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What is a Google App Install?

Learn How to Create and Optimize Google App Installs

What is a Google App Install?

Google app install lets marketers create Google ads so people can download an app directly from an ad. App Campaign ads are designed expressly to generate app installs.

Google App Install Types

There are multiple Google Ads types, including search text and display ad campaigns, shopping campaigns, and even video ads, to advertise apps. But the conversion rates for those campaigns are terrible comparable to App Campaigns. You’re just way more likely to get people to install an app if they only have to make a couple of clicks.

If you want more app installs, App Campaigns are the way to go. Especially now that Google has given user acquisition managers more tools to target their ideal users.


Ad Optimization for Installs, In-App Events, or Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS)

This is one of our favorite features of any advertising platform: In-app actions, which Google advertisers may recognize as Campaign Budget optimization, and that we refer to as “value bidding,” can potentially double a campaign’s return on ad spend.

Before Google introduced a target return on ad spend (tROAS), advertisers could only optimize campaign bidding for installs. That’s nice, but as you probably know – not all installs are created equal.

Some users will install an app, use it once or twice, and then never use it again, much less spend any money. Other users may spend $20 or more on in-app purchases. Obviously, the big spenders are the user’s driving revenue. So being able to expressly target big spenders – aka “in-app events” like purchases – can have massive effects on an advertiser’s return on ad spend.

tROAS bidding will be available in June 2019 for Google app installs on iOS and Android.


Similar Audiences

Google’s advertising platform has been shifting away from keywords to become more audience-focused for a while. Some advertisers have even said, “keywords are dying.”

Google app installs’ Similar Audiences is just more evidence of that shift. Similar audiences work just like Google’s – they let you find more users that are like (or similar to) an audience you define.

It’s the “you define” part that’s where the magic happens. It’s possible to sculpt your audience data in ways that make the similar audiences algorithm work better than it would have if you just used everyone who’s ever downloaded your app as your target audience. For instance, targeting users based on their lifetime value can be a very effective way to generate new audiences and avoid audience fatigue.

This is the same principle that makes in-app optimization so powerful: If you define your “audience” to be the big-spenders of your audience, and then tell Google to find more big spenders, you’ll generate far more ROAS than if you just told Google to find you more people who will install your app.

The big idea behind audiences now is the intent. Keywords were the original way Google interpreted intent. Then Google showed us that audiences and interest data could sometimes be more effective at determining intent than keywords were.

Well, Google isn’t going to let Google just take that lead forever. As Ginny Marvin wrote recently in Search Engine Land,

“Google has quickly moved from keyword-focused targeting to support various types of audience targeting that incorporates a slate of interest and behavioral signals it captures from across its properties. Intent is still the core of search, but Google has been stripping away keyword targeting controls (with more to come), and it’s entirely possible to run Search campaigns based on other signals and no keywords at all…. machine learning has advanced to be able to attribute intent in different phases of the funnel.”


Ad Groups

Have you been structuring your Google app installs with dozens, maybe even hundreds of campaigns? If so, it’s time to stop. Google will now let you set up multiple ad groups in the same campaign, and will let you vary the creative assets within those ad groups. This lets advertisers customize messaging for different customers. And, of course, it means you don’t need to manage so many campaigns.

Note that this move echoes what Google did last February with its “best practices” update. Before February 2018, we had optimized our clients’ Google advertising accounts by running hundreds, sometimes thousands of campaigns. The best practices update changed that. Suddenly campaigns worked better if there were fewer of them within one account, resulting in less overlap between campaigns. Effectively, this meant that humans had to step back and let the machines (aka machine learning) do more of the day-to-day campaign management.

Visibility Over Google’s Properties

Google’s ads reach every corner of the globe. And App Campaigns can now run on:

  • YouTube (app Ads only became available on YouTube in the last month)
  • Google Search
  • Google Play
  • YouTube
  • Google Display Network
  • Within other apps



Target CPA (tCPA) campaigns let you specify what you want to pay per install (your “CPA” or “cost-per-acquisition”). Once the tCPA is set, Google’s AI manages your campaigns for you (bids, placements, and creative) and delivers as many conversions as possible at your set cost-per-acquisition.


Max Installs

Similar to tCPA, a Max Install campaign lets you set a target cost per install. Once set, the platform manages your campaign bids, placements, and creative to deliver as many installs as possible for the price you want to pay for them.


Max Installs Advanced

This is a hybrid of tCPA and Max Installs campaigns. With Max Installs Advanced campaigns, you’ll specify a target cost per install, and then you’ll also specify a second event that you want to happen (like in-app purchase, for example). Google’s AI will then dutifully go out and find installs for the price you want to pay, but it will only deliver installs that are also likely to complete the second event you asked for. In essence, Max Install let you specify two conversion events.


Google’s New Tools for App Campaigns

Last summer, Google began releasing new features that look a bit more like Google in terms of what advertisers can do to tailor their bidding, creative, and targeting. Here are some of the new tools that you can start exploring once you’ve set up your campaign and followed the best practices listed above.

For a more in-depth review of Google app installs, see our Google app installs Best Practices Guide.



Google app installs are one of the best tools a user acquisition manager has for growing a user base and monetizing it. If you aren’t squeezing every drop of opportunity out of Google App Install, it’s time to up your game.

google app install



Read our blog post, UA Media Buying Model, and see how it works in tandem with our Ad Concept Model. Learn the media buying best practice strategies for Facebook Android, Facebook iOS SKAN, Google, and TikTok.

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