SAN FRANCISCO: Tech giant Apple has started serving ads based on search results to users in its App Store in the US, in a move that could help app developers as well as extend Apple's offering to brands.

The company explained that ads will be presented in light blue boxes at the top of App Store search results and that clear labelling will ensure users know the search results are paid promotional content.

It means popular search queries, such as "to do list", deliver a banner ad for promoted apps above the search results, although in addition to general category queries, Search Ads will appear in targeted searches for specific app titles.

"Search Ads is an efficient and easy way to promote your app on the App Store for iPhone and iPad in the US, helping customers discover it at the very moment they are searching for apps to download," Apple said on its website.

Jason Hartley, VP Search Marketing Practice Lead at digital agency 360i, agreed that Apple's initiative will be important for all businesses that rely on apps.

"If an app is important to your business you need to be all over this. We have clients where the app is vital to what they do," he told Advertising Age.

"If someone can be the top listing, and it is super relevant to what you are doing, you want to be on top. The question will be if you're not going to protect that No. 1 spot, assuming you have been getting it, you should at least measure it and see what the cost is going to be."

However, he cautioned that a major difference between Apple's approach and the likes of Google and Facebook is Apple's well-known concern about user experience.

"The targeting they have is extremely limited," Hartley said. "There is nothing that says, 'I want to target someone that has shopped at Target in the last six weeks'. If Apple really wanted to do that people would be rushing to sign up, but it's not willing to give that information. Google and Facebook are."

Data sourced from Apple, Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff