Are Dynamic Search Ads the Future?

19 March, 2018

What are Dynamic Search ads?

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are a type of broad match ad where the targeting criteria is based on your website content, not keywords.

If you have a website rich with information about various digital cameras, for instance, Google’s organic web crawling technology will recognise this and automatically target those searching for the cameras you sell. This ultimately means casting aside the traditional keyword and letting Google do the targeting for you.

DSAs are nothing new; in fact, they’ve been around since 2011. There has been a lengthy debate over recent years about whether or not handing such control over to Google is a good idea – incidentally, opinions generally seem reflect commercial experience, with endorsement going hand in hand with success stories.

This blog will outline a number of common arguments for and against using DSA, and what steps you need to take to set them up yourself.

What Are the Main Advantages?

Suppose your site has many hundreds, possibly even thousands of product types and variations, with details, names and availability of these varying from week-to-week. Keeping on top of this would be difficult, maybe impossible, through traditional keywords. Dynamic Search Ads effectively removes this requirement and automatically sets your targeting criteria based on what it identifies on your site.

Another benefit is the data it can generate. If you find yourself questioning the accuracy of Google’s Keyword Planner tool, Dynamic Search Ads can be very useful for keyword research. With regular search query checks, you can mine for new keywords with real performance metrics included.

Dynamically generated headlines also offer additional relevance, thereby improving click-through-rates and therefore quality score. Additionally, dynamically generated Final URLs can contribute to improved conversion rates and a lower cost-per-action through maximum relevance to the search.

What Disadvantages Are There?

Now, there’s one very clear problem with all this. DSAs have been criticised by some due to the level of control you are forced to relinquish to Google over your ads, both what they target and what they say. Not everyone is comfortable giving up control to such a degree.

We’ve all seen questionable searches in our broad match search term reports and wondered “Why the hell did Google target that search term?” We know that Google has a tendency to push this idea of relevance in some curious directions in the name of volume.

There is, therefore, a higher chance of targeting irrelevant traffic until your regular Search Query Reports have filtered out the irrelevant searches. In reality, this is a very similar process to what you should already be following with broad match keywords. If your SQRs are regular, the risk here is less severe than it looks.

With DSA, you are also allowing Google to dictate elements of your ad copy. Google isn’t writing your ads for you, but it is using your existing landing page content, including your title tags and H1s, and republishing it. With this in mind, if you’re wanting to experiment with DSA, it is strongly recommended that your title tags and website is optimised, up to date, and content rich.

So Why Don’t We Just Scrap Keywords Altogether?

You may be wondering why keywords haven’t been killed off yet in favour of DSA. You wouldn’t be alone in wondering that either; after all, keyword research, management and optimisation is one of the most time-consuming endeavours of a PPC account manager’s day.

DID YOU KNOW? According to Google, around 15% of worldwide searches on Google are unique and have never been searched before.

The above statement offers fuel to the DSA fire – it is almost impossible for some advertisers to manually target every relevant search through manual keywords, especially if so many daily searches are unique.

So, if DSA works, why would we bother with keywords? If you can get the same (or better) results without generating thousands of keywords yourself, what’s the catch?

Could you not just use a series of DSA campaigns covering your entire website inventory, with an extensive negative keyword list to drive efficiency?

PPC does have a reduced emphasis on keywords compared with five years ago. It is generally agreed that up to 80% of total traffic can often come from a small percentage of broad or phrase match keywords. Efforts instead lean towards refining audience and remarketing strategies relating to these strategic areas.

In truth, nobody knows whether keywords will still be in wide use in 5 or 10 years’ time – perhaps not even Google. Keywords may well be redundant someday, but it’s too early to see whether the advertising community will fully trust and embrace DSA to the level required to call it a ‘keyword killer’.

What’s for certain, though, is that those embracing and fully exploring the more nuanced and dynamic features of Paid Search may reap many rewards in the meantime.

Are DSAs right for you?

Dynamic Search Ads are pretty versatile but aren’t necessarily right for every account. Here’s a quick list of things to consider before setting up DSAs.

DSAs are a good idea if you want to…

  • Take advantage of a content rich website
  • Manage a large inventory of products or services more easily with more accurate ads.
  • Keep your ads on top of product availability and other inventory changes
  • You want to improve click-through-rates by maximizing the relevance of your headlines to a user’s search.
  • Identify new keyword opportunities and evaluate these with real performance data
  • Complement your existing keyword coverage and fill in any gaps

But you might want to avoid DSAs if…

  • Your website has out-of-date content and has not received SEO maintenance for a while
  • Your website content changes on a daily basis
  • Your inventory is small enough to be covered by your existing keywords
  • You don’t check Search Query Reports very often

How to set up Dynamic Search Ads

You can start by creating a new campaign for your DSAs. This option can be selected on the first screen of the campaign creation process.

From here, Google will ask you for a website URL, this is the crucial component from which Google will generate the inventory it will be targeting.

Next, you will select your Dynamic Ad Targets. Google will make some recommendations for this based on what it believes to be the most prominent products or services listed. It also generates a website coverage percentage; that is the percentage of pages of the website dedicated to that category.

Select your Dynamic Ad Target and click next. You will then be asked to select which web pages of the site you would like Google to target – the majority of websites will be fine with All Webpages. If there are certain pages you would like to exclude, you can target specific web pages instead, or exclude others. Once your Ad Group has been created, you are ready to go. Just remember, the work doesn’t stop here!

Things to be aware of

One risk of using Dynamic Search Ads is keyword cannibalisation, which sounds pretty nasty and can be if not managed. This is when your keywords are competing against one another for the same search query and is commonplace with DSA. Your DSA campaign does not know what keywords your other campaigns are targeting and, if it sees an opportunity, will try and get the click itself.

Keyword cannibalisation can result in higher costs, lower conversion rates and potentially poorer or less relevant ads.

One solution to this is to create a shared negative keyword list featuring all of your positive keywords. If they are already being targeted elsewhere, there is no need for your DSAs to do so too – remember, DSA is supposed to fill gaps, not take over the show!

The golden rule is to always stay on top of your search query reports and respond accordingly to prevent waste. Remember DSA targeting can be extremely broad.

It is also important that you are aware of Google’s Adwords policies. DSAs will generate headlines based on your website content – if this content breaches any of Google’s policies, the ad may not be approved.

If you require any further assistance, be sure to read Google’s support documents. Good luck with your DSA campaigns. If you have any success stories you’d like to share with us, please share below in the comments section!

Written by Tom

Tom cites his key strengths as communication, writing and presenting. He enjoys working in digital due to the way it satisfies both the creative and logical sides of the brain.

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