Universal App Campaigns – What You Need to Know

May 07, 2019

In this blog I’ll be going over what a universal app campaign is, where they can show, and a few best practices.


What is a universal app campaign

A universal app campaign (UAC) allows you to promote your app across Google’s various networks. UAC are an automated campaign available in Google Ads. When created, you select your app from a simple search, and Google will use the information from the relevant app store to target queries and users. There are no keywords, topics, or audiences allowed for app campaigns as Google utilizes its own machine learning for targeting.

 UAC’s also have three different marketing objectives; focus on getting more installs, focus on driving in-app actions, and focus on driving in-app action value.

 When using focus on getting more installs as your marketing objective, Google will try and get the most amount of new app installs as possible with your budget. When setting your bid for this objective, you should know the most you’d be willing to pay for someone to download your app and set that to start. As time goes on you can raise or lower this bid to meet your goals, whether it’s total number of downloads or downloads for a certain price.

 When using focus on driving in-app actions as your marketing objective, Google will optimize to get the most amount of people, who are likely to perform a specific in-app action, to install your app. In order to use this objective you must have an in-app conversion event that is tracked by Google Ads. Refer to Google’s Help article about different ways to track in-app events.

When using focus on driving in-app action value as your marketing objective, Google will optimize to focus on people who generate the most value over time. For this objective, you would use a target return-on-ad-spend (target ROAS) bidding strategy. If you wanted to earn $1 in in-app value for every $2 you spend during the conversion window, you’d set a target ROAS of 50%. Just like the focus on driving in-app actions, you must have an in-app conversion event in order to use this strategy. Specifically for focus on driving in-app action value, your conversion event must also have a value associated with that event. This can be set in the conversion settings of that conversion event within the Google Ads UI.


Where can universal app campaigns show?

Google search network

  • Google Search
  • Google search partners

Google Play

  • Google Play search results
  • Google Play related apps section: “You might also like” and “Related to this app”
  • Google Play home page: “Suggested for you”


  • Relevant pages or content on YouTube

Google Display Network

  • Gmail
  • Other apps
  • Mobile websites of news sites, blogs, and other sites across the Internet


Best practices for universal app campaigns

With no targeting capabilities there are two main factors with UAC’s, tracking and creative.

Tracking: In order for Google to optimize towards one of the three options you chose as your marketing objective, Google needs to know when a conversion event has taken place. Without tracking Google will have no data on what users are best for your goal, what placements work best, or what queries perform best. If you choose on objective to focus on an in-app action make sure that this action is actually meaningful. If your conversion event is for someone to simply open the app, Google still may not be optimizing towards the ‘best’ user. Instead, make a conversion event that signals a user is valuable,e.g. when someone reaches level 10 (if applicable to your app), this would show that the person is more invested in your app and make Google optimize to alike users instead of someone who simply opens your app. Refer to Google’s how to set up conversion tracking to get this event tracked.

Creative: The second factor is your creative. If you have quality video assets add them! You get up to a total of 20 image, video, or HTML5 assets. Adding as much creative as you can simply gives Google more options to test. The automated learning system will find which image, videos, or HTML5 assets work best with specific ad copy.

 Lastly, if your app is on both iOS and Android, create one campaign for each. The reason I’m not noting this as a best practice is because Google only allows you to select one option (iOS or Android) per campaign and you should definitely promote on both platforms if they are both of value to you.

Universal app campaigns are a great way to promote your app using Google’s state of the art algorithm. They are very low effort to set and can yield amazing results. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide you can find here that will assist you in creating your first universal app campaign within Google Ads.