Understanding Google App Campaigns (And Tips To Optimize)

Evan Oliver
Evan Oliver
Director of Marketing

You built a new mobile app, and it's gaining some buzz. But the number of installs isn't exactly great, so you want to advertise it to get more engagement. You have several ways to get the word out about your new app.

For instance, collaborating with influencers and bloggers, then waiting for traffic to come organically. Or maybe posting about it across various social networks and forums. 

Both can definitely earn you some new engagement, but if you want to pick up steam rapidly, using paid ads is the way to go. Or, more specifically, Google App campaigns. 

It's a method designed specifically for app developers who want to promote their applications to target users. But is it the right move for you?

Let's look at what Google App campaigns are and how they work...then you decide. 

What are Google App campaigns?

Google App campaigns (formerly known as Universal App Campaigns) are automated Google Ads. Advertisers use it to promote more app or game installs or incite in-app conversions. The platform uses a machine-learning algorithm to determine your highest-performing ads and then showcase them to valuable users. 

According to Google, it can boost conversions by up to 140%

Google App Campaign signals
Google App campaigns uses hundreds of millions of signals to drive 140% conversion per dollar - source

Where do Google App ads appear?

Google App ads run across Google's properties, including Google Search ads, Google Play, YouTube, Discover, and Google Display Network. This means your ads can be seen by millions of potential users (but only if they're relevant to your campaign). 

Google App Campaign example
Example of Google App campaigns - source

How Google App campaigns work

Google App campaigns are smart—they take variations of images, ad copy, videos, and other assets, to create a relevant ad to display to relevant users. But unlike other Google Ads campaigns, there's no need to create each individual ad. 

It uses the creatives from your app's store listing to piece together your ad. Then based on the engagement and conversions, the platform will learn to make improvements to generate the best results. 

When setting up your Google App campaign, you should add multiple creative formats. For example, a landscape image, portrait video, landscape video, and HTML5 assets. This way, your campaigns can have a mix of formats to showcase across Google's properties. 

Google will test which variations and combinations work best to reach your campaign goals. It also manages your bidding and targeting to ensure optimal results based on your objectives and budget. 

All you have to do is:

  • Set your daily ad spend
  • Set a target cost-per-install (CPI) or cost-per-action (CPA)
  • Set the target location and languages
  • Create up to four unique lines of text (within 25 character limit) to 

Then set your campaign's start and end date, unless you want it to run continuously. There's also the option to add creatives manually if you want specific videos and images to display. 

How do I create a Google App campaign?

If you have an app you want to promote, then creating a Google App campaign can generate buzz and engagement. Here's how to set up your first campaign:

  1. Go into your Google Ads account
  2. Click the Campaigns tab in the menu
  3. Click the plus button and choose New Campaign
  4. Choose App promotion as your campaign goal
  5. Under Campaign Subtype, choose either App installs, App pre-registration, or App engagement (if it's Android-only)
  6. Choose the app's platform
  7. Insert the details about your app (name, publisher, etc.) and hit Continue
  8. Choose a name for the campaign
  9. Update the language and location settings (make sure to manually translate if multi-language)
  10. Select your daily budget
  11. Under Campaign Optimization, choose how to prioritize user actions (i.e., installs, etc.)
  12. Set the target bid (unless your goal is app installs)
  13. Choose the start and end dates of the campaign (or just the start date, if it's ongoing), then Save and Continue
  14. Add your ad assets and at least two headline variations (you can add up to 20 videos, photos, or HTML5 assets)
  15. Save your campaign, and you're done

Types of Google App campaigns

There are three types of app campaigns to choose from:

App engagement

This focuses on getting users to engage with the app, such as completing the next level or making an in-app purchase. 

App install

The goal here is to get new users to download and install your app. Consider optimizing your campaign targeting, so it focuses on users most likely to complete app "events," such as in-app conversions.

App pre-registration

For when you're about to launch an Android app (not available for Apple iOS) and want to generate buzz and interest. This allows users to pre-register for the app in Google Play Store. 

Each campaign type offers unique benefits, so choose accordingly.

Types of Google App campaign objectives

There are two primary campaign objectives for Google App campaigns. Let's explore both:

Install volume (Cost-per-install)

If you're looking to drive high traffic volumes to your app, then this is the goal to select. This may be ideal if it's a brand new app or if you're struggling to get installs over time. 

According to Google, you should set your campaign budget to 50x or higher than your target CPI. So if your CPI is $10, then set your campaign budget to at least $500. 

In-app actions (Cost-per-action)

Select this goal if you already have a solid app user base and want to increase in-game engagement and conversions. You can choose from a variety of user actions as objectives. 

For example, completing the first level or in-app purchases.

Google recommends setting your campaign budget to at least 10x your CPA. So if your target cost-per-action is $5, then your budget should be $50 or higher. 

6 tips for optimizing Google App campaigns

You want to get the most out of your Google App campaigns. Unfortunately, there's no cookie-cutter method to ensure this. So you'll have to continuously experiment and reiterate your strategies. 

However, we have several tips to keep in mind as you do so:

  1. Choose multiple themes, topics, or use cases for your ad groups. This way, Google can select the best version based on the target audience. 
  2. Set your bids in the morning vs. later in the day. This will allow you to taper down your bids as your campaigns reach daily goals. (This is one bidding strategy you can use out of several)
  3. Avoid changing target bids, especially if your budget is small. And allow your campaigns to run for at least several weeks before adjusting your budget. This gives Google time to optimize your ad creatives, placements, and budget. 
  4. Don't expand geographical reach too soon. Prove success in one area before branching out into other regions. Ideally, you should get a bid-to-budget ratio of around 20x before broadening your reach.
  5. Cluster budgets into a single campaign if you're struggling to increase your daily budget. You can aim for a target CPA between 20-30% higher than your ultimate goal.
  6. Use exclusions to prevent targeting irrelevant audiences. For instance, if your app is for pregnant women, then exclude men and users under 18 years old. 

Use Google App campaigns to increase user engagement

If you're planning to launch a new app or are dealing with poor engagement, using Google App campaigns may help. In this guide, you learned what the campaigns consist of and how to optimize ads for success

It's not a be-all-and-end-all for Google App campaign management, but it's a great start. So jump in, create an account and start experimenting to see what works. Or let us do the dirty work.

And if you'd like to learn more about choosing high-converting keywords for your campaigns, then check out this post on Keyword Tapering: The Next Step for SKAGS.

Chapter 6:
Additional Google Ad Types

What You’ll Learn: Discover the different ad types you can use across different Google Ads networks to drive the results you want.

Chapter 7:
Google Ads Bidding

What You’ll Learn: Learn the optimization routines we use to take poor-performing Google Ads accounts to turn into the envy of your competitors.

Chapter 8:
Google Ads Optimization

What You’ll Learn: Learn the optimization routines we use to take poor-performing Google Ads accounts to turn into the envy of your competitors.

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