Google App Campaign: 7 Best Practices for Maximum Ad Performance

The app market is saturated. I’m sure you already know that. There are more than 5 million apps available for you to download and use today. If you’re an app developer or marketer, that’s great news but also challenging news.

How do you cut through the noise and get people to download your app?

One of the most effective ways of bringing in new users is paid user acquisition (UA). Google Universal App Campaign (UAC) or Google App Campaign, is a paid advertising platform that will get your app in front of a vast audience. 

If you’re not sure what Google UAC, then read this blog post first: How Does Google UAC Work?

When you’re ready to dive into the seven best practices for your Google Universal App Campaign, then keep reading. 

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1. Optimize Your Creatives for Different Google App Campaign Ad Formats and Channels

Google UAC runs your ads across a slew of Google-owned channels. The major ones are the Google Search Network, Google Play Store, Youtube, Google Display Network, and Google Discovery

Google automatically adapts the creatives you already have in your app store listing to match the different formats if you don’t provide specific visuals. But seeing that the ads run on various platforms, which all have different audiences, having a frankensteined ad approach is not the best idea. For the highest level of possible conversion, you want to develop creatives specific to each of the platforms’ specs and potential ad viewers.

Google App Campaign Youtube Ad
Google UAC Youtube Ad

First, you’re allowed to add up to 20 images and 20 videos along with HTML5 for responsive and interactive ads. 

Google UAC Ad Image Specs 

If you have the resources, then using up all the slots with many variations of your ad creatives is your best bet. Not sure where to start? Start with uploading at least two versions of the following image specs: 

  • Landscape Image for native ads 
  • Portrait Image for interstitial ads 
  • 320 x 50 pixels
  • 320 x 480 pixels
  • 300 x 250 pixels

Google App Campaign HTML5 Specs and Requirements

There are also a couple of guidelines for HTML5 assets. You’ll have to upload your HTML5 as a .zip file that is no larger than 1 MB and has no more than 40 files. Google also recommends that you validate your HTML5 assets before uploading. You can do that with Google’s HTML5 Validator tool.

Right now, Google UAC accepts the following HTML5 sizes:

  • 480 x 320 (landscape interstitial, variable size)
  • 320 x 480 (portrait interstitial, variable size)
  • 300 x 250 (fixed size)
  • 320 x 50 (fixed size) 

Text Assets for Your Google App Campaign 

In addition to visuals, you also have to provide four lines of text that can be rotated in your ads. Each line of text should be able to stand as independent clauses because Google will start mixing them up as its machine learning begins to optimize your campaigns. Also, you only have 25 characters for each line. So get straight to the point. Use the space to describe why someone should download your app and what problem it solves. 

Google App Campaign Text Examples
Google UAC Text Examples
Source: Google

2. Start with App Install Campaigns first 

Although there are exceptions to the rule, I recommend that you start with Install Campaigns the first time you try out Google UAC. The whole system depends on machine learning, so you need to be able to feed the system enough data. With a lack of available data, Google will not be able to optimize your ad campaigns, and thus, you’ll be seeing bad results rather than lucrative ones. 

Starting with a max install campaigns does two crucial things. 

I. Introduces Your App to Google 

Like I said before, Google UAC utilizes machine learning. This ad platform won’t be able to optimize your campaigns right from the start if it has absolutely no data points on your app. That means there’s a machine learning curve that has to run its course before you start seeing the results that you want. 

A max install campaign will help feed the system with the data points that it needs. Why? Because this type of campaign is meant to bring in the most amount of new users throughout the lifetime of the ad. The more installs you get, the more data points Google receives. 

I’m assuming and also hoping that you plan to run an in-app action or in-app value campaign. These types of campaigns will bring you higher value users who have a higher LTV and retention. However, again, it comes down to data. If you want to run an in-app action campaign for in-app purchases (IAP), you need to have at least 30-40 IAPs daily to give Google UAC the most actionable data to optimize your ads.

In-app Purchase in Balance Meditation App
In-app Purchase in Balance Meditation App

The first step to getting more IAPs is getting more installs. And thus, starting with a max install campaign will help you build out a sustainable ad strategy in the future. 

II. Lets You Figure Out Which Ad Creatives Work Best 

A Google UAC campaign is almost all about the creatives. The better your creatives perform, the less you have to pay to compete for those installs. By starting with a max install campaign, you’ll be able to test which creatives work best. 

People across different regions and cultures will respond to creatives differently. It only makes sense. Once you’ve figured out the creatives that your target audience responds best to, you can optimize them for an in-app action or in-app value campaign. 

Google App Campaign Ad on Google Play Store "Suggest for You" Section
Google UAC Ad on Google Play Store “Suggest for You” Section

Remember, creatives form someone’s first impression of your app, and that first impression is a significant reason why a person either downloads or ignores your app. So you want to make not only an excellent first impression but an optimized one. 

3. Allow Your Google App Campaigns to Run Before Adjusting Your Budget 

Google UAC takes some time. We, again, come back to the fact that Google UAC depends on machine learning. Just as the system needs enough data to optimize a campaign truly, it also needs enough time to collect this data. If you react too quickly or too rashly, you’ll end up harming the optimization of your campaign. 

For example, your campaign is not bringing in enough installs, or your CPI (cost-per-install), is too high in the first few days. Do not freak out just yet. Let the campaign run for at least 2-4 weeks before making any budget adjustments. 2-4 weeks is the time Google needs to optimize not only your ad creatives and ad placements but also your ad bids. 

Setting Google UAC Budgets
Setting Google UAC Budgets
Source: Google

After you’ve let the campaign run for a while, then you can start to adjust your bids accordingly. However, do not make grossly massive changes. When you make changes to your bid that are too large, Google’s machine learning will have to re-optimize your entire campaign. The data it has collected and analyzed is now skewed because the new bids are too different from the original bids. 

