Because search ads are placed at the top of the organic results, sometimes both the ad as well as the organic result show up on the screen. If the user is clicking on the ad instead of the organic result, whilst if the ad wasn’t showing the click would have gone to the organic result, this is the concept of cannibalization. A conversion that is now being paid for instead of earned for free.
It is really hard to fully predict if your ads are cannibalizing organics or are leading to incremental downloads. But there are some things to consider that will help you to gain insights. Cannibalization is most likely to occur in branded search, although it’s good to keep in mind that it can also be the case for non-branded.
Depending on if you’re a well-known brand or a newcomer that needs to get traction there are different strategies. For the first one cannibalization is a bigger topic than the latter. Apple Search allows you to see what percentage of the search volume consists of branded keywords and what the CR’s and CPA’s are with these branded keywords.
In general, Appsflyer stated that 66% of all searches on the App Store consist of the name of an app or a competitor. And you can count on the fact that if you’re not bidding for those terms, your competitors are and could steal your potential users. Depending on your goals and budgets, for both users as well as internal stakeholders it doesn’t look good if your number 1 competitor shows up first. We actually had a client where the CEO searched for the brand and saw the rival on the top results, leading to more budget for brand protection.
At Wuzzon we have done some experiments where we stopped Apple Search for a week or so and looked at the results of the total installs and organics. In both these cases, we actually saw a drop in organics, meaning that Apple Search ads led to incremental downloads. But these results are not valid for all apps. So we advise doing similar A/B testing for your own campaigns.