Google is reinventing its Universal App Campaigns (now called Google App Campaigns) with three new features coming this July:
- Value Bidding: Facebook advertisers have been able to use value bidding, AKA “target return on ad spend” for a while. Google App Campaigns advertisers will be able target this way, too.
- Similar Audiences: Similar to Facebook’s Custom Audiences, Google App Campaigns will let advertisers find new users similar to their existing users. Pairing this new feature with value bidding could radically improve your return on ad spend.
- Ad Groups: “Starting in July, you can set up multiple ad groups in the same campaign and tailor the assets in each ad group around a different “theme” or message for different customers.”
How These Changes Fit Into Google App Campaigns’ Evolution
From its inception, Google launched Ads so advertisers could promote their apps across different platforms — from within one advertising system. That’s still possible of course, but it’s meant that creative is handled in a modular way across the different platforms.
Instead of uploading whole ads, you upload ad elements. And if you want good results, it’s best to upload a variety of creative assets: Text, images, and videos.
Unlike most Google App Campaigns, you don't design individual ads for App campaigns. Instead, we'll use your ad text ideas and assets from your app's store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks. All you need to do is provide some text, a starting bid and budget, and let us know the languages and locations for your ads. Our systems will test different combinations and show ads that are performing the best more often, with no extra work needed from you.
This clearly leaves less for us humans to do, but that’s the nature of user acquisition right now — the machines have taken over many of the old levers of control; though we believe that creative is still best developed by humans. And even in the case of Google App Campaigns, it’s the humans supplying the creative elements. We just now have to step back and let the machines figure out how to use those pieces of creative most efficiently.
The machines are pretty good at this, too. And given how broad and varied Google’s advertising platform is, it’s not a bad idea to let the AI figure out how best to run your ads across different channels, like the Play Store, other apps, Google search, and YouTube.
But even with great creative elements, there’s still a lot of expertise required to run optimal campaigns on this platform.
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks:
Increase Bid-to-Budget Ratios
Target CPA (tCPA) is a smart bidding strategy. It sets bids that allow you to maintain a set cost-per-acquisition, while still getting as many conversions as possible. Your bids will also be automatically optimized by the AI, and auction-time bidding is available, which allows you to tailor your bids.
Setting Up Bid-to-Budget Ratios
Set tCPA bidding campaigns with a minimum of 10X, to start with. This will let you ramp up your campaigns quickly. Also test a bid-to-budget ratio of 20X, once you’ve got some campaign history established. 20x bids will often show stronger performance.
When it’s not possible to increase daily budget, try clustering your budgets together into one single campaign. To get the best out of this campaign, you’ll want to make sure your tCPA campaign bids start around 20 to 30% higher than your ultimate goal.
That strategy should change if you’re running a CPI (cost-per-install) campaigns. For CPI campaigns, budget caps should be 50X the target of your CPI, with bids starting around $4 to $5. Aim for that, even if your CPI goals are lower.
Google’s New Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS)
Facebook advertisers have been able to optimize their campaigns for a target return on ad spend for a while. As of June 2019, Google advertisers will be able to do the same thing, but with even more ability to fine-tune their campaigns.
This ability to do what we call “value bidding” is a game-changer for user acquisition managers. It means you will be able to target big spenders — people who don’t just make in-app purchases, but the type of users who make $20 or more in in-app purchases. It’s a far more efficient use of ad budget.
Here’s how Google describes this new bidding feature:
“ … you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android, globally.
General Best Practices for Bid-to-Budget Ratios
- Set your daily budget caps at least 50X target of CPI or 10X of target CPA.
- Don’t change target CPI/CPA bids more than 20% in 24 hours, until the campaign is generating 20 to 30 targeted in-app events per day.
- Target CPI campaigns’ bid should start at at least $4 to $5, even if your CPI goal is lower.
- Target CPA campaigns’ bid should start at least 20 to 30% higher than the goal.
Additional Consideration: Geo Expansions
Say you’re running campaigns in a limited set of geographical areas and you’re looking to expand into a larger set of geographical areas (but you’re constrained by budget). Don’t expand into those additional geographical areas. Instead, focus your efforts on a short list of geographical areas.
Although it may seem like you’re missing an opportunity by not expanding, you need to prove success in Tier 1 markets before uncapping your budgets. When you increase your bid-to-budget ratio over time — and get closer to 20X — this is where you can begin to consider expanding to different geographical areas.
Pro Tip: Use Google App Campaigns Before You Launch
Don’t wait for launch day to build your user base. Pre-launch Google App Campaigns are an excellent tool that can ensure your app usage is locked in, even before your app is available.
