How to create, analyze and optimize Dynamic Search Ads

Automation represents a risk to job security in almost every industry. As PPC marketers, algorithm-based tools have changed the face of our work.

Whereas we once spent our workday doing keyword research, writing ad copy, and adjusting bids, Google’s machine learning automates tasks to make account management easier. But don’t worry, we’re not going to be replaced by robots any time soon!

A “set it and forget it” approach to automation will drain your budget and flood your website with unqualified traffic. A human must partner with machine learning for this automation to be successful and guide the algorithms in the right direction.

This is especially true for Dynamic Search Ads (DSA).

Why Dynamic Search Ads are important

DSAs crawl your website (or certain pages) for keywords – no keyword research required!

The system dynamically serves relevant landing pages and writes headlines for the ad. From eCommerce to B2B, Dynamic Search Ads are important in any account for three reasons.

Find new keywords

15% of Google searches have never been searched before. When doing keyword research with the Keyword Planning Tool, many keywords won’t show up because they haven’t been entered into the Google search bar yet or because the search volume is low.

Queries are getting longer and more unique. Your current keyword set may not capture terms the way users search for them.

Save time

No keyword research or copywriting is required for Dynamic Search Ads (except for description lines). Google automates these tasks for you.

If the messages change on your website or a new landing page opens, the ad messages will update, allowing you to spend more time on strategy, analytics, and other account optimizations.

Identify gaps

Dynamic Search Ads scan your website and test URLs that wouldn’t normally be used as landing pages. You might be surprised to find that a topic, topic, or page that doesn’t normally get promoted converts well.

Analyzing performance data across multiple pages can tell you which content, formats, or page layouts are resonating and/or converting best.

Introduction to dynamic search ads

Start the DSA process by reviewing your entire website and casting a wide net. Options for dynamic ad targets include:

  • Recommended categories for your website include various pages with a specific theme, such as product pages, blog themes, etc.
  • Specific web pages based on URL, category, page title, or page content logic you select.
  • All web pages point to your entire site.

Exclude obvious sections like career pages, investor pages, and topics that marketing dollars shouldn’t be focused on. Giving the system more pages to crawl speeds up the learning process, giving you more information to drive optimizations sooner.

Dynamic Search Ads – Add a dynamic objective.

Analyzing dynamic search ads performance

Looking at your search terms report, if your search terms are converting well, make sure these keywords get bids all the time by adding them to an existing non-DSA campaign.

Choosing to leave the term in the DSA campaign is fine, but the regular campaign can help control ad copy and bidding.

Once you have a basic understanding of keyword analysis and top-performing landing pages, create ad groups that group similar pages by theme, topic, product, or solution.

This way your analytics can drill down to what drives the best conversions and ultimately stop underperforming ad groups. If the ad groups have different objectives, place them in separate campaigns.

Dynamic Search Ads: Dynamic ad targets.

Control ad text

Lack of control over ad copy can be a concern for any brand, but there are actions we can take to put a little rein on the reins.

Take a look at the search terms report under Dynamic ad targets. This important report shows the search term an ad was shown for, the headlines used in the ad text, and the landing page shown.

Dynamic Search Ads - Search terms report.

If the headlines used in specific ads weren’t favorable, you can update the copy on the landing page or add that landing page as a negative dynamic ad target.

You can also choose to serve only certain landing pages as ad targets. Remember that impression volume may be low if these pages lack extensive content because DSAs will be limited in the keywords they can extract.

Alternatively, DSAs offer the opportunity to write two descriptive lines. Here, you can mention specific brand messages, a limited time offer, or any other necessary verbiage that needs to be displayed to the user.

Optimizing for quality conversions

Common problems with DSAs are unqualified traffic and low conversion rates/high CPAs. This could be due to a poor landing page experience, keyword/audience misalignment, and lack of smart bidding.

If your Dynamic Search Ads are underperforming, here are several actions you can take.

keyword exclusions

Take a look at your search terms report, sorted by impressions, to focus on the highest-volume keywords first. This will help you understand where most of your budget is being spent and perhaps wasted.

Dynamic Search Ads - Keyword exclusions.

Explore the list of irrelevant keywords that you shouldn’t spend money on. You can exclude unwanted keywords in two ways:

  • Check the box next to the search term, and then select Add as negative keyword.
  • Look for general topics that you could exclude. In this example, we see many search terms for “return on investment”. Instead of clicking the checkboxes to exclude these terms individually, save time by adding broad match “ROI” as a negative keyword to your ad group or campaign.

Landing page exclusions

The same report can identify underperforming landing pages similar to the keyword exclusion methodology. If this is the case, check the box within that row and click Add as negative URL.

Consider the user experience. Are there pages that don’t have a strong user experience or don’t support the goal of the campaign? For example, if your goal is to download assets, publishing an unrestricted blog post will almost certainly have a low conversion rate, since the page does not offer a downloadable asset or form. As mentioned above, ad groups and pages must have the same objective within a campaign.

Negative dynamic ad targets can be set using exact URLs or rules based on category, page content, page title, or URL logic.

Use value-based offers

When combined with bidding strategies like Maximize Conversion Value and Maximize Conversion Value with tROAS, Dynamic Search Ads are home runs. Setting clear goals for the algorithm to work with will improve the performance of your campaigns. When the system understands the most valuable conversions, it knows what to aim for.

Ideally, value-based bidding will be leveraged with offline conversions set as the campaign objective so that machine learning can be optimized for the most important leads/sales based on back-end data.

Leverage audience targeting

Still not convinced that DSAs are right for your account? Try them out with a valuable audience list of your own.

The size of the audience must be large enough to gain substantial impressions. Since the people on this list are important to you, the exposure from posting an impression and/or getting a click will be valuable even if they don’t convert.

Layered audience targeting in your DSA campaign should improve traffic quality and teach the algorithms who to go after.

Dynamic Search Ads and more

The future of keywords in PPC marketing is questionable. We can hope that DSAs are just the beginning of the phasing out of keywords as we know them.

As algorithms advance and machine learning takes over the heavy lifting, we should be ready to adopt and test new automated features if it means improving performance.

Use this as an opportunity to work smarter, not harder. Now is the time to shift focus to strategic thinking, deeper data analysis, and providing additional value elsewhere in the account.

The views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About the Author

Kerri Amodio is a senior manager of digital advertising at Closed Loop. A B2B SaaS marketing specialist, she gained extensive experience executing digital advertising strategies across social media, search, and display while working in-house for B2B technology companies. Kerri has been on the agency side of Closed Loop for nearly four years, working with clients like Slack, Netskope, Outreach, xMatters, Podium, and Corporate Visions.

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