Apple Search Ads: Which Tier Is Right for You?

Becky Doles

Since their initial release, Apple Search Ads have been widely embraced by app developers and marketers. According to Apple, 65% of app installs are sourced via Search Ads and have a CPA below $1.50.

Recently, Apple made an announcement that is giving the app ecosystem even more to like: a second Search Ads tier designed to better suit a wider range of marketers and developers. In this blog post, we’ll break down differences between the two tiers, how they work, and which might be better for your business.

A Tale of Two Tiers

Apple Search Ads are separated into two tiers: Search Ads Basic and Search Ads Advanced. Regardless of which tier you choose, Search Ads allow you to specify the demographics of ideal app audiences and target them in the Apple App Store. Based on budget and targeting, Search Ads help place your app at the top of relevant App Store search results and increase the chance that target users are able to see your app before others in the same category.

Apple Search Ads Basic and Advanced

Source: Apple (

This helps users easily find your app while improving your standing in top charts. Because Apple considers installs sourced from Search Ads to be high-quality, using Search Ads could increase your chances of winning the charts — and being seen first by even more users.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the two tiers of Search Ads.

1. Search Ads Basic

How they work: The only parameters required are the app, budget, and amount you want to pay per install. Apple will offer suggestions as to the maximum amount you should pay based on historical data from the App Store and depending upon the type of app you’re marketing.

How you pay: Per install

Budget limit: $5,000 per month

Best for: Small to midsize marketers and developers

2. Search Ads Advanced

How they work: Search Ads Advanced is the original Apple Search Ads option. With Search Ads Advanced, you can select more specific targeting such as location, gender, keywords, and whether or not you want to target users who have previously installed your app.  

How you pay: Per click (when a user taps on your ad)

Budget limit: None

Best for: Midsize to large brands, robust marketing teams

Search Ads initially launched in the U.S. and have since expanded to international markets, including the U.K., Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. Currently, these countries have access only to the original functionality of Search Ads (now Search Ads Advanced), while both Advanced and Basic are available in the U.S. Search Ads Basic is expected to roll out to international markets later this year.

How to Get the Most Out of Search Ads

TUNE has long measured the association between paid and organic installs. We’ve found that with every paid install, advertisers are likely to see a 1.5X increase in organic downloads. This is due to the way app stores increase the visibility of apps as more people download them. If you’re looking to climb the top charts, running Search Ads is a smart strategy.

However, don’t expect to start a Search Ads campaign and consider your work done. The most successful marketing relies on both paid acquisition tactics and comprehensive organic strategies. When combined in the right way, paid and organic marketing amplify each other, helping maximize ROI.  To learn more about this essential combination and real-world strategies that work, download our free e-book, “Better Together: The Elements of Paid & Organic Marketing.”  

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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