On App Store Search Ads

Over the weekend, Apple sent out a wave of emails promoting Search Ads. Search Ads allow you to bid to place ads that appear when a user searches the App Store.

Here’s the text Apple sent out:

Search Ads, coming to the U.S. App Store for iPhone and iPad with iOS 10, is an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app directly within App Store search results, helping customers discover or reengage with your app while respecting their privacy.

Opt in to the Search Ads beta to see ads for your apps in action. Participation in the beta is free. There is no setup, budget, or bidding required by you. While there will be no data provided or access to the Search Ads Campaign Management and Reporting UI during the beta, your app may receive downloads as a result of your participation.

Search Ads are based on relevance and a second price auction. Your ad must be relevant to the search the user is performing. If not, it won’t appear, no matter how high your bid. To get into the action, you place a bid, telling Apple how much you are willing to pay for each tap (you only pay if the user taps on your ad, pay nothing if they see your ad but don’t tap on it). Your bid is a maximum, sort of like eBay. Your actual price is determined by the maximum bid of the nearest competitor (the “second price”).

There’s an excellent video on this process here.

To me, the big question is, does this help indie developers, does this even the playing field, make it easier for the indie developer to find their audience and for their audience to find them?

I’m not seeing it. While I can see using this mechanism to raise awareness of my app, I don’t see anything that prevents a larger competitor from outbidding me on a regular basis. Bigger pockets trumps smaller pockets. And by definition, that means a playing field tilted towards larger developers.

Am I missing something obvious? Something that will, indeed, help make earning a living feasible for the smaller developer?