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How to Make Dynamic Search Ads Work

Published: April 16, 2014

Author: Molly Shotwell

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) are not new, and you’ve probably heard of them before. But are you using them, or have you been scared off by the idea of letting Google control when to show your ads?
First, if you haven’t heard of DSA, here’s a quick breakdown:
Dynamic Search Ads will show your ads based on the content of your website, not based on the keywords you bid on. Hence, you don’t need to add any keywords to your DSA campaign.  DSA can help you gain additional traffic from searches on keywords that you might be missing in your account. And this is a big advantage because according to Google, 16% of the searches that occur every day are ones that Google has never seen before.
It’s true, though; DSA is simply not for everyone. If you fall into one of the categories below, DSA is not recommended:

-Customizable product and gift websites
-Comparison shopping sites and affiliate sites
-Daily deal sites
-Certain small websites (If your site has fewer than 100 pages, it’s probably not the best fit for DSA)

However, I’ve found that for the right type of website, and with the right optimization strategies in place, DSA can be very effective. One current client using DSA, for example, has hundreds of thousands of learning materials and resources on their site as well as school listings and other information. Building out individual keywords to try to have coverage on all of these things would be very time-consuming and inefficient. Instead, we let Google match the user’s searches to the content on their site.
That said, you do not want to just take the “set it and forget it” approach to DSA because it can spend a lot when you’re not looking on things that you may deem irrelevant.
Here are some best practices for DSA Campaigns:

Separate the content of your site using Dynamic Ad Targets.

Create different ad groups based on the content of your site, and apply Dynamic ad targets to each. This allows you to control what content Google shows with which ads rather than crawling everything on your site. You can then edit the descriptions of the ads and adjust bids for different products or portions of your site. (*Tip: test DSA on a few categories first before building out ad groups for every section of your site.)
There are a few options here:
Category: Google can usually automatically find categories from your site. If you sell electronics, they may give you categories such as TVs, Cameras, DVD Players – you get the idea.
URL: Break down your website by creating your own categories using URL patterns like “URL contains: camera”. You could also use this in combination with the category to narrow down only specific portions of the category you’d like to use.
Page Title: Specify Google to show ads on pages that contain a certain word or words in the title.
Page Content: Specify Google to show ads on pages that contain certain content within the page.
You can combine any or all of these to narrow down your ad targets, but you don’t want to be too granular, because that can limit the main advantages of using DSA.

Customize ads and bids.

Make sure your ad descriptions are as relevant as possible and set bids specific to those categories if you have different goals for each. Google will automatically generate the headline and destination URL of the ad, but you control the rest.
Negatives, Negatives, Negatives!
Because it’s automated, it’s not perfect. Like many others have found, a lot of the searches being matched to the site just weren’t really relevant to our services.  Especially when you first launch, you must do negative scrubs regularly. If you set your budget high and just let DSA run, Google will find searches to match your content and you will spend a lot more than you probably bargained for. Do a couple of scrubs the first week of launch, and after that I’d recommend scrubbing for negatives once a week.

Use the SQR for positives too!

Yes, you may find a ton of negatives in those search query reports. But, you also want to look for good keywords to add to your regular campaigns. That way, you can further optimize the individual bid and ad copy to your liking. Once you add these to your regular campaigns, your DSA campaign shouldn’t show ads for the query.
Bottom line – DSA can be a very powerful tool if used correctly and optimized regularly. If you have a ton of different products or services, or have products that change regularly,  DSA can be a great, efficient way to bring traffic to your site without spending hours adding every possible keyword you can think of (because you can never really seem to think of them all, can you?).

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