Google App Campaigns (previously Google Universal App Campaigns) have come a long way in the last few years.
Even two years ago, most of our clients had about an 80/20 split between Facebook and Google for their app advertising and user acquisition campaigns. Now, the split is more like 50/50.
What Are Google App Campaigns?
Google App Campaigns let advertisers create ads where people can download an app directly from an ad. App Campaign ads – and all the settings available for Google App Campaigns – are designed expressly to generate app installs.
You can use other campaign types, like display ads and even text 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.
What is Google App Campaigns Benefits?
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.
As of late May of 2019, App Campaign advertisers had several powerful tools and features at their disposal:
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 Facebook 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 users 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 campaigns on iOS and Android.
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 Campaigns’ Similar Audiences is just more evidence of that shift. Similar audiences work just like Facebook’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 Facebook 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 Facebook 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. The 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.”
Have you been structuring your Google App campaigns 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 their messaging for different customers. And, of course, it means you don’t need to manage so many campaigns.
Note that this move echoes what Facebook did last February with its “best practices” update. Before February 2018, we had optimized our clients’ Facebook 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.
If you’re tired of managing all the creative development required for high-performance campaigns, Google Ads has now partnered with eight trusted agencies, including us. This allows advertisers to outsource all creative development and management “from design to reporting.”
Visibility Over Google’s Properties
Google’s ads reach into 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
- Google Display Network
- Within other apps
What are the Different Types of Google App Campaigns?
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.
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 lets you specify two conversion events.
How to Optimize Google App Campaigns
Google’s App Campaigns do take some campaign management tasks away from user acquisition managers. But that hardly means you’ll have nothing to do.
Here’s a punch list of best practices for optimizing App ads, based on what’s working now for our clients. For a more in-depth review of Google App Campaign best practices, see our Google App Campaigns Best Practices Guide.
CPA & CPI
- Use a target CPA (tCPA). If you haven’t tested this bidding strategy yet, start now. We’ve found it to be a very efficient use of the ad budget.
- Use a target return on ad spend (tROAS). This feature isn’t out just yet, but it will be available in June for App Campaigns on iOS and Android. Once it’s live, you’ll be able to, say, specify that you want Google to find users who will spend three times what it cost you to acquire them. What advertiser wouldn’t want to do that?
- Set your daily budget caps at least 50X target of CPI or 10X of target CPA.
- Don’t change target CPI/CPA bids more than 20% in 24 hours until your campaign is generating 20-30 targeted in-app events per day.
- Target CPI campaigns’ bids should start at least $4-5, even if your CPI goal is lower.
- Target CPA campaigns’ bids should start at least 20-30% higher than the goal.
- Don’t wait until your app has launched to start building your user base: Pre-launch campaigns are available, and they work.
- Be generous with creative assets. Google App Campaigns work best with a variety of creative – both, creative formats and messaging approaches. The algorithm will figure out how to mix and match your images, text, and videos… but you’ve got to give it enough assets to find the ideal combination.
- Always include video creative. We’ve found that if a campaign hasn’t been using videos, adding just two videos to their creative asset mix can increase the campaign’s conversions by 25%. So yes, maybe videos are a bit more expensive. Maybe they do take a bit longer to create. But they punch above their weight when it comes to ROAS. And besides – if you don’t want to make videos, we can do it for you.
- When you get your videos made, make sure they can “flex,” as in that they can appear in different views and devices, and still look good.
- Think beyond user acquisition. We’re seeing some really nice returns with retention campaigns. If you do it right, it absolutely pays to advertise to all those people who downloaded your app but then either didn’t use it or never bought from it. They’ve already done the hard part of installing the app – often they just need a little nudge to activate or to make their first purchase.
Google App Campaigns 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 App ads, it’s time to up your game.