Google Universal App Campaign

Google Universal App Campaign: Complete Guide

I started using Universal App Campaign (UAC) in 2015, and since then it’s effectiveness has only increased – thanks to the Google’s advancement in machine learning. Instead of running separate campaigns for Search and Google Play, we can simply use Universal App Campaign (UAC) with a few lines of text, and images to run different advertising properties of Google. In UAC, Google optimises the campaigns based on the bid provided and the objective of the campaign.
In 2017, Google announced that it’s moving all app installs campaign to Universal App Campaign (UAC). That’s why it’s extremely important to understand UAC. While Google has curtailed the number of factors that we can play with, there is still significant scope for optimising.
In this article, we will cover the following:

Universal app campaign - chapter 1

What is Universal App Campaign?

Universal App Campaign or UAC is a Google’s advertising tool to advertise apps across Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, Gmail and the Google Display Network using a common set of creatives and directives.
Using the power of machine learning, UAC is able to effectively reach the right user segment using minimal advertising assets, data, and directives. UAC analyses millions of interactions of users with advertising assets to figure the right match between asset, bid, and segment.

Universal app campaign - chapter 2

How Universal App Campaigns manages ad assets?

In UAC, Google uses text ideas and assets from the app’s store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks.
Universal App campaigns do the customization by taking individual assets and combining them to create a full ad.  Please note the following:

  • Google might create a video for you: If you don’t add your own video, AdWords may make one for you.
  • Don’t surprised if you find ads asset that you didn’t create: Your original content may be added to, dropped, or modified by Google.
  • You restrict the placement of your ads: You can exclude the placements of advertisements for any of the following reasons:
    • Placements don’t fit your brand.
    • It’s not relevant to your business.
    • Placements where your ads are not performing well.

You can read more about the exclusion of advertising property here.

  • No translation: If you are targeting vernacular audience, please note that Google willn’t translate for you. At Sqrrl, we tried running ads in 5 different regional languages, and this really helped us to optimise the campaign.

Universal app campaign - chapter 3

How to set up Universal App Campaign?

Here is step by step guide to starting your universal app campaign:

  • Step 1: Select Universal App Campaign in Campaigns and select your app’s name
  • Step 2: Write the four text ideas. While each idea needs to be 25 characters or less, you should include one idea that is 20 characters or less for smaller spaces.
  • Step 3: Add up to 20 of each:
    • Images – Portrait, 320×50 px, 320×480 px, and 300×250 px
    • Videos (hosted on youtube)
    • HTML5 Assets:

These assets are interactive and help in capturing users attention. The supported components include – Swipeable Galler, Carousel Gallery, 360° Gallery, Gallery Navigation, Image Button, and Spritesheet.
Please note that these assets paired with other assets such as your app icon, app description, or description text when they are displayed.
You can use the following to create HTML5 assets:

  1. Google HTML5 asset validation tool
  2. Download Google web designer to design the HTML5 ad. You can read more about Google web designer here.
  3. Use tips given at this website for designing this ad.
  • Step 4: Choose the location, language, and campaign objective (Install volume and In-app actions)
  • Step 5: Set target bid and you are good to go 🙂

Let’s look at setting target bid and budget in details, as it’s an important parameter in optimisation a campaign. Although we will discuss bid strategy in details in optimisation, here are a few tips:

  •  Use Android bid simulator: If you focus on install volume, you may see bid projections for app installs in a graph below the bid value box. In order to avail this facility make sure you’ve linked your AdWords and Play accounts. You can use this to check the estimate of weekly app installs volume. Learn in details about this here.
  • Put the ideal average amount you would want Adword to spend for driving the desired action
  • Minimum budget in UAC to drive installs: You should set daily campaign budget that’s at least 50 times your target CPI. This is a sort of critical number required for the Google algorithm to learn from interactions.
  • Minimum budget in UAC to drive in-app actions:
    • First, select an in-app action that’s completed by at least 10 different users per day in the campaign, as this will provide enough data to AdWords in order to identify new users who are likely to perform an in-app action.
    • Second, make sure that your daily campaign budget is 10 times that of target cost per action.

Universall app campaign - chapter 4

How to optimise Universal App Campaigns?

