Today, many mobile marketers consider adding Apple Search Ads to their mobile marketing growth portfolios.
Apple Search Ads, one of AppsFlyer's integrated partners, is an easy and efficient way to assist users to find your app in the App Store. The relevance of your app to the search query determines whether your ad is the one displayed. User response to an ad is an important signal of the ad's relevance. If nobody clicks on the ad, Apple Search Ads stops showing it.
This guide describes how to start tracking Apple Search ads with AppsFlyer, directly or through 3rd parties, as well as related tips and explanations for the inherent differences between the platforms.
Setting Up Apple Search Ads
To track Apple Search Ads your iOS app MUST include the native frameworks iAd.framework and AdSupport.framework.
To learn how to include these frameworks, see our iOS SDK Integration Guide.
Go to the dashboard of your app and click on Integrated Partners on the left bar.
Enter "Apple Search Ads" in the search field and click on its logo to open the Apple Search Ads configuration window.
The Apple Search Ads configuration window includes 4 tabs: Integration, Tracking link, Data enrichment and Permissions. Click on the items below to read about the tabs setup.
For a detailed description of the Partner Configuration Window Header, click here.
The Integration Tab is divided into different sections as described below.
Set the Enable Attribution toggle to ON to enable setup of the integration tab's parameters, and to allow for installs coming from Apple Search Ads to be attributed to it on AppsFlyer's dashboard and data. If you're starting to receive traffic from Apple Search Ads you MUST activate this to see the correct attribution.
Currently, Apple does not accept in-app events or any postbacks from measurement partners and as such, it is not possible to configure them.
Toggle Apple Search Ads Retargeting to ON if you want to attribute re-installs (re-attribution conversion)
1. With every new install AppsFlyer gets the re-download flag from Apple. If the following 3 conditions are ALL met, the new install is attributed to Apple as a re-attribution (which can be seen in the retargeting dashboard):
- Apple Search Ads Retargeting is ON
- re-download flag is true
- The user is still within the re-attribution window (which is set with the original app install)
2. Currently Apple Search Ads retargeting does not support re-engagements.
This slider allows you to set the maximum time from click to install. Only installs (first launches) that take place within the lookback window may be attributed to Apple Search Ads.
Set the click-through attribution lookback window to any required value between 1 to 30 days.
AppsFlyer recommends configuring the click attribution lookback window to 30 days, to match with Apple Search Ads self-reporting window. This helps reducing discrepancies with the Apple Search Ads dashboard.
More details about the click lookback window here.
Tracking Link Tab
For all SRNs, such as Facebook, Apple Search Ads, Adwords, Snapchat etc. this tab is not functional, as they do not use external tracking links.
Data Enrichment Tab
The data enrichment tab allows you to enhance your integration.
- Add the PEM file and Key file that you received from Apple Search Ads. To retrieve the PEM file and Key file login to Apple Search Ads and go the account settings in the top right-hand corner.
- Click the API tab and click the Create API Certificate button.
- Name your API certificate and check either the Account Read only or Account admin checkbox and click create.
- Click Actions and Download certificate.
- The certificates are downloaded in a .zip file containing two separate files from which you extract and upload into your AppsFlyer dashboard as shown above.
If the certificate has the permissions to view data of more than one app, you can use it to get cost data for these apps.
Note that you have to repeat the process described here separately for each app that is configured in the certificate.
- Click the icon to select the PEM file that you downloaded from Apple.
- Click the icon to select the KEY file that you downloaded from Apple.
- Click Upload to upload the selected certificate PEM and KEY files.
- Click Save.
Once you have performed the first Apple Search Ads admin login as described above, AppsFlyer receives Apple Search Ads cost data up to 30 days retroactively for existing campaigns. Previous cost data is not available.
Disabling Apple Search Ads Tracking
To disable an advertiser's tracking of Apple Search Ads:
- Go to the Apple Search Ads configuration page
- Toggle the Enable Attribution button to OFF
- Press Save
Apple Search Ads Attribution API Mapping
|AF Raw Report Parameter||ASA Attribution Parameter|
Apple Search Ads:
Marketing Partner Vs. Agency
Advertisers and agencies can work with Apple Search Ads Marketing Partners to report and optimize campaigns on Apple Search Ads. When configured, AppsFlyer sends postbacks to the configured Apple Search Ads Marketing Partner.
To differentiate between marketing partners and agencies, the following points should be considered:
- Marketing Partners receive postbacks, agencies do not.
- Marketing Partners are generally tech companies often with their own SAAS solution. Agencies are likely to run the traffic on your behalf using Apple's native tools.
