By Lucinda Martin

After running Dynamic Search Ad campaigns for a while, we give you some feedback and practical tips for making best use of them.

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In March, our lovely Helena put aside some time to inform you all about Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs). If you are here for a how to and why, I suggest that you catch up on the previous episodes and relive the highlights such as part one - the release and part two - taking control.

The next part of this series may have taken a while, but this is no Jaws 3 - you are in for a rip roaring ride (aka very informative blog) all about DSAs.

DSAs – The Update

We gathered a crack team of some of our extremely talented pay per click managers who’ve been using DSAs to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of how they perform. We may or may not have bribed them with cake.

This is the result of that inspiring cake filled meeting.

DSAs – The Reasons

Below are some reasons for and against testing. Overall we found that most situations offer opportunities to test DSAs but please bear all the below in mind. Whether you think it will work for you will vary based on what your aims and objectives are. If you are not sure talk to your PPC account manager or give us a call.

Reasons to test:

  • If you have an ever evolving website i.e. retail, travel, events or recruitment and it is impractical, not cost effective or not always possible to launch new campaigns for each.
  • To increase traffic or spend.
  • To find gaps in your account.
  • Quickly & easily re-test areas that have historically been bad performers. In one campaign that we looked at in-depth, a keyword that had previously been paused for poor performance had a much better CTR and CPA when matched as a DSA keyword. Historically, the paused keyword had an average CTR of 0.25% and CPA of £10.31, but within a DSA campaign this became 3.27% and £1.54.
  • You have time to evaluate and optimise over a longer period. We have found the longer you run the campaign the better performance.

Reasons not to test:

  • If you like to control what is seen in the ad copy & where the click leads a visitor. This is important as you have little keyword, headline & landing page control upon launch. For example, in the finance industry the term “tug of war strategy” means something quite different than a primary school sports day or indeed the Periscopix weekend away.
  • You have a small website or limited potential keyword coverage. If you have looked at the keyword planner tool & your website suggested keywords are not very good.
  • Do not have enough budget or budget opportunities to test this.
  • You are looking for an instant return on spend. If this is something you normally see from search campaigns, Dynamic Search Ads may not be for you.

Best practice we have found so far:

  • Where possible don’t use the usual search term report in the keywords tab as it won’t give you the full picture. As Helena suggested in part two of her blog, the auto targets tab is more efficient.

Where to see the most informative search query data for DSAs.

  • It seems categories aren’t always available for everyone at the set up or maybe the ones you are seeing aren’t relevant. Test targeting URL, page content or page title.
  • Exclude your usual negatives and best peformers from your existing search campaigns. The DSA might outrank your normal campaigns.
  • Give it time, the best performing campaigns are the ones that we have refined over time.

The increasing conversions from a DSA campaign versus a regular search campaign.

In this campaign we had excluded all the negatives & top performers from the DSA; as far as we could see this did not cannibalise the traffic from the main search campaign. Growth in conversions coincided with a split out of ad groups by category plus some hefty category and matched search terms exclusions. It is worth keeping an eye on potential cannibalisation and making sure the matched search terms aren’t ones from your existing standard campaigns.

  • Just because it’s dynamic doesn’t mean you can’t have specific ad copy, go on give it a go with tightly themed ad groups.
  • If you are having problems with performance, don’t just rely on excluding landing pages or categories. Don’t forget to check:
  1. Ad positions.
  2. Performance by network.
  3. Performance by device.

The things you should know:

  • As Helena has already told you, generic or irrelevant searches will happen no matter how lovely your structure is. Just keep a close eye on it and remember to check the date range you are looking at.
  • It will pick up landing pages that you don’t want it to, may have accidentally sneaked onto your website or you thought had long gone. For example, a recruitment website for construction accidentally had jobs for its sister website showing on it (mental health support workers). The client used this information to re-evaluate how jobs were uploaded to the individual websites. This could be very useful for your overall site optimisation.

Some additional things to know:

  • You can add sitelinks, including enhanced sitelinks. Make them relevant to your tightly themed ad groups.
  • You can’t exclude or control headlines that are matched to search terms. You can only exclude search queries or categories.
  • Watch out if you run on a sub domain or have sister brands on the same domain or website. Remember to exclude either by URLs or keywords.
  • Performance is not guaranteed. Give it some time, and bear in mind your targets and normal search performance. If you see CPA doubling after 3 months despite some good optimisation it might be time to admit defeat and take away the search terms and/or landing pages that did work for your current set up. The other solution you can try if you have started with run of site or all categories is to test one part of the website or product pages.
  • Sometimes you may have to bid higher than you would normally.
  • Check your search funnels. You might be surprised – your DSA campaign could be driving conversions further down the funnel that are being attributed elsewhere so don’t write it off without checking this first.
  • If you use an API for reporting, DSA stats will not be in there.

In summary:

DSAs are not meant to be a replacement for your normal search campaigns, those PLAs you have spent ages setting up or your account manager.

DSAs are great for highlighting areas you hadn’t seen working before or maybe had been sceptical would work. They can support when building out websites with a lot of content.

We have seen some great results, but at times it has felt like a risk and for some account managers slightly scary. If you refine it, optimise it and keep on top of it, it will become less of an uncertainty. You will still have greater control with a normal search campaign and generally will see better results. However, you should consider DSAs in conjunction with your search strategy.

We understand and have learnt a lot about DSAs. Why not let us put our expertise into practise with your DSA campaign and make it work for you.

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