It’s important to analyse the performance of the universal app campaign and make changes from time to time. Obviously, your target should be to bring down the cost of install or cost of actions.
One of the key aspects of optimisation is also to evaluate the lifetime value of the customer. The cost of acquisition through UAC mustn’t be more than the lifetime value of the customer.
Here are a few tips for optimising UAC campaigns:

  • Don’t change bid frequently:  It’s ideal to wait for at least 100 conversions before making a bid change. This gives UAC enough data to optimise the campaign for the current bid.
  • Don’t change much: You should steadily change the bid to reduce the variation in CPI. Ideally, it’s recommended to not change the bid by 20% in a day.
  • Use Creative Asset Report: You can use Creative Asset Report to determine the performance of your ad sets. Try to replicate the “Best” performing ad sets.

To access the report, just click on Campaigns and then Ad Assets.
creative ad asset report
The performance grouping column shows “Low”, “Good” or “Best” based on how often UAC picks an asset over another in your campaign.
Keep replacing the “low” rated assets with assets that are similar to “Best”. In the case of assets that are marked “Learning”, Google is still learning based on interactions. Two points to note here:

  1. Insights are based on “all time” while metrics such as CTR and CVR are based on chosen time-frame. Make sure you change date-range in order make a valid comparison.
  2. Asset reporting currently does not include auto-generated assets.
  • Optimisation of creative assets: Optimising creative assets is key to optimisation of the campaign. Besides, regularly evaluating Creative Asset Report, you should do following for asset optimisation:
  • Use videos: Add engaging videos (10 to 30 seconds) in different aspect ratios such as portrait, landscape and square for the different ways people hold their devices
  • Use at least 10 images and video: Add multiple landscape images so Google can mix and match different backdrops across different types of users. You can add up to 20 images and video. Make the most of this option.
  • Use GIFs and HTML5 ads: In general, these assets have a higher engagement rate.

Universal app campaign - chapter 5

App Engagement campaign with Universal App Campaigns

As a fellow app marketer, I understand that driving in-app actions is one of the most important tasks for us. I struggled initially to figure the right way to learn app engagement campaign on UAC. That’s why I decided to write a complete section on this topic.

  1. Start tracking: The first step to running an app engagement campaign in UAC is to set up a tracking system. Here are a few ways you can track mobile app conversions:
    • App install (first open), in-app purchases and custom action through Firebase
    • App Install and in-app purchases through Google Play
    • First open and in-app actions through third party analytics platform linked with Adwords
  2. Pick the right in-app action (>10 daily instances): While ideally, you should choose the key metric such as in-app purchases as target in-app action, in case of fewer than 10 instances of this event in a day with UAC, you need to choose a more common event that leads to this action. Google needs at least 10 instances of an event to optimise the campaign. For example, let’s say you want to drive purchase of premium plan through an app. However, there are only 5 purchases of a premium plan in the app through UAC. In this case, you will move up the funnel and select more common event. You might choose “add to cart” event which happened 30 times in a day.
  3. Install that perform specific action: In order to drive in-app engagement, you can also follow this approach – create UAC that focuses on “Install volume” but targets “Users likely to perform an in-app action” instead of “All users.”
    Google recommends setting up 20% higher target CPI for installs that will also perform specific action than for campaign targeting “All Users”. This higher value for certain kind of installs will help Adword separate the value between the two audiences.

About the author

Product Manager at Google | Kellogg MBA '20 | IIT Delhi Graduate

I am passionate about product management, startup, and fitness not in any particular order.


  1. Could you explain conversion tacking set up, please!
    App install (first open), in-app purchases and custom action through Firebase
    App Install and in-app purchases through Google Play
    First open and in-app actions through third party analytics platform linked with Adwords

    1. Sure. I will take a shot.
      – You can use Firebase for tracking app install (first open), in-app purchases and custom action. You can optimize ads on these events. However, I am not a fan of Firebase dashboard. For general app analytic, Mixpanel or Localytics is better.
      – The Google Play Console gives access to download related analytics – app Install and in-app purchases. In the case of discrepancies with Adword or any third party analytics, Google Play Console is the source of truth.

      I have also written a post on how to set up analytics. Check out here –

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