with a more hands-off management requirement. You still have control over the goals you choose, the bids and budgets you utilize, and the creative you provide for Google to test and optimize around for data-driven results that are simply beyond manual capabilities.

Google’s App Campaigns are a driving force behind some of Hanapin’s clients’ strategies. The simplified campaign structure is easy to set up and manage. With the depth of creative assets, the opportunities for testing are limitless. Get started with our suggestions, then test, analyze, tweak, repeat your way to success.