Apple recently announced it will introduce search ads on the App Store in iOS, which will have a major impact on advertisers, and on the app world in general.

I contacted Brett Patterson, Retention & Search Marketing Manager for Doubledown Casino in Seattle, WA, who is an expert app marketplace advertiser, to discuss the news.

How will Apple’s iOS App Store Ads work? How will they fit into the bigger picture of app marketing?

These will function much like Google’s promotional ads in Google Play: advertisers can pay for their apps to rank at the top of search results.

Users search for ads, and advertisers pay to show up at the top of specific keyword searches.

Google Play search ad

This is going to be a game-changer for apps that bring in revenue with iOS devices. This new inventory of ads will be extremely low funnel for advertisers and highly relevant to consumers.

How will Apple’s platform differ from advertising in Google Play?

I imagine the look and feel of iOS App Store Ads will be similar to Google Play, but the big advantage for advertisers will be direct access to App Store inventory, no strings attached.

With Google, advertisers must bid on Google Search inventory to be able to bid on Google Play inventory.

Google does not provide a way to separate out inventory or provide analytics to show how much of your paid search traffic came from either source.

The no-strings-attached nature of iOS App Store Ads gives advertisers new levels of freedom in their app promotion strategy.

This could mean big things for the startup world. Who do you see will benefit the most iOS App Store Ads?

Apps that seek new customers via iOS traffic will benefit most. Big brands - and brands with media budgets in general - will get the quick wins because they have the budget to cover more search keywords.

Brands like these should be able to quickly figure out what keywords are going to bring returns, and then can push out smaller competition with market saturation.

If you are a search marketer, the skills you’ve used in other paid search environments should translate well.

Apple’s move into app store ads is representative of the growing number of search-based paid media marketplaces (like Pinterest Ads for example).

Brands will look more to search marketing experts, as your bidding and keyword expertise is much more relevant than the skills of your display counterpart. 

But not everyone’s going to be happy, I imagine…

No, you’re right. All search vendors (Google, Bing and Yahoo) will feel the pinch as portions of budgets are redirected to the iOS App Store, which will be more direct-to-consumer.

Bing and Yahoo risk losing traction more than others. They don’t have a direct source to an app marketplace, so they lack critical mobile acquisition features like “click-to-install”.

Apple will probably take a significant share of app advertisers’ budgets from these two search engines.

Incentivized Display Vendors - such as Tapjoy & NativeX, for example - might feel a sting as well.

IDVs used to drive iOS App Store rankings because advertisers will no longer feel pressure to send cheap traffic to their iOS store pages in order to game organic search rankings.

Taking advantage of iOS App Store Ads will likely have the same effect, but with more measurement and opportunities for optimization. 

Advertisers with small budgets won’t be able to compete with the budgets of their larger competitors.

If they don’t play the game early and with some clever keyword selection and bidding strategy, their apps will most likely get pushed farther and farther down the rankings.

What response should app advertisers have towards these ads?

If you are a buyer, you should take advantage of Apple’s creation of a new source of premium inventory. You are going to love it.

The introduction of the ads feature should lead to a wave of premium installs and conversions.

You’ll be able to control this inventory with the same precision you get with Adwords, but the value for apps will be much higher than a typical Google search ad.

This is going to be one of the best sources of iOS traffic (if not the best) out there and you need to assign the resources to pivot quickly once Apple launches the function.

Apple has stated that this should be rolling out in Q3/Q4 with some sort of Beta. I imagine it will invite the folks with deeper pockets first, so small brands won’t even get a crack until early 2017.

If you are not planning incorporate iOS App Store Ads into your media strategy, you should be.

Evan Dunn

Published 16 August, 2016 by Evan Dunn

Evan Dunn is the 14th most influential digital marketer on Twitter and Director of Marketing Services for Transform, Inc. in Bellevue, WA. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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