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the highs and lows of dynamic search ads

Google Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are a powerful campaign type. But only when used correctly.

Improperly used, DSAs can significantly impact your campaign performance – and not in a good way. Get these AI-generated ads just right and you’ll soon see the impressive results these campaigns can generate.

key takeaways

In this blog, we look at:

  • what dynamic search ads are and how they work

  • the highs and lows of using them in your paid media strategy

  • the importance of a top-quality product structure and negative keyword list

  • whether they’re the right fit for your business

what are dynamic search ads?

A Google Ads campaign type, as the name suggests, DSAs dynamically generate an ad headline and a destination URL to accompany your user-defined descriptions. Although like normal text campaigns, they differ in one major way – these ads are created and served based on your site content or product feed, rather than keywords.

Google then matches a user’s query to the type of product on your feed and shows a dynamically generated ad tailored to that individual.

why did google create them?

How often do you think users search for the exact thing you’re targeting in your PPC campaign? Have you ever wondered what happens to the unique searches that Google sees daily?

To make the most of those missed opportunities, Google created Dynamic Search Ads in a bid to expand coverage and drive more site traffic by capturing interested users with relevant ads. Shown in Google’s search results, it would be hard for a user to tell the difference between a DSA and a traditional text ad.

how do they work?

So, how does Google do that? Firstly, the search engine crawls your site to gather content. Once Google has pulled and analysed this content, it matches the data to relevant search terms before generating headlines and landing pages to match.

This essentially means Google is creating the headline based on the search that was performed alongside the information from your website. Clever, right? All you have to do is write a description line for the ads which can be adjusted at a later date or as and when needed.

Although this follows a similar process to traditional PPC campaigns where you target keywords and bid on different search terms, the key difference is that DSAs favour your site’s content over the keywords.

However, if DSAs aren’t set up and monitored effectively, they can do more harm than good to your campaign performance. Some advertisers even choose to use DSA campaigns as their main campaign, but this can be damaging to your account and lead to cross-contamination as Google will try to capture all the search terms that might convert.

With the potential risks, it’s important to cover the highs and lows of using DSAs and consider leaning on the support of a specialist agency to set you up for success.

the highs of dynamic search ads

  • capture traffic: DSAs are designed to spot new opportunities that you’re not already covering with your keywords. In this way, these ads can help you capture additional traffic and conversions by targeting different but relevant users.

  • increase keyword coverage: As this campaign type crawls your website or product feed, it can help you close the gap in keyword coverage and product inventory. Not only this, but DSAs can also show on keywords that are tagged in Google Ads as having ‘Low Search Volume’. When set up and maintained correctly, this ensures that as many people as possible are seeing your ads.

  • save time: As Google does most of the work for you, DSAs can save you a lot of time. No need to map keywords, set bids and write ad text for each product on your website. These campaigns can help you advertise to new markets faster with relevant, engaging ads.

  • serve relevant ads: Using these ads, you can rest easy that when a customer's search is relevant to your product or service, Google Ads has you covered. A dynamic ad will be created featuring a clear headline leading users to the most relevant page onsite in line with their search.

  • use alongside your regular text ad campaigns: Another plus of DSAs is that, if they are set up correctly, they will not compete against your existing campaigns. By using negative keywords, you can align DSAs with your existing keyword structure as a means of expanding reach without overlapping on targeting.

the lows of dynamic search ads

  • wasted budget: The structure of your site and product feed is so important to prevent budget from being wasted. Whether it’s structural or down to the optimisation tasks being performed on the DSA, it doesn’t take much for the system to drive spend through areas that aren’t necessarily contributing to account performance. Common website sections such as blogs or FAQs can drive traffic to the site that is highly unlikely to convert, therefore wasting budget that would be better spent elsewhere.

  • lack of control: When using DSAs, you don’t have full control over which search queries are matched. DSAs do offer several ways to control when your ads are served such as negative keywords and target exclusions, which means removing specific pages you don’t want to serve. To negate control issues, it’s important to ensure you have a high-quality structure in place and that you’ve considered negatives where appropriate.

  • mismatching headlines: If you want to have full control over the message shown in relation to your brand, DSAs may not be for you. The dynamic headlines generated are based on your website or product content, so it’s rare to see a headline that doesn’t fit. However, you will see over time where your DSAs are driving traffic to your site and, depending on the landing pages being promoted, the corresponding headlines might not be suitable or relevant for the general promotion of the brand.

  • not everyone suits DSAs: Giving up control can be daunting for some advertisers. You’re placing trust in Google and machine learning that the best ads will be created for your business. That being said, we wouldn’t recommend those with small websites, daily deals or comparison-shopping sites use DSAs as this is when errors are most likely to occur. Generally, DSAs are most suited to those sites with a large number of pages and products or services that are frequently updated.

  • limited performance: Your campaigns can suffer if Dynamic Search Ads are the only ads you use. Whilst you can often benefit from lower CPCs, the looser form of targeting through DSAs means that you could be missing out on more reliable, specific targeting through keyword targeting. That’s why we would recommend a hybrid approach, enjoying the benefits of dynamic targeting alongside the more black-and-white keyword approach.

consider your structure and keywords

Google can only operate based on the data it’s provided with. That means it’s your responsibility to reduce the chance of error. The two best ways to do this is through an optimised product feed structure and negative keyword list. Without these, it’s easy for your budget to be eaten up and your campaign performance to take a hit.

Consider the products you sell and how Google might map these incorrectly. If you take the time to set up a well-optimised feed, you’ll be off to a good start.

Supporting this with a negative keyword list will also help. Negative keywords preserve your budget by not throwing away ad spend on irrelevant searches. When choosing your negative keywords, imagine how Google could confuse the classification of your products.

But remember, no matter how well created and optimised your campaigns are, you can’t just set them up and forget about them. We advise closely monitoring and reviewing search term reports to ensure every element is optimised – particularly within the first few weeks of campaign launch.

are dynamic search ads right for you?

DSAs can be a powerful way to supplement your existing text ads, as long as they’re done correctly. Giving you the option to leverage page content to capture searches not covered by your existing performance, they can drive more sales for your business.

As great as they can be, there are a few things to look out for to prevent your performance from taking a turn for the worst.

Thinking about using Dynamic Search Ads in your paid media strategy? Want to know if they’re the right fit for you? Get in touch with our paid media experts who can help you make this decision.

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