Incipia blog

Apple Search Ads Best Practices to Scale Impressions

Gabe Kwakyi | October 25, 2023

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've either heard or experienced firsthand how well Apple's search ads campaigns have been performing.


Don't forget to check out our other posts on Apple search ads for the latest best practices, tips and tricks, or bookmark our Apple search ads news updates page.

You've also probably heard of or experienced that one of the biggest gripes so far is the lack of available ad impressions.

It's a good thing you're tuned into the Incipia blog! Read on to learn some tips and tricks to keep in mind as you work to scale your campaign and drive more of these high-value installs:

10 Tips for Scaling Search Ads Campaigns

#1 Ensure that your total and daily spend limits are not exceeded

Apple has yet to devise a good way to ensure your campaign doesn't run out of budget, but keeping your campaign budget topped off is one of the easiest ways to ensure your campaigns continue scaling. Additionally, if Apple search ads are anything like Facebook Ads (how budgets affect ad serving is yet to be known), the campaigns with the largest total and daily budgets will see their impressions filled first.

#2 Raise your max CPT bid

Your max CPT bid is one of the main levers for determining whether your ad will win an impression. If you are willing to use a CPT bid of $5, but your competitor is willing to a CPT bid of $10, then your competitor will take that impression and you will not (assuming TTR, relevance, etc. are all equal). So, raising your max CPT bid is another easy troubleshooting tactic.

Try raising your max CPT bid to 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x vs your baseline; but make sure to do it gradually over a period of days in-between bid changes to ensure that your bids have a chance to propagate through the ad serving engine, and performance data has had a chance to return to your UI. Plus, you don't want to run the risk of suddenly starting to serve ads at a higher max CPT bid level and accidentally blow through budget.

Even if you're already at $15 CPT, it is entirely possible that your competitors are bidding $16, $20, $25, etc. Keep in mind that what you pay will usually be less than your max CPT bid; your max CPT bid is simply:

  1. The maximum you are ever willing to pay per tap.
  2. A main determinant of whether or not you will serve ads for search impressions, when compared to your competitors' bids.

#3 Expand your match types

Exact match is the most restrictive type, followed by broad, followed by search match, which is the least restrictive. So if you're bidding on an exact match type, it will naturally garner many fewer impressions vs broad, vs a search match target. We recommend, however separating your search match targets into a separate ad group/campaign vs your keyword targets.

#4 Ensure your TTR is as high as possible

Another main factor in addition to your max CPT bid in determining whether your ad will show for a search impression is how high your keyword's TTR is compared to the competition. Some methods of boosting your TTR include:

  1. Optimizing your app listing (screenshots, icon, reviews, first several lines of your description).
  2. Optimizing for high performing target dimensions (e.g. age, location, time of day).
  3. Using exact match type.
  4. Adding search terms that have high impressions and low TTR as negative keywords (for search match or broad match keywords).

#5 Ensure your keywords have sufficient search popularity

It's possible you may be using a keyword that has a low number of searches per month, which is a reason you're not able to scale for traffic. Many times, the higher the ROI of a keyword, the lower the number impressions available (the concept of head terms vs long-tail terms), so you may need to go back to the drawing board and find keywords that you draw value from, yet which have a decent search popularity score.

#6 Ensure your keywords are found in your app's metadata

Apple's relevance score, which determines whether your ad is eligible to participate in a search auction, analyzes your app's metadata (i.e. title, keywords, etc.) to determine whether your app is relevant enough to show an ad for the keyword you're bidding on. It's in Apple's best interests to show relevant apps for keyword searches, hence it has a system to ensure users aren't getting poor results when they do a search in the app store.

#7 Add search terms as keywords

Just because you're matching to a search term using search match or a broad match type keyword, does not mean that this is sufficient for earning traffic on that search. By adding a search term as a keyword, you're informing Apple and its ad serving engine that you want traffic specifically from or related to that keyword, which can improve your chances of showing an impression the next time you're up to bat for that search.

#8 Ensure your keywords are not blocked by negative keywords

Adding negative keywords is important for keeping ROI high, as well as improving your TTR and thus your chance of serving ads. That said, without proper management, they can block good traffic. Negative keywords (like regular keywords) will default to broad match type if not specified as exact, so if your keyword is car games and you add car as a broad match negative, you're going to block your keyword from showing ads.

#9 Raise or remove CPA goal

By using a CPA target (that is not extremely high), you will reduce your ability to show ads. This is because a CPA optimizer will be more picky with the impressions that it shows your ad for, in pursuit of achieving your target CPA. If out of five impressions, the algorithm thinks that just one will earn your target CPA, then you'll only serve an ad for that one impression, vs possibly all of them if you're just using only a max CPT bid (if your max CPT bid makes you eligible to win those auctions, that is).

#10 Don't slash budget/max CPT bids/set low CPA goals after one day of poor performance for good keywords

It's tough when advertising and seeing data in near real-time not to have a knee-jerk reaction to a poor patch of performance. Yet, the nature of advertising is that there will be sporadic periods of good and bad performance, which have little to do with your product or your management of the advertising campaign; sometimes, people just don't feel like installing or purchasing. For your keywords that have proven to perform well and have hit a rough day, watch them, but don't immediately pull back. You can investigate to determine whether the competition or your product has changed in some more permanent way, but give your keywords some slack, look at week-long trends and compare the same units of context, like Monday to Monday, not Monday to Saturday.

If the trend of under-performance continues for several days straight, then it may be time to take action.

Determining when there's room to scale

Here are two ways that you can determine whether there is likely more room to scale your campaigns:

Competitive Intel

The first is simple: do a search of your keyword to determine whether any other advertisers are serving ads or not. If they are but you aren't getting impressions, then you can assume that your bid, relevance or TTR are not sufficient to serve an ad.

Impression Share

As of yet, search ad campaigns are missing a very crucial part of campaign management, which is called impression share. This data point is what tells you how many impressions you could have received over some time period. By comparing the number of impressions that you could have received with the number you actually did, you can determine whether that keyword actually has more value to extract through raising your bid or optimizing relevance or TTR, or not.

apple search ads impression optimization

By measuring trends in the number of daily impressions, you can determine whether your actions (such as increasing bids, adding negative keywords or adding new keywords) are moving the needle in the right direction. Reporting on your ad groups/campaigns also helps you see how your average CPT changes, which is one metric that you always want to keep an eye on when scaling, given that seeking more, quality volume can often come with a higher price tag per click or tap.

That's all for now, folks! Be sure to bookmark our blog, sign up to our email newsletter for new post updates and reach out if you're interested in working with us.

Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies, with a specialty in high-quality code architecture and keyword-based marketing optimizations. For blog/video or speaking requests, business or press inquiries please contact us or send an inquiry to