For many ecommerce advertisers, having complete PPC search coverage for all of their individual products may seem out of reach. However, AdWords’ Dynamic Search Ads can provide an alternative to setting up thousands of ad groups and text ads.  Even when an advertiser thinks they have comprehensive coverage, Dynamic Search Ads campaigns can be a back-up catch-all as well as a source for growth.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) are different from traditional text campaigns because they don’t use keywords as targeting. Instead they trigger text ads based on the content of your website. Google will dynamically insert a headline and a destination URL based on a search query and match it with the content on your website. This is similar to Google Shopping ads, but think of your website as the product feed.

Advertisers that have seen the best performance from DSA campaigns are high-SKU ecommerce clients (300+ products) with well-structured URLs.

Below are a few of the reasons I have launched DSAs for my ecommerce clients:

  1. Research: This is one of the largest benefits of Dynamic Search Ads. Did you know each day 16% of searches that occur have never been searched before? Reviewing the search query report can give much more insight into how searchers are looking for your products than the keyword planner. Also, DSAs will not compete with your existing set of exact match keywords so you should not be overly worried about keyword cannibalization.
  1. Longer & Specific Headlines: Ever wonder how your competitor has a 35 character headline? Chances are it’s probably from a DSA campaign. I have seen headlines in DSA campaigns of 40+ characters. This allows you much more visibility on the search engine results page since your competition only has 25 characters with regular text ads.
  1. Lower CPCs: An average across my ecommerce clients shows approximately 60% lower CPCs compared to the non-brand average. This allows advertisers to gain more traffic to your site more efficiently. Yes, the lower CPCs are often driven by lower bids, and having lower bids often makes sense for DSA campaigns.
  1. Coverage on all products: For seasonal advertisers with varying products, this is a major advantage. As soon as products are added to your website, you will be eligible to show text ads. Also, once products are removed from your site, the text ads will not show. This lessens the chance of wasted spend on sending traffic to products you might not currently carry. It also reduces the amount of time spent for keyword research and ad group creation.
  1. Quick campaign set up: Instead of setting up specific ads and keywords, you set up a limited number of auto targets to start. The ad headline is dynamic and should be fairly related to the matched search queries.


Cons of Dynamic Search Ads

  1. Puts Google in Control: Since you are targeting based on website categories, there is less control than targeting based on keywords. It is up to the Google algorithm to match search queries and what to show ads for. This can cause irrelevant searches to come through.
  1. Require Up-front Maintenance: Because Google is in control, it does require up-front work to mine for irrelevant negatives. Right after launch, I recommend checking in daily for negatives. After the initial optimizations are complete, I would check weekly.
  1. Generic Ads: Since a wide array of products will be eligible to show for each ad group and therefore ad, I recommend using general language for line 1 and line 2. Ad copy from your Brand campaign is always a good option. If you run specific ads for each product category, you risk running ad copy that does not match the headline and this can actually confuse the customer.


Dynamic Search Ads have four targeting options

  1. Category: For most advertisers, I have seen the most success with category-based targeting. These categories are created by Google and will populate under the “Auto Targets” tab.
    • There are three different levels of category targeting:
      • Top Level
      • First Level
      • Second Level
    • You can segment and create ad groups based on all of these category options. The further down the level hierarchy, the more specific the targeting.
  1. URL: Similar to building remarketing audiences, you can begin segmenting traffic based on what a URL contains (i.e. the URL contains ‘lawnmowers’).
  2. Page_Title: This is targeting based on the page title. If you are unsure of your page title, review the wording on the top of your browser on a certain webpage.
  3. Page_Content: Similar to contextual keyword targeting on the display network, this is targeting based on the words on your webpage.


Step-by-Step DSA Set-Up & Tips

  1. Create a new Search Network campaign in Adwords
  2. Under Settings – select Dynamic Search Ads
  1. Add in conservative settings to start. With lower CPCs than non-brand, this is a good starting point.DSA_Blog_2
  1. You will need to check the box that allows the DSA campaign to look for content on your website and add in your domain.
  1. Next, it will prompt for ad group and ad creation. The first ad group will be an “all products” ad group.DSA_Blog_4 Also be sure to keep the ‘all pages’ option checked to ensure targeting on your full product inventory.


All ad extensions are eligible to show for Dynamic Search Ads.  I recommend adding all extensions that apply for your business such as Sitelinks, Call Out Extensions, and Call Extensions. When adding Sitelink extensions, make sure to keep these universal otherwise you risk irrelevant extensions showing.