Universal App Campaigns in a Nutshell

November 8, 2018
Posted in Paid Search
November 8, 2018 Jen Lopez

Universal App Campaigns in a Nutshell

Hey there folks! Do you have a mobile or tablet app that you are looking to promote to drive installs or actions? If so, you may have dabbled around with different ways to promote it – maybe even on Google Ads or Admob. But, whether you have been using Google Ads or not, there were recently A LOT of changes to how you can promote your app, and today we’ll be walking you through the newest (and now only) mobile app campaign type – Universal App Campaigns.

What are Universal App Campaigns?

Universal App Campaigns are now the only type of campaign on Google Ads specifically tailored for mobile apps (the only other way to promote an app in Google ads at this time is by creating an app extension on your search ads). Universal App campaigns are almost entirely based on Google’s learning and optimization algorithm, and will run ads promoting your app across Search, GDN, YouTube, Google Play Store and Admob (which shows app ads to users while they are in another app). While you still have access to most of the settings you would if this were a traditional Google ads campaign (device, location, etc.), you can’t restrict this campaign type to only run on certain networks. This is Google’s brain child, and they want to be able to run your ad based on where it is getting the most traction. We believe the reason for this shift to a very automated, aggregated campaign type is to make app campaigns more accessible to those without deep knowledge of paid media and granular optimization tactics.

What do they do, exactly?

There are three different campaign settings available with Universal App campaigns. You can select whether you want to Drive Installs, Drive In-App Conversions, OR Drive Installs most likely to lead to In-App Conversions (this last one is called Advanced Installs). Google recommends having a different campaign for each of these actions, so that they can “auto-optimize” each campaign for you independently, using the correct data. Based on your campaign type, you will have different bid options, as well. You will use tCPI (target cost per install) on your Install campaigns and tCPA (target cost per action) on your In-App campaign.

What about Creative?

Since this is running across ALL THE NETWORKS, creative is important, but not as challenging as you may think. You simply plug in four, interchangeable lines of ad text, at a max of 25 characters each to handle the copy.  Note that Google can absolutely mix and match the ad text to test what works best, so your copy needs to make sense if it was jumbled up. To handle the Display side, Google will let you upload up to 20 images/videos to promote your app. No creative team? Google will actually MAKE your creative for you using images and videos pulled from your app listing. Our recommendation on this front is to upload your own so that you have more control over what is showing and implement your own tests – since it is one of the few areas you actually have control over with this campaign type.

Where do the ad clicks lead?

This is another big change worth mentioning. As of October 2018, there is no more deep linking from ads to mobile apps. Meaning, you can’t land a user in your open on, or on a specific part of your app, even if it has already been installed. Currently, in almost every case, an ad click leads to the app’s listing in either the App Store or the Play Store. If the application is already downloaded, a prompt might be “Open” versus “Get” or “Install”.

Optimization Opportunities

Though this campaign type is being algorithmically optimized based on your target CPI or CPA by Google, there are still some important optimization opportunities you’ll need to consider.

  • Budget Modification – ensuring your campaign budgeting makes sense with your goals and your return
  • Settings Manipulation – target the right devices and operating systems for your app, make sure you are targeting the proper locations for your app, etc.
  • tCPA/tCPI Adjustments & Modifications – You are still in control of setting your targets for CPA and CPI, and adjustments can be made in either direction to find the right balance between cost and scalability
  • Creative Testing – Using the Ad Assets Creative Report, you can learn how your chosen assets are performing and adjust based on the data collected

While there are lots of thought-leaders in the industry weighing in on Universal App Campaigns, and what it means for advertisers, as well as app developers and promoters, we want to hear from you! Have you run Universal App Campaigns? Have they worked for you? Or is it really confusing and you need help? (Give us a call if so!)

With Google constantly evolving this campaign type, we know they have a lot more in store for us, so be sure to keep updated by visiting our blog often!