App Campaigns for Pre-Registration let you get:
- Higher D1 & D7 volume of installs
- 38% conversion to install, on average
- Higher conversion vs. external pre-registration sources
Market Clustering and Bidding Strategy
Market Clustering for Small Budgets: Markets, tiers, languages, and other factors should inform how you structure your campaigns and campaign strategy. That said, it’s still helpful to combine ad campaigns, if they are in one language and have low bids. Combining ad campaigns will give you a higher bid-to-budget ratio, as well as more events firing every day.
This also allows you to control the delivery a little better. It’s best to consolidate until there are larger budgets where you can separate campaigns by market.
Make Small Bid Changes: When you have a smaller budget, make small CPA/CPI bid changes. Avoid bid changes of any more than 20% per day, until you are consistently getting about 40 to 50 targeted in-app events every day.
Set Bids Early in the Day: It’s best to set bids during the beginning of the day. This allows you to be competitive, but it also gives you room to begin tapering the bid down, once your campaigns have achieved enough event volume each day.
Creative Best Practices: Adding Ample Creative Assets to Every Campaign
Great ad creative is imperative, especially now that the AI-enabled features in Google App Campaigns have leveled the playing field and made so many ad tech products unnecessary.
To take full advantage of Google’s owned and operated (O&O) inventory on display (YouTube, Google Play, etc.) you must add images to your campaigns. But images alone aren’t enough. You’ll also need video assets and HTML5 creative. The best thing to do is to create a balance between still ad images and videos, as it will help to balance out your ad spend.
Google’s algorithms can optimize the best placements for your ads across multiple channels, such as Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. You can feed your campaigns by maximizing your asset coverage.
Here’s how all of those different ad creative formats can be distributed:
You can add up to 20 of each of the following assets:
- Videos must be hosted on YouTube
- Orientation can be landscape, portrait, or square
- If you don’t have videos to add, Google App Campaigns may make a video ad for you using assets from your app store listing
- Upload images as .jpg, .gif, or .png with a maximum size of 150KB
- For native ads, landscape images are the most valuable format
- For interstitial ads, portrait images are the most valuable format
- Other valuable formats include: 320x50 pixels, 320x480 pixels, and 300x250 pixels
- Learn how to upload image ads in different sizes
- Upload HTML5 as .zip with a maximum size of 1MB and no more than 40 files
- To validate your HTML5 assets before uploading, run your .zip file through the HTML5 Validator tool
- HTML5 sizes currently accepted include:
- 480x320 (landscape interstitial, variable size)
- 320x480 (portrait interstitial, variable size)
- 300x250 (fixed size)
- 320x50 (fixed size)
Pro Tip: Don’t skip the videos. Going from even zero to two videos in your campaign usually results in a 25% increase in conversions. And don’t skimp on portrait videos, either: We typically see a 60% increase in conversion rates when advertisers use portrait videos instead of landscapes.
Once your ad creative assets have been running for around 10 to 14 days, it is easy to identify the highest performing assets. You can then have your team start building new iterations of high-performing assets and ultimately delete the low-performing ones.
Here are a few other advanced tips:
- Make videos that can “flex” — videos that work regardless of how a user holds their device.
- Build creatives that show the app, not people. Many of the top-performing ads do not show people at all, or only show their hands using their phone.
- Design videos that highlight the app experience, not a story. Most top-performing ads show the app through a direct experience of the action of the app itself, or a quick demo of the app’s capabilities.
Maximize App Campaign Performance
According to Google, there are three ways to really improve app campaign performance. When advertisers follow these golden rules, it’s possible to achieve creative excellence and maximize app campaign results.
The three rules are to continually run multiple formats of each creative for the greatest reach: Landscape image, Landscape Video, and Portrait Video.
Pro Tip: Focus on the top image dimensions to ensure Google App Campaigns are serving across all networks.
Dimensions are as follows:
Never Forget Retention
The name of the game may be user acquisition, but don’t ever forget user retention — it’s often an app’s prime engine of profitability. The new updates to Google App Campaigns make this easier than before. Use automated, cross channel, tCPA product targeting to get users who already have your app to come back and engage again.
Google App Campaigns were good before, but with new features like value bidding, similar audiences and AI-driven audience selection and ad placement, we expect advertisers to be able to get even better results.
As with Facebook advertising though, creative will be the primary driver of performance. Even with the Google AI’s ability to assemble and re-assemble pieces of creative for different placements and platforms, it’s essential to give the engine optimal creative assets, and enough assets for your ad campaigns to perform well.
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