Marketing Partner Configuration
Set out below are the instructions for the configuration of marketing partners.
Enabling Sending Postbacks to Apple Search Ads Marketing Partners
- Advertiser enables attribution for Apple Search Ads.
- From the agency account configure the Apple Search Ads Marketing Partner configuration.
- Click Integrated Partners on the left sidebar
- Enter the name of the Apple Search Ads Marketing Partner you want to work with in the search box
- Click the logo of the selected partner.
- Enter the name of the partner's Apple Search Ads Campaign Group.
- Copy the Campaign Group name highlighted below in green on the Apple Search Ads UI and paste it on the AppsFlyer Apple Search Ads Campaign Group parameter as shown in the screenshot above.
If there are no campaign groups in the Apple Search Ads account, use the Account Name (appearing in the upper right-hand corner).
Configuring In-App Events
- Toggle In-App Event Postbacks to ON
- Select the Sending Option for all SDK defined events.
- Only events attributed to this partner for events coming only from users attributed to this partner
- Events attributed to any partner or organic to have your entire user base available to be reported to the partner
- Click Add Event to add an SDK Event to the list
- Complete the following parameters:
|SDK Event Name||The name of the event, as received by AppsFlyer either from the SDK integrated in your app, or from server to server events.
Tip - If you don't see the event you want in the list, make sure to activate the event on a device with a non-organic installation and recheck.
|Partner Event Identifier||The unique name or ID of each event as defined on Apple's side.
Obtain the corresponding Event ID from Apple and set in the text field.
|Send Revenue||When unchecked - AppsFlyer sends all the parameters of the rich in-app event to the partner, except for the revenue parameter, which is contained in the af_revenue parameter.
When checked - AppsFlyer sends all the parameters including the revenue value (if it exists in the event).
If the advertiser or the agency has disabled attribution for Apple Search Ads, attribution for this app, including sending the postbacks to Apple Search Ads Marketing Partner campaigns, will not work.
Advertisers can allow agencies to run campaigns on their behalf using Apple Search Ads.
Both advertisers and agencies must actively configure the system, as described below.
Prerequisite Advertiser Actions
To grant access to the agency, follow the instructions here.
Advertiser Enables Attribution for Apple Search Ads
- The advertiser enables attribution for Apple Search Ads.
- Click Integrated Partners from the left sidebar
- Enter Apple Search Ads in the search field
- Click on the logo of Apple Search Ads to open the configuration page
Configuring Apple Search Ads
Follow the steps below to configure Apple Search Ads.
The Apple Search Ads Configuration Window Opens.
The agency logs into the AppsFlyer dashboard and selects the specific app they want to promote on Apple Search Ads.
When an agency works with an Apple Search Ads Marketing Partner, the agency must configure the same campaign group name in both the Apple Search Ads configuration page and the Marketing Partner configuration page.
Cost, Clicks and Impressions Data
Agencies must enable cost on their dashboard and upload the certificates on their side to sync costs with AppsFlyer.
The below screenshot shows Apple Search Ads with the Campaign Group name highlighted in green.
Please ensure that both boxes highlighted in green show the same campaign group name. Otherwise the install data goes directly to the advertiser. For this DO NOT change your campaign group name manually as seen above.
AppsFlyer also recommends your Campaign group to NOT include special characters or white spaces.
- Agency campaigns must be run from a separate Apple Search Ads account to that of the advertiser.
- If the advertiser has disabled attribution for Apple Search Ads but the attribution is enabled by the agency, attribution for this app, including from the agency campaigns, will not work.
- Special characters and spaces should not be used for the group name.
Disabling Apple Search Ads Tracking
To disable an agency or a marketing partner's tracking of Apple Search Ads, while keeping it enabled for the advertiser:
- From the agency account go to the Apple Search Ads or the marketing partner's configuration page
- Clear the text in the Apple Search Ads Campaign Group box
- Press Save
Since AppsFlyer and Apple use different attribution logic, discrepancies between the two platforms are expected.
For each new install, AppsFlyer's SDK receives the Apple Search Ad's attribution data directly from the Apple's servers.
Campaigns are aggregated by Geo. Apple reporting API does not return impressions, taps, or cost for geos with less than 100 impressions for a specific campaign. When grouping by Geo in AppsFlyer, Geos with unavailable data are not shown, and the total of unavailable data appears under N/A.
AppsFlyer's Retargeting Toggle
AppsFlyer’s retargeting attribution mechanism allows advertisers to measure and analyze their retargeting campaigns, in addition to their user acquisition campaigns.
