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Unless you work in paid advertising or have an unhealthy obsession with Google’s updates to Adwords, you may not have heard about Dynamic Search Ads (DSA).

Unbeknown to many, DSA was rolled out in 2011 and fully operational to Adwords users in 2012. In the following months, paid advertisers have either silently got stuck in to this new feature, heady with the excitement of a new update or they’re not at all taken by the features of DSA.

I suspect that a lot of advertisers haven’t yet seen a real opportunity posed by the update and are reluctant to give up a great degree of control to Google which is the premise of Dynamic Search Ads.

If at first, like me, you felt you were relinquishing too much control of your account to Google, you were right to feel cautious – but with careful optimisation you can actually make DSA work for you. Take that Google.

Here’s what I learnt from the first few months of trailing DSA with a couple of my ecommerce clients, plus, I’ve included some pro tips… which is why you’re really reading this, isn’t it?

So what essentially are Dynamic Search Ads?

According to Google, “Dynamic Search Ads target relevant searches with ads generated directly from your site”. Right, so basically, when someone searches for a term that matches an item found in an ecommerce site’s product database, Google will create an ad using that webpage’s content. This is a dynamic process through which ad content is generated by Google. This is why I previously mentioned that with DSA, Google is seemingly controlling what your paid ad looks like to searchers. But don’t fret, you can retain some control: the ads descriptive text and display URL can be produced by you.

What’s the benefit?

Dynamic Search Ads can be very beneficial for large ecommerce sites that simply don’t have the means or the patience to run keyword campaigns for every single item – I’m talking about ecommerce sites with products that run into their thousands and tens of thousands – DSA can provide a safety net covering all items.

Google claim that there will not be any discrepancies between DSA ads displaying if you already have a keyword targeted in an active campaign. So really, DSA appears to provide the exposure for products not getting the special Adwords campaign treatment. It’s a win-win situation. But perhaps there’s a reason why you’re not bidding on keywords for certain products…?

How do I set them up?

It’s not rocket science; you can simply add them to any existing ad group by selecting “Dynamic Search Ad” in the “New Ad” drop down menu.

But here’s a pro-tip: create a new campaign. This way you’ll have greater control over managing budgets and monitoring performance.

Step 1: So here’s how to set up a new campaign:

Simply create a new campaign for the “search network only” and then select “Dynamic Search Ads”:

set up dynamic search ads

Step 2: Add the usual suspects

If you’re the seasoned campaign creator, continue through the usual steps of adding the preferences like language, location, devices and budget.

Here’s another pro-tip: set up ad groups for each of the product categories you would like to dynamically target. It would make good business sense to select areas where Adwords doesn’t usually provide a sizeable portion of ROI or where you need additional sales.

Step 3: Tell Google which pages are available for each ad group

You can do this within the “Auto targets” tab in each ad group.

A pro tip: I find the “URL filter” option to be the most suitable but this can depend upon the website. You’re able to add more than one ad target and once this is complete, you’ll only need to create a few ads and it’s good to go!

dynamic search interface adding ad groups

Take advantage of Dynamic Search Ads

Even though Google will in effect do a lot of the legwork for DSA for you, don’t let this mislead you into thinking that you can merely set them up and look in on them in a couple of months time. This will negate the work you’ve already put in and will allow Google to do what any ad/paid professional fears – irregular titles paired with inappropriate descriptions displaying for totally unrelated search queries.

Over the past few months I’ve managed to make a success of my DSA campaigns, but it did require on-going optimisation and nurturing.

So here’s a run-down of my top tips:

Pro tip 1: Don’t forget about them

If you’ve afforded a large percentage of your ad budget to DSA and you leave the campaign to its own devices, you may return and find that a lot of your money has been frittered away on irrelevant terms.

As with any campaign, it is very important that you adapt, optimise and continually monitor results and trends, especially for DSA which are largely powered by Google, which is essentially a robot and cannot be trusted to display ads for the most relevant results and ad content.

Pro tip 2: Target negative keywords

A week after setting up my DSA’s, I decided to run a search query report. I was shocked at how irrelevant some of the search terms were for one client in particular. As an accessories and jewellery merchant, Google had displayed their ads for over five thousand times for the term “steam engine” and a further 3500 times for “London tube map”. This is pretty embarrassing for a paid ad pro to say the least, especially for only a week into the campaign.

Luckily, only a couple of pounds had been wasted as the majority of savvy searchers had not clicked on the ads due to their irrelevancy. But this backs up my first point: if I hadn’t monitored this, a budget could have been easily and quickly spent on irrelevant traffic. Be sure to monitor and analyse search query reports regularly.

This prompted me to add a number of keywords to the negative keyword terms list. As you’ll see from the graph below, although impressions dropped (blue), the number of conversions (orange) improved:

negative keyword graph performance

Pro tip 3: Are Google sticking to their claims?

Google said in their statement that:

‘The ad enters the auction and competes normally — but we’ll hold it back for any search where you also have an eligible keyword-targeted ad.’

But when I ran my DSA search query report, I found that certain keywords matched those active in other campaigns. According to Google, other active campaigns are given priority, but it seems Google hasn’t yet ironed out all of the creases in the new feature. To stop any interference, I added all of my active keywords as negative exact match keywords to the DSA campaign. Problem solved. I recommend doing this as soon as you initiate each DSA campaign.

Pro tip 4: Don’t add all products

Although it seems DSA are there to leverage products’ webpages that aren’t targeted in other keyword ad targeted campaigns, ticking the option to “add all webpages” isn’t a good idea. It may save you time, but you’ll find that it will deliver a lot of irrelevant, unqualified traffic impacting negatively upon click-through rates.

It’s always best to tailor your ad groups with ad targets, allowing you to create relevant ad copy which, due to its relevancy will boost click-through rates.

By using product specific ad groups as opposed to the “all webpages” option, I drove click-through rates up by 223%!

Pro tip 5: Remember your faithful friend Google Analytics

Google Analytics data and Adwords data can now be viewed via each other’s interfaces. Within your Adwords account, if you check at ad group level, you’re able to monitor their:

  • bounce rate
  • pages/visit
  • average visit duration for the users that Google is sending to your site

Here you’ll be able to tell whether the traffic is quality traffic, so you can nip any problems in the bud quickly. For example, this is where I noticed that when I had checked the “all webpages” option for the first week, average visit duration was as low as 26 seconds, whereas other products had much higher on-page engagement.

Pro tip 6: Continual testing and reviewal

Don’t let the slight elevation of control tempt you to let your DSA campaigns run autonomously. You should test variations of ad copy, display URLs and bid variations. Similarly, historic data should influence ad scheduling, search partner inclusions and bid adjustment. As you’ll have a lot less control with DSA, it’s important that you wield as much influence as possible over the areas that you can control.

With DSA, it’s all about perseverance. If you follow all of the tips mentioned, you’ll not only begin to see sales, but more importantly, they’re being generated at a cost per acquisition – music to most clients’ ears.

This could vary from client to client, but the majority of the phrases that are paying off are either long-tail or very niche, which means that they’re attracting a lot of qualified traffic that would have otherwise not been targeted by your other active campaigns.

At Receptional we’re keen to extract the highest possible return whilst keeping costs to a minimum. If you would like us to implement Dynamic Search Ads on your paid advertising activity, get in touch below: