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Breaking News: Apple to Release Paid Search Ads in iOS

Welcome to the world of paid search, Apple! It’s about time.

On June 8th, Search Engine Land reported that Apple will be unveiling two developments at this week’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC): paid search ads for the iOS App Store as well as updates to the revenue-sharing model. The Verge was first to release this update based on a pre-conference sit down with Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller. 

Apple’s entry into the paid search marketplace follows Google’s release of paid ads on Google Play last summer.  Historically, the only way to rank well in iOS apps has been to use SEO best practices to rank organically when the app is released. Apple’s approach to organic rankings is more traditional, focusing on factors like title name and keywords.  In Google Play, on the other hand, app optimization is primarily about user engagement metrics (downloads and reviews). Apple’s traditional approach will make paid ads in the Apple App Store an awesome, quick-to-market opportunity to increase visibility for apps that are not ranking well organically, or which are newly launched and don’t yet have many downloads or reviews.  

As we presented recently during the iProspect Client Summit, mobile is all about local search, voice search, and apps. For most brands, an app’s purpose is to provide added value or an enhanced experience for their consumer rather than facilitate transactions. In fact, more than 25 percent of all apps are actually games. If we look at traditional paid search, it’s all about helping consumers take an action. This means that understanding the value of an app download and being able to tie that value back to a customer lifetime value will be an important next step for advertisers interested in taking advantage of iOS search ads. Search ads for iOS will have to be viewed in the same way as a social promoted post – one that is leveraged for a short period of time to increase awareness and encourage trial.

So what’s next? We agree with Search Engine Land that this announcement is likely just the beginning of a bigger paid search push by Apple with Spotlight Search and even leading to Spotlight eventually having search ads. This will unlock a whole different set of paid search opportunities. But, while we’re waiting for that announcement, advertisers with mobile apps should consider leveraging this new paid app promotion opportunity with Apple.