The diagrams below illustrate how discrepancies may occur when Retargeting is either enabled or disabled for campaigns configured with Apple Search Ads.
Additional Reasons for Discrepancies
Set out below are a number of the main causes for discrepancies between the AppsFlyer and Apple Search Ads data.
Time delays in data arriving from Apple
If you are reliant on conversion data please contact AppsFlyer support or your CSM.
Differences based on the AppsFlyer's SDK Version used
If your app is using AppsFlyer SDK Version 4.7.11 or above, but haven't updated it in over 4 months, it is highly recommended to do so.
Limited Ad Tracking (LAT)
If a user has activated Limited Ad Tracking (LAT) and the campaign on Apple Search Ads has no targeting parameters defined.
Always try to use targeted campaigns on Apple Search Ads.
AppsFlyer and Apple use different methods for counting users
In general, 90% of downloads become active users, depending upon the type of app.
App Re-Installs: User has the app, then deleted it and then installs it again having clicked on the Apple Search Ad. AppsFlyer and Apple differ in the way these installs are considered.
Enable Retargeting toggle on the Integrated Partners - Apple Search Ads Configuration screen - so re-installing users appear in the Retargeting Dashboard.
Differences between the AppsFlyer and Apple Click Lookback Window
Set the Click Lookback window in the AppsFlyer dashboard to 30 days.
Differences in the visibility of Last Click Installs between AppsFlyer and Apple
The time of the Install Record Date differs between AppsFlyer and Apple
AppsFlyer and Apple use different time zones
Make sure you align the app's time zone on AppsFlyer's dashboard with Apple's. For details, click here.
AppsFlyer allows to prioritize the conversion data over Apple search ads or vice versa. If your app has the "Prioritize GCD" option enabled (check out with your CSM or our support team), you probably have a high level of discrepancy. Alternately, the discrepancy drops, but the conversion data takes longer to arrive, regardless of the involved media source.
Differences in Geo location of users
Users that install while being in the actual country of the app store have the same geo data on AppsFlyer and Apple
Issue with iOS Versions 11.3 to 11.4.0
There may be some discrepancies between the number of installs reported by AppsFlyer and Search Ads Campaign Management due to an issue with the Search Ads Attribution API on devices running iOS versions 11.3 to 11.4.0.
As of 9 July 2018 this issue has been resolved, with the release of iOS 11.4.1. Search Ads driven conversions attributes as expected as of this iOS version, but data continues to be unreported for devices running iOS 11.3. Therefore, this issue is not a common reason for discrepancy anymore.
Working with Apple Search Ads enables you to collect valuable marketing data, which can affect your user acquisition efforts with all media sources for your iOS apps.
Here are a few tips we collected for you to make the most out of Apple Search Ads.
Prefer Using Exact Match over Broad Match
When defining an Apple Search Ads campaign, you must select whether the campaign requires an Exact Match, meaning the user enters your keywords exactly to reach your ad, or Broad Match, meaning the user can enter similar words to your keywords and still reach your ad.
The exact keyword a user entered is only returned when you use Exact Match. Broad Match campaigns cannot provide you with this information
We therefore recommend to have at least some of your ASA traffic coming through Exact Match campaigns to collect the precious keywords data.
Compare Quality of Users Based on Keywords Data
Remove Successful Keywords
Your iOS app has a number of successful organic keywords, meaning keywords that users search for and get your app displayed organically. Such keywords would be the name of your app/service or other terms from your app's page.
Having these keywords in the list of ASA ads is a mistake, as it causes you to pay the ASA attribution fees for your organic user. To avoid this, place your successful organic keywords in the negative match, to prevent the ads from being displayed.
Find Best Performing Creative Set
It's a good idea to test how leads respond to different creative sets for your app. The best performing creative sets have the highest conversion rates, and may also convert better engaging users than other sets.
This affects all your iOS leads, not only ASA leads, as they all reach your app's page in the app store. However, with ASA installs, AppsFlyer indicates the creative set ID in the raw data's Ad ID parameter, enabling you to compare the performance of the creative sets.
Your past users are possibly the best audience for you to target on ASA.
A user, who uninstalled your app, and following your ASA retargeting campaign installs again, is called a Re-Downloader by Apple. If the re-install is performed during the re-attribution window, it is considered as a Re-Attribution by AppsFlyer. Otherwise, it is treated as a new install.
According to Apple's data the chance of a re-downloader performing an in-app purchase is more than double the chance of a new user. Conversion rates of re-downloaders are also considerably higher than new users.