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Winning with Apps in Paid Search

There are more than 3.2 billion smartphone users worldwide. According to Google, over fifty percent of these users will utilize a company’s mobile app to earn rewards. The average American checks their phone once every twelve minutes and over eighty percent of their total mobile screen time is spent in apps. These trends have continued unabated and were further reinforced during the COVID pandemic.

Google’s app campaigns allow advertisers to connect with potential users through engaging creative to drive app installs and measure success based on the incremental value these users drive for the business. With the increased opportunity in apps, a strong strategy is more important than ever. Below are several tips and best practices for app campaigns to ensure success.

Strategy Alignment

For an app campaign to run successfully, you must first decide on a desired goal for the campaign as it’s important for the setup and creative strategies to align towards this goal. Google outlines four major types/strategies that have different goals: App Campaigns Install, App Campaigns Install Advanced, App Campaigns Action, and App Campaigns Value (in beta). To caveat, App Campaigns Value is in beta and is not available to all clients. The details of these approaches are outlined below:

 

App Campaigns Install

App Campaigns Install Advanced

App Campaigns Action

App Campaigns Value (in beta)

Goal

Find new users to install your app

Find new users likely to complete a selected in-app event (i.e. purchase, login, etc.) at a CPI-basis

Find new users who complete a selected in-app event (i.e. purchase, login, etc.)

Maximize in-app events (i.e. purchase, login, etc.) at target ROAS (return on ad spend)

Use Case

You are looking for install volume or to generate awareness, especially if your business has recently launched an app.

You aren’t purely looking at install volume; rather, you want an install that will lead to a selected in-app event.

You desire in-app events at a specific tCPA (target cost per acquisition).

You desire in-app events with a specific ROI goal.

Bid Strategy

tCPI (target cost per install)

tCPI

tCPA

tROAS

Best Practice

  • Budget 50 times tCPI
  • 300 installs over 30 days (10/day)
  • Budget 50 times tCPI
  • 300 installs over 30 days (10/day)
  • Budget at least 10 times CPA
  • 10 in-app events/day
  • 300 in-app events in 30 days (30/day)
  • 10 times typical tCPA from comparable actions campaign

App Campaigns Install is the most basic strategy, and it is best practice to start with this type when launching your first app campaign. As a program matures, it can move from installs as the primary goal into action goals, and eventually graduate to a value-based goal. It is necessary to follow this progression because to be able to run a value-based goal a user must have previously run on an action-based strategy. Much like other ad types, app campaigns perform better with time as they rely on machine learning to gather and process data.  A two-week learning period is required before greater efficiencies are seen. By beginning with the basic installs strategy and gradually moving towards a value-based strategy, enough historical data is accrued to allow the system to better optimize.

Measurement

There are several tracking options available for app campaigns. Some of these options do require a Software Development Kit (SDK) which is a set of software tools/programs that allow for the development of software applications. Be aware of your team’s limitations and available technical resources when choosing a measurement setup. The specifics of these tracking options are outlined below:

Google Play

Firebase

Third Party SDK

No SDK required

SDK required

SDK required

Free

Free

Paid

Tracks: Installs (Google Android Only)

Tracks: Installs, Action, Value, and Re-engagement

Tracks: Installs, Action, Value, and Re-engagement

Best practice is to use Firebase and/or a third-party SDK as it is recommended to track three to five actions within the app. This provides more in-depth reporting on where you are having drop-offs in the app customer journey.

Creative Assets

App campaigns are only as successful as the assets they contain. It’s important to note that only specific assets can run on certain platforms for app campaigns. To provide the ability to serve ads on the most placements possible, it is best practice to provide a variety of assets. Text assets, specifically headlines and descriptions, can run on Google Play, Google Search Network, YouTube, Gmail, and AdMob. It is recommended to add up to five of each. Image assets are compatible with YouTube, mobile web, and AdMob. Best practice is to add multiple pictures in various sizes, up to twenty in total. Video assets can be shown on YouTube, Play Store, mobile web, and AdMob. One caveat is that videos must be hosted on YouTube. It is recommended to add up to twenty videos of varying lengths. The last asset type, HTML5, can also have up to twenty assets provided and is shown in AdMob.

It’s important to not only gear your creative to comply with policy but also to drive strong engagement. Google also has several creative policies such as guidelines on punctuation and capitalization that are commonly disapproved. Assets will be disapproved if they have exclamation marks in ad headlines or excessive use of capitalization. A full list of policies can be found on the Google support page here. It is generally recommended to focus your creative assets on app offers, such as “20% Off Purchase with App Download”. This sort of text is aligned to drive awareness, installs, and purchases.

Final Thoughts

App usage and growth provide an undeniable opportunity to drive incremental value to your business. This value is not limited to actions such as installs and purchases but also factors like increased brand awareness, brand loyalty, customer engagement, and customer satisfaction. Take advantage of some of the best practices/tips provided to help drive successful performance for your app campaign.

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