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Simplify Your App Marketing with Google AdWords Universal App Campaigns

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

As we’ve written about in past blog posts, app marketing is an important consideration for generating app downloads and retaining app users. From optimizing App Store keywords to developing an app launch strategy, there are many ways that your marketing team can help to build your app audience. When it comes to paid digital advertising campaigns, Google AdWords offers several options to help market apps. Or did, at least.

If you’re at all familiar with the world of Google advertising, from Google Search advertising to the Display Network, you know that there are a ton of different AdWords options and settings. Google AdWords app promotional campaigns offer developers multiple opportunities to drive installs of their mobile apps. For amateur marketers, the many different options and settings can frankly be overwhelming. That is why we are excited to see Google’s shift in strategy as they are transitioning all app advertising over to Universal App Campaigns.

Universal App Campaigns (UACs) were rolled out in 2015 to market Android apps and then were expanded to iOS developers in May 2016. At the time, they were only one of a few different ways that developers could market their apps in the Google universe. Regardless, they have proven the most successful option, with Google reporting that UACs drive 140 percent more conversions per dollar than regular app-install campaigns. And so, Google is now rolling full steam ahead with UACs and support for other AdWords app promotional campaigns on Search, Display or YouTube will be discontinued this November 15, 2017.

With this move, Google is offering developers a simplified yet more effective way to market their apps. UACs are unique as they provide an advertising solution that is cross-platform, offers creative flexibility and drives more value for advertisers.

Previous AdWords app promotional campaigns were geared to work on different Google platforms creating a more fragmented approach. As the name implies, Universal App Campaigns are designed to operate across all of the different Google platforms. By creating a single campaign, marketers can advertise their apps across the entire Google Search Network, Google Display Network, YouTube/Video Network and in Google Play (for Android apps).

One of the best benefits of UACs is how quick and easy they are to set-up in Adwords. Universal App Campaigns use Google’s machine learning to optimize bids, build the actual ads and match them with the right people. You just need to get them started with a few settings and creative elements and the platform produces an extremely diverse advertising campaign. First you’ll need to decide whether your goal is to get as many people as possible to download your app (optimizing for “install volume”) or encouraging people to open your app and take a specific action (optimizing for “in-app actions”).

Universal Apps
example of Google search preview

Unlike for other types of AdWords campaigns, you don’t have to actually create individual ads for UACs. The system utilizes different elements that you submit in order to automatically create ads that appear in a variety of different formats and networks. Submit four different standalone ad text snippets that AdWords can mix and match together. Each line of text can only be up to 25 characters in length, so keep them short and sweet, focused on a unique feature or selling point about your app.

Next you can submit simple images to be used in different ad formats. It’s important to note that these graphics should be engaging and relevant images taken directly from the app. Minimize text in the images since they may appear quite small when in the mobile ad formats. Including app store badges and your logo can give the ad credibility. You can submit up to 20 different images so aim for a variety of different sizes and orientations. AdWords provides guidance on the different sizes to include such as a 1200 x 628 pixel landscape image, 320 x 100 pixel banner, etc. If you don’t have enough image assets to utilize, AdWords may take some of the app images from your app store listing to build out additional ads.

Additionally, to maximize reach by placing ads in all of the available stock, up to five videos can be added. Videos are a great way to engage potential app users, and show your app in action. Choose videos that are 15-30 seconds long and be sure to grab the viewer’s attention within the first five seconds with a call-to-action. After that, people may choose to skip or dismiss your ad. In order for your videos to be eligible for all video ad spots, provide landscape, portrait and square aspect ratios. Note, that if you leave the YouTube video field blank, AdWords may make a video ad out of the assets from your app store listing.

After your creative assets are uploaded, shift gears over to determining the campaign settings, including the bid amount or target CPI (cost-per-install) that you’re willing to pay. Based on this bid amount, you’ll also need to determine a daily campaign budget. The budget you set should be connected with your campaign objectives. If you’re optimizing for increasing the number of installs, set your daily campaign budget to at least 50 times your target CPI. When optimizing for in-app actions, choose an action that happens at least 10 times per day and set a daily budget that is at least 10 times your target cost-per-acquisition.

Since Google’s Universal App Campaigns are designed to adjust automatically to optimize results, it’s important to ensure that your campaign garners enough conversion data to allow the system to work. Campaigns need about 100 conversions to start recognizing and applying patterns, so once you’ve set your targets and budgets, give the campaign time to collect at least 100 conversions before starting to make changes. A “learning phase” of up to two weeks allows the platform to collect data to avoid unprofitable clicks on your ads.

Lastly, determine the languages and locations where your campaigns should run. Pay attention to the location targeting as the default setting targets users that are in a location as well as users that are interested in a location (as evidenced by searches and web traffic). You can change this setting to only target users that are in the actual location if that is preferable. Similar to other AdWords campaigns, you can also exclude placement on certain apps, webpages or videos that may not fit your brand.

I think one of the most unique features about Universal App Campaigns is what you don’t have to do to get them up and running. Google has greatly simplified the campaign creation process. Most notably, they removed the need to research and determine keywords or search terms where your ads will appear. Google matches your ads to search terms that are relevant to your app or its category. The platform generates keywords using a variety of methods including using Google Play search terms that led people to your app. Likewise, constant monitoring and adjustment to your creative assets is not required. The system will test different combinations and show ads that are performing the best more often with no additional work on your part to accomplish more app downloads.

That being said, the system is not entirely a “set it and forget it” solution, and you can take some steps to help optimize it further. The system provides a Creative Asset Report that offers insight into which assets are providing the best results. Asset performance is reported as either being “Low”, “Good” or “Best”, or “Learning” if the verdict is still out. Replacing assets that are performing “Low” with ones similar to the assets that are performing more highly will help to improve your conversions even further.

Overall, we think that Universal App Campaigns offer an effective way for developers to market their apps without a large initial investment in time and effort to create ads. UACs also eliminate the constant tinkering needed to optimize campaigns that previous AdWords app promotional campaigns required. After all, developing and maintaining an app has many facets that demand our time and attention, so Google simplifying their digital app marketing options is certainly a win for developers.

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Sunny S

Sunny has been working in mobile and location-based technology since 2008, specializing in marketing, business development, and project management. She lives in Denver with her husband and kitten, where she enjoys outdoor adventures and craft brews.


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