Thursday, June 16, 2016

Early App Store Search Ads Fail

David Barnard and Paul Haddad are finding that when someone searches for their apps—by exact name—the App Store shows a search ad for a competing app at the top of the search results. This is exactly the sort of thing developers feared when search ads were announced.

Launch Center Pro


Not good - this is exactly what I thought Schiller said wouldn’t happen :(

Update (2016-06-16): @manolosavi is getting both an ad and an organic search result for the same app (via Preshit Deorukhkar). This is also bad because developers shouldn’t have to pay when they are already the top result.

John Siracusa:

Schiller talked about this in The Talk Show live. Short version from memory: this is allowed and benefits small devs more than big.

I’m very skeptical that this is a benefit for developers (who would have to outbid others just to protect their own app’s name as a search term) or for users (who expect what they search for to be at the top). Note, also, how the ad takes up more of the screen than the actual matching search result.

Nick Heer:

A very large company like Facebook could conceivably bid on all major social networking keywords, for example, and push down any competitors on the search results page. Or, in a more nefarious scenario, a well-funded low-quality or knockoff app could bid its way to the top of search. I’d hope Apple puts a stop to this; it would be inadequate to simply add “Report” buttons for ads that engage in this sort of behaviour.

Update (2016-06-17): Searching for PCalc shows an ad for PCalc Lite above the actual Calc.

Update (2016-06-20): Phil Schiller talked more search ads at The Talk Show Live.

Update (2016-06-21): Another example from Paul Haddad.

Update (2016-06-27): Rebecca Slatkin:

Watching ‘Introducing Search Ads’ so in a few years when all my indie developer friends go back to consulting I’ll know why.

“Because user experience is so important to us..”

I never thought Apple would ever give into making $ this way

Apple claims to possess a unique set of values and beliefs including raising the bar. Pretty sure this does the opposite.

Gus Mueller:

It’s like modern Apple though. Ask yourself, who does this help?

Daniel Jalkut:

I have asked, and can’t think of anybody but deep-pocketed developers with non-definitive search results.

Update (2016-07-02): Asher Vollmer (via Cabel Sasser):

An ad for 2048 shows up at the top of the @AppStore when you search for “Threes” in iOS 10.

This is exhausting.

Update (2016-07-10): Daniel Jalkut:

I am rarely as convinced that an Apple move is bad as I am with paid App Store placement. It defies my understanding of Apple’s values.

Update (2016-07-15): SplitMetrics:

The fact that the app in the first place got more clicks than the one on the 4th place was rather predictable. But the difference in those clicks is surprising: moving from the 4th place to the 1st increased the traffic share from 1% to 57%.


In both alternatives, the top app whether it was an ad or not achieved by far the most clicks on the ‘Get’ button. A ‘search ad’ app received 57% of clicks and the top app in a regular search result – 71%. The relatively small gap in CTR means that users don’t see the difference between sponsored and organic listings.

Update (2016-07-28): See also: David Chartier.

Update (2016-08-25): See also: Oisín Prendiville.

Update (2017-01-21): Dan Luu:

Google outbids Mozilla in the AppStore and shows up first for searches on “Firefox”.

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