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Google App Campaigns: Strategy Advice, Tips, Cost & Best Practice 2023

Over 255 billion apps were downloaded in 2022, and with an average user spend of around $5, this represents an incredible source of potential income for B2B businesses with apps to promote. Google App ads are a powerful way to tap into this revenue stream by creating and displaying highly-targeted ads to potential users.

Google’s advanced machine learning algorithms underpin the Google App ads platform, creating and serving ads in real-time based on user habits and campaign goals. When combined with best practice asset creation, B2B businesses can maximise engagement with their apps, regardless of operating system, across a wide range of campaign goals.

This article is designed to get you up and running with Google App ads. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Introduction to Google App Ads
  • The Benefits of Google App Ads For B2B Businesses
  • How to Create a Google App Ad Campaign
  • Best Practices For Creating Compelling Ads
  • Strategies For Targeting and Bid Optimisation
  • How to Measure and Analyse Campaign Performance

The Ultimate Google Ad Best Practice Guide + Audit Template

What are Google App Ads?

Google App ads are a type of Google Ad used to promote app installs or encourage in-app conversions. Google App ads are displayed around the extensive Google Display Network (GDN), meaning potential exposure to billions of users across Google Search, YouTube, Google Play, and thousands of other websites and online locations.

There are three main types of Google App ads:

  • Google App ads for installs: this type of ad campaign is optimised to get users to download and install an app, and will be displayed until the action is completed.
  • Google App ads for pre-registration: this type of ad campaign lets you gauge interest in an app or game before it is available for install. These ads stop being displayed once the app is available.
  • Google App ads for engagement: this type of ad campaign targets users who have already engaged and encourages them to take a desired action, whether it be returning to the app, making an in-app purchase, or something else.

How Google App Ads Work

As is familiar fo other areas of Google’s ad platforms, Google App ads work through an auction model powered by machine learning.

Once your account is active, your campaign is set up, and your ads are created, Google uses automated targeting and placement to identify the most relevant users for your ad and display it to them. This decision is based on a sophisticated algorithm that takes into account search behaviour, search history, location, device, and myriad other factors.

Because machine learning is used, the placement process becomes increasingly sophisticated as your campaign progresses, too.

Google uses an auction model to determine which ad is displayed. While the price of the bid is a determining factor, ad quality and relevance are also taken into account. This means that companies can see their ads placed over competitors who were willing to bid more if Google deems the ad to be more relevant.

With advertising making up a vast majority of Google’s revenue (over 80%), they are incentivised to make ongoing improvements to their ad platforms. An example of this is the dynamic adjustment that takes place during Google App campaigns: if an ad is not performing well, google will automatically stop showing it, preventing you from wasting money on ineffective ads.

Google App Ads and Their Benefits For Your Business

Google App ads have a range of benefits for B2B businesses, most specifically ones that have an app to promote. (If you don’t have an app, you may be more interested in our guides to Google search ads or Google display ads.)

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits:

  • Highly targeted: your ads can target users by industry, company size, job level, and more. This means your app is shown to the people most likely to engage.
  • Very broad reach: being seen across Google Search, YouTube, Google Play and thousands of sites on the GDN gives your business significant levels of brand visibility, which can be built upon by other areas of your marketing efforts.
  • Sophisticated monitoring tools: for businesses, demonstrating value and effectiveness is a core part of any marketing strategy. Google’s advanced analytics and reporting tools put large volumes of data in your hands for reporting and analysis.
  • Easy to integrate: Google App ads integrate seamlessly with other areas of your marketing strategy, helping to consolidate their effectiveness. With attribution tracking you can also reliably isolate what is working and what isn’t, informing future strategic decisions.
  • Cost-effective: through machine learning and dynamic adjustments, Google is very good at minimising wasted spend on campaigns. This does of course require human involvement, too: you can’t just switch your ads on and forget about them.
  • Effective for a range of CTAs: whether you want to increase downloads, making an in-app purchase, or anything else, ads can be effectively used to encourage a range of commercially-desirable actions.
  • Easy to set up: getting a Google App ads campaign live takes hardly any time at all, thanks to the streamlined platform and the vast amount of support pages Google makes available.

