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How do I optimize my Google App campaign?

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To date, there are 2.1 million Android apps on the Google Play Store and 1.8 million iOS apps available on the Apple App Store. If your app is one of them, you need a streamlined way to advertise across Google Ads’ various properties if you want to succeed. That’s where a Google App Campaign—launched in 2015 as Google Universal App Campaign and now rebranded to Google App Campaigns—come in.


The Basics of Google Ads App Campaigns

A Google Ads app campaign is an automated campaign type that enables you to drive both installs and in-app conversion actions. An app campaign connects you to users across Google Search, Google Play, Google Display Network, YouTube, and AdMob.

Once you’ve submitted a couple of lines of ad copy, some creative assets, a campaign objective, a budget, and a bid, Google Ads automatically generates your ads and caters to them according to the network. As time goes on, Google Ads identifies which copy and visual combinations drive the best results and prioritizes those over others.


App Campaign Objectives

When selecting an objective for your app campaign, which will dictate Google Ads bidding and audience targeting, you have two options:

  • Cost per install (CPI): This tells Google Ads to drive as many installs as possible given the constraints of your budget. Your bid should be the amount of money you’re willing to pay for each install.
  • Cost per action (CPA): This tells Google Ads to drive as many installs as possible from the people who are most likely to take valuable (revenue-generating) in-app actions given the constraints of your budget.

Your bid should be the amount of money you’re willing to pay for each in-app conversion action. If you choose this campaign objective, you first need to set up conversion tracking so Google Ads can collect data on the users who complete particular in-app conversion actions.

How to Create a Google Ads App Campaign

To get started with your first Google Ads app campaign, sign in to Google Ads, and select Campaigns from the left-hand menu. Click the + button to create a new campaign and select the App option on the far-right side.

Then, select your app’s platform (Android or iOS), enter your app’s name, and select it from the list that Google Ads generates.

After you’ve named your app campaign, submit your ad copy. You’ll need four independent lines of text that can be rotated in any order. These lines should be 25 characters or shorter, and at least one of them should be 20 characters or shorter to account for smaller device screen sizes.

Then submit your creative assets. You can upload as many as 20 images. Remember: Google Ads will test different combinations of these visual assets and ad copy in order to find your top performers. There are three types of visual assets you can submit: Images (.jpg, .png, gif), YouTube videos and HTML5.

If you don’t have any assets to upload, Google Ads will pull some from within your app and use them for your ads. Once that’s taken care of, select the languages and geographic regions you want to target.

Finally, select either Install Volume (CPI) or In-App Actions (CPA). Note that the latter campaign goal is only available to advertisers who’ve set up in-app conversion tracking.

Set your target bid, click Save & Continue, and you’re ready to go!

Optimizing Your Campaigns

Now that you’re live with your campaign, it’s time to start thinking about how you can optimize with best practices. Here are some tips and tricks:


1. Increase Bid to Budget Ratios

Target CPA (tCPA) is a smart bidding strategy. It sets bids that allow you to maintain your set cost-per-acquisition while getting as many conversions as possible. Because of Google’s advanced machine learning behind this, your bids can be automatically optimized, and auction-time bidding is also offered, which allows you to tailor your bids.


Setting Up Bid to Budget Ratios

In terms of tCPA bidding campaigns, 10X is the minimum that you will want to set so that you can ramp up your campaigns quickly. This being said, for these bid-to-budget ratios, using 20X will often show stronger performance.

When it’s not possible to increase the daily budget, you can cluster your budgets together into one single campaign. To get the best out of this campaign, you’ll want to make sure your tCPA campaign bids start around 20-30% higher than your ultimate goal.

On the other hand, when running a CPI (cost-per-install) campaign, budget caps should be 50X the target to your CPI, which bids starting around $4-$5. This should be the case even when CPI goals are lower.

General Best Practices for Bid-to-Budget Ratios
  • Make sure your daily budget caps at least 50X target CPI or 10X target CPA.
  • Don’t change target CPI/CPA bids > 20% in 24 hours until the campaign is generating 20-30 targeted in-app events per day.
  • Target CPI campaigns’ bid starts at least $4-5, even if CPI goal is lower.
  • Target CPA campaigns’ bid starts at least 20-30% higher than the goal.
Additional Consideration: Geo Expansions

If you’re running your campaigns in a limited set of geos and are looking to expand (but are constrained by budget), focus your efforts on a limited set of geos instead. Although it may seem like you’re missing an opportunity by not expanding, you need to prove success in Tier 1 markets before uncapping your budgets. When you increase your bid to budget ratio over time—and get closer to 20X, this is where you can begin to consider expanding to different geos.

2. Market Clustering and Bidding Strategy

Market Clustering for Small Budgets: Markets, tiers, languages, and other factors should all be aspects of your campaign structuring strategy. This being said, it will be helpful to combine ad campaigns if they are in one language and have low bids. This will give you a higher bid-to-budget ratio, as well as more events firing every day. This also allows you to control the delivery a little better—it is best to consolidate until there are larger budgets where you can separate campaigns by market.

Make Small Bid Changes: Another important thing to note is that when you have a smaller budget, you will want to also make small CPA/CPI bid changes. It is recommended to change by less than 20% per day until you are consistently getting about 40-50 targeted in-app events every day.

Set Bids Early in the Day: It is best to set bids during the beginning of the day—it allows you to be competitive. With that being said, you can then begin tapering the bid down once you begin generating enough event volume each day.

3. Creative Best Practices: Adding Images to Every Campaign

Having great ad creative is imperative. In order to take full advantage of Google’s owned and operated (O&O) inventory on display (YouTube, Google Play, etc.) you must add images to your campaigns. Also, Video Assets tend to perform well, though they are more expensive. It’s best to create a balance between still ad images and videos. Because it will help to balance out your ad spend.

Google’s algorithms can optimize the best placements for your ads across multiple channels. You can feed your campaigns by maximizing your asset coverage. For instance, provide all sizes for videos: Landscape, Portrait, Square Video. Similarly, provide all size options for still images: Landscape, Portrait, 300×50, 320×50, HTML5 assets.

Once your ad creative assets have been running for around 10-14 days, it is easy to identify the highest performing assets. You can then have your team start building new iterations of high-performing assets and ultimately delete the low-performing ones.

4. Maximize App Campaign Performance

According to Google, there are three ways to really improve app campaign performance. When advertisers follow these golden rules, it’s possible to achieve creative excellence and maximize app campaign results.  The three rules are to continually run multiple formats of each creative for the greatest reach: Landscape image, Landscape Video, and Portrait Video.



Google has made significant algorithm improvements that help advertisers identify and target audiences with Google App Campaigns. Because of this, your focus should shift to bidding strategy, market strategy, and creative testing.

Constantly testing creative is crucial to achieve and sustain the return on advertising spend (ROAS). The fact of the matter is, creative rapidly fatigues with increased spend and audience reach. In addition, 95% of creatives fail to outperform a media buying portfolio’s best ads. So, even when you have a high-performing creative, you need to think about replacing it. This year, advertisers need to rapidly develop new creatives and leverage best practices to drive positive outcomes with Google App Campaigns.

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Learn more about Facebook and Google App Campaign Advertising Best Practices in our complete whitepaper.

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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