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Since Apple announced plans to place app-install ads at the top of search results in its App Store, many have wondered how the program will impact independent developers with smaller marketing budgets.

Some, including The Loop’s Dave Mark and Mac developer Michael Tsai, have even speculated that the change could be detrimental to indie app makers.

However, Apple tells us it that it has worked hard to make sure that the search ads lead to more downloads of apps from smaller developers.

The new program has certain features that are designed to encourage this, and Apple highlighted those features in a session at its WWDC developer conference last week:

  • By default, people won’t see ads for apps that they’ve already installed. That means apps that are already very popular just won’t be able to get promoted to a wide swath of App Store users.
  • And, unlike the search ad system in place for the Google Play Store, apps that are not relevant to the terms people search for simply will not be promoted in the search ads. For example, if a user searches for “chess,” the App Store won’t surface an ad for a cloud storage app, even if the company behind the cloud storage app is determined to reach lots of new users who are interested in chess and has submitted a high bid for its ad.
  • If people aren’t tapping an ad for a given app, that ad will be demoted — even if a big company submitted a high bid for the ad.
  • Apple is using the existing content for an app, like the ad and high-level description, as the copy for the ads. This may help prevent small developers from being inherently at a disadvantage in this area, because they won’t need to consult an outside firm or put more work on a marketing employee in order to generate the necessary material for these ads. The system also automatically recommends keywords based on app metadata, so there’s no need for developers to spend a lot of time coming up with the best keywords for the ads — unless, of course, they want to do that.

When considered together, these features may help Apple distinguish its implementation of app-install ads from that of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, especially in the eyes of small teams with limited money and resources. If things work out, some of the standards Apple has put in place could become more widely adopted.

In the past few days, Apple has started giving developers access to App Store search ads in beta. People have asked for this sort of thing for years, Apple says.

The ads have started showing up for some people — specifically Apple Developer and Apple Beta Software program members. These ads will be more widely circulated in the App Store in the U.S. this fall, in time with the release of iOS 10.

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