Apple Search Ad Best Practices: Should you bid on your brand name as a keyword?

The jury is still out when it comes to bidding on your own brand name as a keyword in Apple’s App Store. For some, it’s essential for successful campaigns. For others, it’s a waste that simply makes you pay for traffic you would have gotten anyways.

We’ll look at why you should consider bidding on your own brand name and similar branded keywords, as well as tips and common pitfalls to be aware of.

Why You Should Consider Branded Keywords

Should your app name or brand name be part of your keyword bidding strategy? Consider the following official Apple statistics:

  • 70% of App Store visitors use search to find apps
  • 65% of App Store downloads occur directly after a search on the App Store
  • The average conversion rate for Apple Search Ads is 50%

Add the fact that Apple search ads are expected to generate $2 billion in revenue by 2020, and you start to understand how important search ads are to app store success. This massive amount of money is being spent by other companies who are desperate to stand out from the millions of apps out there. Which brings us to our first point in considering whether to bid on your own branded keywords:

Your Competitors Are Already Doing It

Yes, part of that $2 billion is being spent by your competitors to try and piggyback off your hard-earned marketing efforts and steal your potential users. Consider the following real-life scenario: you’ve run Facebook campaigns and retargeted users who have reached a critical point in your marketing funnel.

A user then searches for your app in the App Store (and remember, the most-searched terms are almost exclusively brand names) but a competitor of yours has bid for your brand name, resulting in their receiving the coveted top spot in the search results – and quite possibly allowing them to ride into the sunset with “your” user, the one you put so much effort into.

The best-case scenario is that a text-based ad is shown, only taking up about a quarter of the screen at the top of the page. Then, you hope that your app shows as the organic #1 result, and you can leverage its creative assets to draw the potential user in (more about this later).

Finally, it isn’t a great reflection on your company and its marketing strategy if the “top” result, even when searching for a specific brand name, is of a rival app.

Point Your Loyal Users In The Right Direction

Similar to the above scenario but with a twist, a branded keyword can help users that were already looking for your app, but that may have been led astray by a competitor or by a misspelling of the brand name. With competition so fierce in the app store, competitors probably have very similar keywords, descriptions, and even app names to you.

The “Breethe” app for example, gently reminds users searching for their brand name but perhaps misspelling it, that they are the one the user is looking for.

Even Apple Recommends It

In its official Advanced Ads Overview page, Apple relates to both generic and brand keywords. When discussing keywords, Apple advises the following:

  • Discovery keywords can help you reach a wider audience and mine for popular search terms
  • Generic keywords can also help you reach a wider audience of users interested in your app or its genre
  • Competitor keywords help your ad show for queries that are more narrowly focused on your type of app
    Brand keywords help your ad appear for searches directly related to your app and brand
    Clearly, according to Apple themselves, brand keywords should form an important part of your overall bidding strategy.

You Have Little To Lose

With a user searching for your brand, and assuming your ASO is good enough that you would have come up as the top result, you could be in the position where you would be paying for a tap that you would have received organically.

The good news is this: Since ads are presented in a shorter format than organic results, the user will generally be drawn to click on your organic app listing because it has more information, screenshots, and so on – saving you money.

Pro Tip: ASO Becomes Even More Important

With competitors bidding on your brand name, it might not be feasible to continue bidding on it yourself. This kind of decision will be impacted by metrics such as competitor bids and LTVs.

If your competitor is bidding for your brand name or other similar keywords, one of your best weapons is your organic app listing, particularly your creative assets. Consider the scenario where your competitor has the top (paid) spot, but immediately underneath is your app, complete with an incredible logo, beautiful screenshots, and an awesome video.

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