Mobile Mavens

What do mobile games industry pros think of App Store Search Ads?

Mobile Mavens debate the latest app discovery tool

What do mobile games industry pros think of App Store Search Ads?

Apple rolled out its new App Store Search Adsinitiative on October 5th.

This has allowed developers and publishers to purchase ad space on certain keywords within the App Store for the first time ever, with a view to bagging lucrative storefront placement and ensure additional downloads.

Early signs have been good, with reports stating that Search Ad campaigns have a 49.4% conversion rate with a mere $0.40 CPA.

However, the cost is likely to be driven up as the App Store's big hitters get involved - Zynga, MZ and King are all notable examples of companies already buying out ad space around their own games.

But what's the real utility of this service to developers, and who benefits from it? We put it to our Mobile Mavens:

  • What do you think of App Store Search Ads as a discovery tool? Have you tried it?
  • Will Search Ads make things easier or more difficult for developers outside the 'top tier' companies to drive more downloads?
William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

We’ve been testing search ads with our iMessage stickers (paid) because we can set a fixed price for a ‘tap’ (visit to the actual app store page) and our conversion from page views to purchases is quite good.

For our Puppy Love and Blockhead Babies animated sticker packs, it's as high as 11%.

For paid content, I don’t see an alternative. With Facebook ads, I haven’t seen a positive ROI on paid apps.

And even with free-to-play, getting to a positive ROI with these ads is very difficult. We’ll also be using this for our upcoming iMessage-based game.

Facebook relies on the mobile ad revenue for much of their finances. Apple doesn’t really need the revenue, so at first this is a very cost effective ad solution.

Will Luton Founder/CPO Village Studio Games Village Studio

I believe these ads will be much like Google search ads: I think it’s a given that most companies will need to protect their results for direct searches with ads, yet doing so will be cheap.

It makes no sense for Glu to push Kim Kardashian on to Game of War searches.
Will Luton

It makes little sense for Glu to push Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on to Game of War searches - conversion and quality will be poor as players are looking for something specific.

Clash of Kings on a Game of War search is a little different.

In my opinion the real battle will be around more generic keywords for high LTV titles - e.g. “MMO”, “war game” et al.

However, I am uncertain of the volume of these kinds of general searches and therefore what impact they will have in terms of UA plans in general. 

Nick Malaperiman Head of Marketing TopHouse Media

Nick Malaperiman has launched Console, PC or Mobile games since '95. Nick first started at EA, launching multiple FIFA, NBA and NHL franchises, during 7 years. Nick then started Nokia's Games marketing division, launching 300+ games/apps in 7 years. Nick was previously GM of Yummi Games, in China and Founder of Chunky Pig Marketing - now part of Roadhouse Interactive.

For me, the jury is still out on these ads.

One interesting insight is that I've been talking to a group that has run a campaign where they have outbid a competitor on a particular keyword, despite the fact that the keyword in question may be considered the domain of the aforementioned competitor. Smart!

So, in theory, they will garner some unexpected results from the initiative, but the question remains on whether this actually benefits the consumer, by serving up results that don't match what they were looking for; and secondly, as marketers, whether we actually care...

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

This is a perfectly normal step for an app store, and can help improve discovery if done right.

Done right, this can be highly lucrative.
Oscar Clark

One of the last things I did as an operator was to start work on introducing this kind of system - although vastly less sophisticated, of course.

The problem is that it can also overwhelm the other elements of search. It has to be designed very carefully with the player experience first and foremost in mind.

We learnt two clear lessons:

  • Limit the number of promoted games found per search;
  • Clearly communicate that you see those games first because they are "sponsored". Otherwise you run the risk of losing the trust with the player.

Done right, this can be highly lucrative for the App Store. Done badly, it can damage player trust.

But it has the potential to even benefit the player if it is designed to help them find the content they actually want.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.