Over the last weekend of June, Apple began the testing of their Paid App Search feature. The feature is in line with Google Play’s promoted search. The move, shortly after Apple’s ad-blocking attempt with iOS9, isn’t without its controversy.
Long-time Apple fans feel paid ads will lead to the same unhelpful clutter that plagues the Google Play Store. Indie developers are more concerned that this will add additional marketing budgets to otherwise shoestring developments. And finally, skeptics are worried this will strangle Apple’s still robust publishing platform and hand more market share back to the already-rich.
Is the App Store’s sponsored search going to be a new complication for start-ups and publishers? Or is marketing going to be the new business strategy that guides development?
Where Apple and Google Do It Differently
Google Play is nothing if not divisive, particularly for smaller publishers who find their star apps buried under the fold. Paid search consistently places apps in second position, or the “first loser” spot. And while Play’s search ads don’t push quality apps off the SERPs, they do force developers to think tactically with how they choose to market their products.
The App Store’s promoted ads appear to try and address a few of those concerns. Targeting is touted to be much tighter, with few opportunities for general-purpose apps to show up as promoted apps under a long-tail or niche search term. If you’re searching for a Day Planner app, for example, you won’t see an ad for Cloud Storage.
Performance is also a much bigger factor in Apple’s approach; a lack of ad engagement will lead to lower performance over time. While Google does employ both Quality Score and niche targeting on all their platforms, they don’t exclude redundant search, leading to big publishers dominating ad space over struggling developers.
So What Does this Mean for The Small Guys?
It’s too soon to tell if Apple’s new ad platform will really address publisher concerns, though it’s very likely that it’ll impact users immediately on rollout.
You don’t need a large marketing budget to make an impact on any marketing platform, and Apple seems to be no different. Rather, developers should be more conscious of how they choose to market, and what battles for top space are worth taking on and which aren’t worth the cost.
Here’s what publishers and start-ups can expect:
- Greater focus on niche products and marketing to their audiences. Few start-ups are really trying to appeal to the widest audience possible.
- You want engagement, but you want engagement that will be worth your while. Appeal to your target demographics, regions, and niche functions.
- A modest increase to marketing costs is inevitable, but controllable as long as you control where and how your app appears in search.
- More competition for content appeal. If you haven’t sat down and polished your app metadata, you might want to start. Paid search bumps off the top slot, and that means every organic placement you can get is that much more valuable.
The news is by no means good news for the little guys (and Toronto has a lot of those!) But paid search can be managed and capitalized on without a big jump in your budget, if you’re willing to explore how to reach your best audience.