Dynamic Search Ads – helpful or a pain in the neck?

- Luke Metcalfe

dynamic search ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs): one of the most debated subjects among PPC experts. Are they really helpful or rather a pain in the neck? The way people are searching online is continuously evolving and Dynamic Search Ads, if created and managed correctly, turn out to be a powerful tool to enhance your account. At the same time they can also produce a lot of irrelevant traffic and unwished costs. Let’s see why!

Info DSA

Useful for setting up new accounts

In my experience, Dynamic Search Ads are particularly useful for the set-up of new accounts. If you are working on a business branch you are not yet familiar with, DSAs help you to understand what the users are actually searching for and what they are more likely to buy. Do users search for brand names? For categories? Do they search specific product names? With DSAs you can get a first impression about the most frequent queries in the branch and easily begin with the expansion of your regular search campaigns.

Fast to create

The main benefit of DSAs is that with just a few clicks you can create a campaign that covers all products on your website. The principle is very similar to the one of Product Listing Ads (PLA) or Shopping campaigns: you create an ad group targeting all products on your website, which later can be split into more specific products and brands.  As soon as Google recognises a relevant search query that matches with the content of your website, your DSAs enter an auction and compete like every other keyword.

New keywords Ideas

With DSAs you get more query data and new keyword ideas that you can re-use in you regular search campaigns. DSAs cover the shop’s inventory so you can easily see if you get relevant queries for areas you aren’t covering yet.

When analysing the performance of DSAs, the KPI that shows the biggest discrepancy with text campaigns is the CTR. Looking at some of my campaigns, the average CTR of search ads was 2.4%, and DSAs was 2.7%. Google states that the headline is longer than that of text ads, which helps to gain additional traffic. What do I mean by longer? It can mean that a headline contains 63 characters! No surprise that the CTR of these ads can be above the average.

DSA 63 characters

But keep in mind…not all that glitters is gold! The biggest mistake you can do with DSAs is to set them up and forget them.

Fearing the broad match behaviour

Maybe the most important point is that DSAs work like broad keywords: if a search query matches with the content of your website, your ads will be displayed. Therefore, it is very important to add negative ad targets, excluding the shop’s pages that are not relevant for your AdWords campaigns.

In addition to the standard negatives and the negative targets, another must is to exclude keywords for products that you already have in keyword-based campaigns. If you forget this, the risk of cannibalization is very high and traffic might be funneled to the DSA ad groups.

Lack of control

In addition to the broad match behaviour, there is another equally important aspect to point out: the majority of PPC managers are “control freaks” and, in this sense, managing DSAs can be quite frustrating.

Unlike regular text ads which can be edited manually or with the help of software like our semantic PPC technology camato, landing pages and headlines of DSAs are automatically generated from Google and there is no chance to know in advance how landing pages and ad copies are going to be. It often is the case that DSAs link to products that you intentionally aren’t covering, like out of stock / soon available products or unprofitable / very cheap items.

It is really important to constantly analyse search query reports and keep your negative list up to date. In the AdWords User Interface, you can also see where DSAs link to and you can add negative URL targets to prevent them from leading to unwished pages.

Fill the Gap

In my experience, the best practice has always been to run DSAs in parallel to search campaigns.

In keyword-based campaigns, you have a perfect overview of your ads and keywords. You can also run A/B tests to find the worst performing ads or landing pages and improve them. With DSAs the focus is on the quantity and not the quality. The acquisition of exact data through DSAs can be essential for an effective bid management. When you start expanding the keyword-based campaigns with keywords from DSAs, it is very important to manage bids properly: the first step is to downgrade CPCs of the dynamic ads that you are now covering in the other campaigns. When the new ads and keywords have become competitive by acquiring history and a good quality score, you can expand your negative targets and shift all traffic from DSAs to the keywords’ campaigns.

A question that often occurs is if we still need DSAs or if it is enough to cover all products of the website with PLA or Shopping campaigns. Just like with keyword-based campaigns, the main advantage to running DSAs in parallel to Shopping campaigns is the Double serving on Google. You get more advertising space and you have more chances to acquire visitors and potential new customers on your website.


Luke is a Content Marketer at Crealytics

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