How to Create a Google App Ad Campaign: Step-by-step Instructions

There are three main aspects to setting up a Google App ads campaign, which we’ll outline below.

  1. Determine your goals: whether it be mobile app installations or in-app conversions, setting your goals within the platform will enable Google to place your ad more effectively.
  2. Determine your budget: setting target bids and maximum daily budgets keeps control in your hands, and gives Google the parameters to operate within. You can change these budgets at any time.
  3. Provide assets for your ads: you provide assets to Google, including text, images, and videos, and it will create and serve ads according to where and when they are displayed.

For full instructions on how to create an App campaign for each type of CTA, we recommend Google’s in-depth guides:

Best Practices for Creating Compelling Google App Ads

Unlike some other advertising solutions on Google, you don’t need to create complete ads. Instead, you provide assets to Google that are combined into ads with content depending on the viewer and their location. Google’s machine learning tools refine ad content according to user behaviour, theoretically ensuring optimum engagement.

Your responsibility is to provide the assets for Google to use when generating ads. As with other advertising tools on Google and beyond, the key concepts are clear and concise copy and high-quality visuals. 

Using different types of assets will give Google a bigger toolkit for assembling ads. Here’s what you can use:

  • Images: landscape and portrait
  • Videos: landscape and portrait
  • HTML5 assets
  • Headline text, up to a 30-character limit
  • Description text, up to a 90-character limit

Google advises on using the maximum number of each asset: 4 for text, 20 for images, 20 for videos, and 20 for HTML5. It is also recommended that you cycle out low-performing assets often, to maximise the engagement with your campaigns. Google ranks assets on an ongoing basis, giving you an easy way to determine which are working and which aren’t.

Additionally to cycling out ineffective assets, A/B testing is highly recommended for Google App ads. This lets you directly compare variations on assets, giving an idea of which perform best amongst your user base and letting you refine future assets accordingly.

Here are some pointers for each type of asset outlined above.

Best Practices For Text in Google App Ads

  • Each string of text must make sense independently, and when paired with any other string(s) of text you provide. This prevents garbled, incoherent messaging.
  • Each string of text must conform to the character limit.
  • Each string of text must be a complete sentence.
  • Text should adhere to your brand tone of voice to give a coherent user experience.
  • Text must be clear to understand, and must accurately communicate what you want a user to do.
  • Text should avoid ambiguity, and should not use clickbait techniques.
  • CTA text especially must clearly communicate an action that aligns with the goals of your campaign.
  • Translations must be provided for all regions: Google will not translate ad copy.
  • You may not use emojis.
  • You must use punctuation, capitalisation, and grammar correctly.

Best Practices For Images in Google App Ads

  • Images should be clear and high quality.
  • Images should be at a suitable pixel density to ensure proper rendering on high-resolution screens.
  • Do not use images that are skewed, morphed, rotated, colour inverted, or highly filtered.
  • Images should be a suitable size and aspect ratio to completely fill the container: there should be no white space around images in your ads.
  • Text, logos, and CTAs should not be superimposed onto the image.

Best Practices For Video in Google App Ads

  • Videos should quickly and clearly demonstrate the app experience, rather than trying to tell a story.
  • UI and characters should feature heavily in your videos.
  • The first 2-3 seconds are crucial in grabbing and holding user attention: Google recommends 2+ cut changes in the first five seconds.
  • Use audio and music to emphasise the experience and generate interest.
  • Make sure that captions are included for any spoken audio because videos will sometimes default to audio off.
  • Use branding immediately and consistently through your ad to create a coherent brand experience.

Best Practices For HTML5 Assets in Google App Ads

  • Factor in engagement in asset design, giving people the option to tap, swipe, pinch, etc to engage with your ads.
  • Include instructions: many users are not expecting interactive ads, so they need a clear invitation to engage, along with an explanation of how to engage.
  • As with video, clear and consistent branding should be included throughout.
  • As with video, captions should be included where audio is spoken, as the audio may be off by default.