To avoid having to go through a training period again (2-4 weeks), increase or decrease your bids in smaller increments. Small changes enable Google to keep optimizing your campaigns without having to reset what it’s machine learning has already learned. 

4. Setting Your Budget for Google App Campaign Success 

We’re halfway there! You’re at the 4th Google App Campaign best practice. 

Figuring out what your budget is for app campaigns can be challenging, especially when you’re starting. If you haven’t run a Google App Campaign before, then follow these budget guidelines and adjust as you go

Setting Google UAC Daily Budget
Setting Google UAC Daily Budget
Source: Google

Budget for Max Install or CPI Campaigns 

When running a max install campaign, your bids will be CPI-based. You tell Google how much you’re willing to pay for each install. Your overall budget should then be 100-200x your bid. That’s because installs are much easier to acquire than an in-app action.

Setting Max Install Campaigns for Google UAC
Setting Max Install Campaigns for Google UAC
Source: Google

Don’t forget that you always need to be feeding Google enough data for your ads to run significantly well. For an in-app purchase (IAP) goal, you’ll need at least 30-40 IAPs daily to get your ads to take off. 

Budget for In-App Action 

Once you are familiar with Google App Campaign, you can move from max install ads to in-app action ads.

That means your goal is to get someone first to download your app and then second do an in-app action, such as making an in-app purchase. An in-app action is thus, more challenging to acquire than just an install. For that reason, your CPA (cost-per-action) will be higher than your CPI. As a result, your budget for this type of campaign should be 10-20x your CPA (cost-per-action). 

As a side note, make sure you’re adding deep links if you’re running in-app action campaigns. Deep links work differently for iOS and Android. 

To track conversions, you can use free resources such as Google Analytics for Firebase. You can find out more about mobile app conversion tracking for Google Ads here.

5. Run Ads in Countries that Match Your Ad’s an App’s Languages 

Google does not automatically translate your ads. Let me repeat that. Google DOES NOT automatically translate your ads. 

To get the most bang for your buck, you should only be running ads in countries that: 

  1. Your app is available in 
  2. Your app is fully localized for
  3. Your ads text and visuals match the country’s language and cultural preferences. 

Imagine that you are a native American English speaker, and you see an ad in Chinese or French or even British English. You would probably ignore the ad because you don’t understand it at all, or the ad would not entice you because it’s using phrases that are not familiar to you. 

By running ads that are “foreign” to its target audience, you’ll waste your money and lose downloads that could’ve been well-earned. 

Google App Campaign Ad on Search Network in Audience's Native Language
Google UAC Ad on Search Network in Audience’s Native Language

Hence, when running ad campaigns internationally, you have to first segment your campaigns, and then make sure that all of your ad elements are created with the target audience in mind. 

That point brings us to Google App Campaign best practice number 6. 

6. Segment your Google App Campaign but not Too Much 

It’s always good practice to do segmentation. Segmenting the audiences of your app ads will enable you to run highly targeted ads. People respond better to targeted advertisements. That’s a fact. So how should you segment your Google App Campaign ads? 

Start by geolocation and language. Separating campaigns by geolocation and language allows you to speak to the right audience with the appropriate ad text and visuals (See Best Practice #5).

Google UAC Segmentation by Location
Google UAC Segmentation by Location
Source: Google

Additionally, if you have two countries that speak the same language, the USA and Canada, for example, you can use different visuals to do a sort of A/B test. So, if the visuals for Canada are outperforming the ones in the USA, try updating the USA campaign with the Canada visuals. 

However, too much segmentation can cause your ads to compete against each other. In other words, you’re making your CPA or CPI more expensive for no reason. Stick to segmenting by the combination of country and language. Getting more granular than that can unnecessarily raise your ad costs. 

App Ad Exclusions 

On top of segmenting your campaigns, you can dive even deeper and get more targeted by applying exclusions. Exclusions ensure that your ad budgets are being allocated for the highest potential audience

For example, a natural family planning app may be geared heavily towards a female audience. As a result, you want to exclude male audiences and probably those under the age of 18. You can do this with Google Ad exclusions in your account settings. 

Aside from demographic exclusions, you can also apply placement, keyword, topic, and website exclusions. 

7. Test Your Creatives Before Setting Them Live 

You made it! This is the 7th and last Google App Campaign best practice. 

Do I have to repeat it? Creatives play a considerable role in your app ads. If your creatives are not converting, then you are throwing your ad budget away and not bringing in the right users. 

Google UAC Youtube Video App Ad
Google UAC Youtube Video App Ad

Don’t leave the A/B testing to Google App Campaign’s machine learning. You can start the ad optimization process even before you upload your ad assets into Google. Find current users, friends, family, colleagues, or anyone in your network that mirrors your target audience and show them your ad creatives. Holding focus groups and surveys that ask which ad creatives your testers prefer will give you a great head start. 

Your ads will have already gone through one or a couple of rounds of optimization before you leave it to Google’s algorithm. It’s another step to ensure that your money is put to good use and that you are getting the best users possible. That’s because app retention rate is also highly relevant to success in this app world. App stores, Apple and Google, will lower your apps’ rank and visibility in the app stores if your churn rate is too high.

App store listing example
App Store Listing Example

And to really drill it in. Creatives are important not only on your ads but also on your app store listing. All of your ads will lead someone to your app store listing where the final decision to download or not will be made. Through ASO and CRO you can ensure that your ad money is not wasted at this stage. Get the ad viewer to click through and then to seal the deal by actually downloading, by optimizing your app store listing.

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