Incipia blog

3 Tips for Optimizing Google Universal Campaigns

Gabe Kwakyi | November 21, 2023

Image Credit: Marketing Land

While Google's Universal Campaigns are great for several reasons (namely scale and cheap installs for little effort), their biggest benefit is also their biggest drawback. Google Universal Campaigns, while very easy to set up and run are often be accused of being a "black box," meaning that they provide little-to-no insight into reporting or ad control in order to optimize for better performance. Google very much intends for them to be a "set it and forget it" app marketing campaign, reliant on and feeding ever more data into their ad-serving algorithm's machine learning brain.

Nevertheless, there are several methods still on the table for optimizing Google Universal Campaigns ads. Here are three of the main tactics:

  1. The creative levers available to Google Universal Campaign advertisers include: 1) a set of five (25 character) ad text spots, 2) a set of up to ten display images and 3) an optional set of up to five Youtube videos. While it's not possible to report on or optimize any of these creative inputs individually as is enjoyed by Adwords ads, you can run A/B tests on your creatives with a manual pre-post analysis. To do so, make one change (e.g. try a new ad text on 7/21) and then report on your KPI over one period pre-change (i.e. 7/14-7/20) and the same time period post-change (i.e. 7/22-7/28). Then compare the change in performance and judge whether the tweak had a positive effect or not.
    1. Remember not to change more than one element of your Google Universal campaign at once (e.g. both ad text and bid), because then you won't be able to tell which element caused the outcome in performance afterward.
    2. Ensure you are using the same time period before-and-after the change, otherwise your analysis could give more "on/off" days such as weekends to either the pre or post data set.
    3. Keep other languages in mind, too. If your app is available in other languages, setting up ad text in those languages is another easy win. For example, there are 50 million Spanish speakers in the US, and 22% of Canada speaks French.
  2. Adjusting your campaign bid is also a major lever  at your disposal. Try making incremental changes in your bid and measuring the performance pre-and-post bid change. Keep in mind that you may have to change your budget to maintain volume as well.
    1. Recently, Google also released the option for advertisers to optimize their bid for users who are "likely to complete the in-app actions you select." This event bidding sounds similar to Facebook's event bidding option; but be careful: this does not mean that Google will only charge you the amount you set as your max in-app CPA. Google universal bidding only tells Google to optimize towards your specified CPA, meaning that it's possible that your actual CPA could be higher than your target CPA bid.
  3. Despite Google's recommendations that Google Universal Campaign advertisers run campaigns at the country-level and with budgets set to 50x the CPA, in several instances, we have actually seen better performance by limiting budget and splitting up targeting to state level. That said, targeting at the zip code or even city-level seems to perform worse than state or country-level.
    1. Keep in mind that if your target market does not include users in other cities/states/countries, be sure to set your advanced location option to target "people in my target location." The other location options (on by default) will allow your ads to show to people in other locations who are interested in your target location, but not physically located there.

Finally – don't forget that your app's title and icon are both part of your Google Universal Campaign ads as well. Use analytics tools like Google's conversion rate benchmark feature to ensure you're converting visitors into installs better than the average for best results.

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, stable app development and keyword-based marketing strategy, such as app store optimization and Apple search ads. For blog/video or speaking requests, business or press inquiries please contact us or send an inquiry to