Strategies For Targeting and Bid Optimisation

An effective Google App ads campaign relies on the right people seeing your ads at the right time, and that this is achieved in a cost-effective fashion. Using targeting and bidding strategies is the most reliable way to ensure this outcome.

Targeting Strategies for Google App Ads Campaigns

As with all Google Ad methodologies, there are many targeting options for App ad campaigns. These allow you to fine-tune who sees your ads, and set the parameters within which Google will automatically serve your ads.

  • Audience: you can specify interest or behaviours and Google will display ads to relevant users.
  • Location: you can specify countries, regions, and cities where you want your ads to appear (or to not appear).
  • Device: you can specify device types, models, and operating systems where you want your ads to appear (or to not appear). You can advertise different versions of your app accordingly.
  • Ad schedule: you can specify times of day where you do or don’t want to advertise, based on audience activity.
  • Event: you can specify actions within your app that you want to trigger ads for users who have completed the action.
  • Re-engagement: you can target users who have engaged with your app in the past but who have not completed a specified action.

Bidding Strategies for Google App Ads Campaigns

Here are some common bidding strategies for Google App ads campaigns, along with their benefits for B2B businesses:

  • Target Cost Per Install (tCPT): you specify a maximum price you want to pay per install, Google tailors bids accordingly. This is great for businesses working within a specific budget.
  • Target Cost Per Action (tCPA): as above, but you specify the price for a non-install action instead. This is great for businesses that want to promote a particular action or set of actions.
  • Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS): you set a target ROI and Google tailors bids accordingly. This is useful for businesses who generate a large portion of revenue from in-app purchases, and who want to achieve this at an optimal cost.
  • Maximise Conversions: this is more general than the methods above: you just set an upper budget limit and Google tries to achieve as many conversions as possible within that budget. This is good for strategies where conversions are the primary metric.
  • Maximise Install Volume: as above, but install volume is the guiding metric rather than installs. Great for businesses looking to maximise the user base for their app(s).
  • Manual bidding: for experienced advertisers, this method puts full control in their hands. You can specify manual bids for different ad types and groups, and refine these on an ongoing basis.

How to Measure and Analyse Campaign Performance

When measuring and analysing App campaign performance, we highly recommend using Google’s Firebase platform. This lets you define and report on up to 500 app actions per app, giving you a large pool of sophisticated data from which to track engagement and review the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

Firebase integrates with BigQuery for custom analysis, Crashlytics to analyse errors, FCM to give oversight on campaign effectiveness, and a suite of other tools.

There are also a handful of other metrics we recommend tracking, or at least being aware of, to gauge the effectiveness of App ad campaigns:

  • Click-through Rate (CTR): the ratio of clicks to impressions, to give an idea of how engaging your ads are.
  • Conversion rate: the ratio of completed actions to clicks, to give an idea of how effective your ads are.
  • Cost Per Install (CPI): the average price you pay for each installation of your app.
  • Cost Per Action (CPA): as above, but for specified actions rather than installs.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): the ratio of revenue generated to investment.

In Conclusion

Google App ads are a powerful way to display highly-targeted ads for your app to billions of potential users. You can optimise campaigns for pre-engagement, installs, or in-app actions, each helping your business to achieve specific, high-value outcomes.

To advertise effectively with Google App ads, businesses first need to understand how they work and what the potential benefits are. Then they need to understand best practices around app creation, effective targeting and bidding strategies, and how to monitor performance. This equips businesses with the tools they need to create effective ads, show them to the right people, and make sure they’re achieving the desired results.

To maximise the effectiveness of your advertising, we’d like to offer you a free PPC review. Our B2B PPC experts will give bespoke recommendations based on your current campaign configurations, your objectives, and much more.

Interested in every element of B2B Google Ads? We’ve got you covered. Find out more through one of the article below: 

Or, why not check out our Google Ad Best Practice + Audit Template