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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Dynamic Search Ads?

Mike Farrell

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) effectively eliminate the need for keywords in retailers’ paid search campaigns. Instead of bidding on specific keywords lists, DSAs map existing content on retailers’ sites to specific consumer search queries.

While this may be helpful for filling the white space in retailers’ paid search campaigns, it can over simplify retailers’ campaign structure. DSAs can muddy the granularity retailers have achieved with their branded, non-branded, or trademark campaigns. Further, they relinquish control over paid search headlines to Google, which may not align with retailers’ strategies.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google, we explore what DSAs are, how they might benefit retailers, and what challenges may come with this solution.

Release Date:

Originally known as Dynamic Keyword Insertion, Dynamic Search Ads first entered the Google universe in 2011 and tweaked text ad headlines to better reflect consumers’ search queries. Google updated the solution in 2018 so that it would crawl retailers’ websites to enhance ad targeting and deliver shoppers to the most relevant landing pages.

What It Does:

DSAs allow Google to ingest a retailer’s website content in order to better target ads to search queries and fill potential gaps in retailers’ keywords campaigns. The retailer must provide ad copy, but Google writes the ad headline based on the consumer’s search query. For example, if a consumer searches for “office furniture,” Google will craft an ad with the headline “Best Office Furniture,” and direct consumers to landing page featuring products within that category.

Google offers three types of targeting for DSAs. The first is targeting for all landing pages in existing ad groups and campaigns. This is the broadest targeting option for retailers.

The second option targets specific categories. This gives retailers more control to group of related landing pages together and indicate which pages should be served by DSAs.

The third targeting option occurs at the web page level and allows greater granularity. Retailers can use DSAs for their entire website, or only specific parts of it. To target only parts of the site, retailers must label certain URLs. For example an online grocer may label a few landing pages with “gluten-free products” and feature only these pages in DSAs.

Which Channels:

Dynamic Search Ads are available for paid search campaigns.

What It Means for Your Business:

Google continues to innovate and automate across its wide range of products, and in the last two years Google’s Search products have undergone some of the greatest transformations. DSAs are one example. The ad format takes a very manual and painstaking task that was near impossible for retail marketers to manage and automates the heavy lifting.

That being said, while DSAs are a nice add-on feature to a paid search program, they are not a replacement for paid search campaigns. Retail marketers’ existing campaigns, which have been laboriously created and refined to deliver strong performance, are still very much relevant and should serve as the core of their programs.

Marketers know that no matter how many keywords they build out, the large majority of revenue  will come from a small, core group of terms. Additionally, search marketers are always on the lookout for those few new keywords that can be larger contributors as well as ways to be present for longtail searches. DSAs can help with both of these efforts.

DSAs are a great tool for continued expansion. Marketers should think of them as the minor league farm team of paid search, finding the “diamonds in the rough” (keywords) that could be future stars in the major leagues (main paid search campaigns). When marketers find those rookie-of-the-year prospects, they should build those keywords into their main campaign and negative them out of the DSA campaign.

Similarly, they are also a good way for retailers who are new to paid search to quickly build their search marketing presence. Like retailers with established paid search campaigns, new-to-market retailers should create a core paid search program with their top performing terms and use DSAs as a supplemental campaign.

One major reason marketers should proceed with caution is that DSA success is correlated to the quality of the website content. Retail marketers should understand how robust their website content is and consider that while testing DSAs. The less content they have, the less information Google can work with, which may result in less relevant searches and traffic.

Looking forward, some retail marketers speculate that Google could eliminate keywords altogether, and given the success in Google Shopping, it is easy to see why that might one day become a reality. It’s possible that Google Shopping and text ads could merge into a hybrid model, similar to how Amazon Ads function today. The two channels can take the best of their respective features and consolidate them into a few streamlined products that are focused on automation, structured data, and machine learning.