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We employ discovery campaigns for all our clients as they are pivotal to reaching out to more users who could possibly generate positive results in terms of performance, keyword discovery, and volume (scale). To facilitate this, we use search and broad match in such campaigns. With Search Match enabled in ad group settings, ads are matched to relevant search terms that we are currently not targeting or might have missed in our keyword research. Of the several sources the algorithm uses to match the ads to relevant search terms, the metadata from your app store listing, information about similar apps, category-related keywords, and other search terms that lead to downloads for other apps in that category, are the most important. By providing broad match keywords, the algorithm looks for related searches and phrases that include that term, which can be very broad. For instance, the broad match keyword ‘audio books’ would not only match with ‘audiobooks’ or ‘audio boks’ but also ‘book’, ‘podcasts’, ‘book download’, etc. We have encountered unrelated matches on several occasions for our clients and have been forced to pause such broad match keywords. See below a visual representation of how ‘exact match’, ‘broad match’ and ‘search match’ will search for new terms.

One of the key concerns for advertisers and app developers wanting to dip their toes into Apple Search Ads is scaling their reach and making the most out of the high-intent audiences who are active on the app store. The idea behind a discovery campaign is just that: to facilitate mining of new keywords that are relevant to the app. But how well does it actually cater to the promise? Is it really worth the investment? 

However, discovery campaigns, in our experience, must not be given free rein, as the cost per acquisition (i.e. CPA, or cost per download) can very easily get out of our hands and might not provide the value that we are looking for. It is, therefore, important to set low cost per tap (CPT) bids and gather enough data. If we want an additional layer of control, we can add CPA goals at a later stage. Once we have a handle on the performance, we can bid higher and ease up the CPA goals. We dealt with the structure of a discovery campaign and how it should be set up, here. There is more information on how to leverage the keyword layer for scale and performance in the ASA Stack, developed by Andrea Raggi, here. 

In this article, we will look at discovery campaigns from two different perspectives: performance and, of course, keyword discovery. 

While their core purpose is to uncover some interesting opportunities for us, discovery campaigns can sometimes boost the overall performance if carefully monitored (keeping the bids at a minimum and adding CPA Goals). This could mean getting the best of both worlds, but it is also a thin line that if not trodden carefully, could lead to poor performance. As we continue, we will look at the impact achieved upon adding a CPA Goal to a discovery campaign. The analysis was made over a 90-day period.

Being able to exercise a certain level of control over the cost while getting additional volume turned lucrative for these campaigns. As a rule, we have been making sure the CPA goals are in place whenever we work with discovery campaigns as a part of our strategy, as this approach usually tends to deliver satisfying results. 

What about the overall performance of discovery campaigns across different metrics, you ask? The answer to that question may not be as straightforward as you would expect. Reflecting on the performance that we have achieved with clients so far, we have seen that a lot depends on the initial investment, market conditions, the category of the app, the competitive landscape, and possibly even the metadata. There are clients that run into high CPGs and do not invest further in discovery campaigns, and hence the overall conversion volume turns out to be low. And since we are not tracking revenue for all the clients and the target event we optimize for varies, it is hard to notice a general trend of how discovery campaigns perform when it comes to conversion volume and return on ad spend (ROAS). Some clients see an incredible uplift in conversion volume, with the number of goals coming from discovery campaigns contributing up to 60% of the total volume. And as counterintuitive as it may sound, this could be because of relatively high CPA goals, which help in acquiring more valuable traffic in the case of some apps. There are other clients where discovery campaigns contribute as little as 2% of the goal volume but end up with a ROAS of around 79%. We plan to delve deeper into this interesting finding in a follow-up article soon.

A couple of other questions pertaining to keyword discovery might arise when we talk about discovery campaigns. Some of the questions that we seek to answer through this article are:

  • How are the discovered search terms dealt with?
  • What is the volume and frequency of the search terms that are ‘discovered’?
  • What is the percentage of the volume over time that we receive on visible search terms vs. hidden, low-volume search terms?
  • How do they end up performing when added to other campaigns (namely probing), and are those good-quality search terms?

Let’s talk about how we work with discovery campaigns and the ‘discovered’ search terms. At Phiture, we employ scripts to help us automate some aspects of campaign management. This involves adding found search terms as negative, exact-match keywords to our discovery campaign, so that we do not end up matching with similar search terms. And, also, adding those ‘discovered’ search terms as exact-match keywords to a probing campaign, which the script does on an hourly basis. The idea of a probing campaign is to get conversion data (post-install data from a Mobile Measurement Partner) for those newly discovered keywords and ascertain their potential.

We have the option of working with both ‘broad match’ and ‘search match’ match types in our discovery campaign. The script goes even further, in that it also adds those exact-match keywords as ‘broad match’ in the discovery campaign, so that we end up with ‘broad match’ and ‘search match’ ad groups. The intention here is to uncover as many possibilities as we can. Finally, the probing keywords that seem to have a lot of potential are redistributed to the respective core campaigns.

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