I wrote a blog post at the end of last year detailing how to promote an app through search, and the landscape is now changing with an announcement on Monday that Google will be moving existing AdWords app promotion campaigns to UAC (Universal App Campaigns).

This isn’t a surprising move, as Google has been pushing UAC and the success stories advertisers have seen for a while now. Whilst UAC were first positioned as a good way to supplement and scale alongside app install activity, it now seems Google want everyone solely using UAC.

If your current app promotion strategy makes use of any type of app install campaign apart from UAC, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:

What Does This Mean?

UAC seems to be becoming the one stop shop for app promotion. If you’ve got an app and want to promote it, set up a UAC campaign with a target (cost per install, cost per action or ROAS) and Google will handle the rest.

This is promoted as a positive change, given the strong performance many UAC advertisers have seen. Running just UAC has always been possible through choice, and this change is a reduction in control advertisers have over app promotion through the AdWords platform.

What Does This Change?

  1. There will be no way to target app ads outside of the UAC algorithm, removing the option for more sophisticated campaign targeting. Running pure brand search app install campaigns, targeting specific placements or apps will no longer be possible.
  2. If you haven’t already explored UAC, the campaign type only offers some basic segmentation, such as device, network and location; however, there is currently no way to see what types of query or placements are driving installs. Linking into this, there are few optimisation levers for UAC. Either increase/decrease the CPA, increase or decrease the spend, or change the targeting (be it installs/in-app action). Beyond this, there is little an advertiser can do to directly impact performance of these campaigns. Adding specific keyword negatives has been possible with support from Account Managers, although it remains to be seen if this will be rolled out to all advertisers as a self-serve feature.
  3. The immediate impact will be dependent on your current setup. With many advertisers running UAC as their primary app campaign this may not change much; however, if you have gone the extra step broken down activity in different streams then it will be time to pause those campaigns.

What Do I Need to Do?

As detailed in the InsideAdWords blog post:

  • Download and archive any existing app install campaign data
  • Pause any legacy app install campaigns (which should stop serving 15th November)
  • Create replacement UAC if necessary

With app attribution partners simplifying setting up cross-channel app tracking, you will certainly want to have follow-on actions after an install measured through your platform of choice.

This, firstly, allows a view into exactly how well UAC campaigns are performing at driving installs that result in follow-on actions, be it signing up, purchasing etc. Secondly, by setting up in-app action tracking you can then set your UAC campaign to optimise towards this in-app action, rather than focusing on installs and a target CPI (cost-per-install).

Whilst we may not have visibility into what inventory UAC is serving ads against, this at least allows you to ensure there is some value being driven from this inventory.

Lastly, remember to explore app options across social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and from an iOS side, advertisers seem to be seeing positive results from Apple Search Ads. With these platforms now offering arguably greater transparency into your spend than AdWords, it’s a great time to look at widening the net.

On the whole, this announcement is a bit of mixed bag. Whilst smaller advertisers will find less roadblocks and a simpler landscape when it comes to promoting apps, more sophisticated advertisers, who want to pursue specific tactics, are finding themselves with fewer options to work with.