Dynamic search ads - what you need to know

Rob Dennis

Paid Media Manager

What are DSAs?

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are a type of search ad that runs on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Unlike other search activities, DSAs don’t rely on keywords to run and don’t rely as heavily on the advertiser creating specific ad copy. They’re extremely effective at finding customers searching for precisely what you offer.

They can be particularly useful in serving ads to searchers using long-tail keywords that may not necessarily otherwise be picked up by a keyword, increasing an advertiser’s visibility to their target audience.

How do they work?

DSAs work by ‘scraping’ content from a web page and creating headlines from that content. These headlines are dynamic and are designed to match the user’s query as relevantly as possible. All the advertiser needs to do is create description lines and select the URLs they wish to use. In the case of Microsoft Ads, you may not even need to create description lines, as they have rolled out dynamic description lines, although you can opt out of these.

Advertisers can target users in the following ways:

  • Advertising the entire website

  • Through search-engine defined categories for your site

  • Through advertiser-created rules

  • Targeting specific landing pages, defined by the advertiser

The full list of the ways that you can target a user through a DSA can be found here.

Once live, you can optimise the DSA campaigns around search queries, like with non-DSA search ads. The useful thing here is you can see the search term against the landing page that the searcher was sent to, which is useful in maintaining search relevancy.

How we use them

To maximise relevancy for an account, we typically use URL-based rules or select specific landing pages to create the targeting for our DSA activity. This way we can maximise the relevancy of the user-generated ad copy. It will also significantly help with the ongoing optimisation and performance of the campaign, as it will help us refine the landing pages and search terms more effectively, as well as help search algorithms optimise towards our goals more efficiently.

Below is an example of how we would structure a DSA campaign:

The above can be segmented further, depending on the breadth of the topics covered within the URL structure.

It also means that we’re not sending traffic through to pages that are unlikely to result in conversions for the client. These may otherwise be picked up by either targeting the entire site or by using site categories created by the search engine, such as staff pages, about us pages and terms and conditions.

Also, by using user-defined URL-based rules to target our DSAs, we can increase the range of the landing pages that are being served to searchers. As discussed, this not only helps us improve landing page relevancy for longer-tail keywords, but it also helps us identify landing pages that may be more relevant to send users to as part of our standard search activity.

If we see a landing page performing particularly well that isn’t being served by our standard search activity, that covers a topic served by the keywords that we’re using, we create a landing page-based A/B test for that ad group to establish whether the alternative page used in the DSA activity would perform better than the current landing page.

Similarly, if we spot search terms that are particularly popular in the DSA activity that aren’t being served through the standard search activity, then we look to add these terms to our standard search activity as new ad groups.

Furthermore, if we see a landing page that is generating irrelevant traffic based on the search terms that are triggering ads to this page, we use this as an opportunity to refine the on-page copy to improve its relevance for both organic and paid channels.

Key takeaways

Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to run a search activity without using any keywords, DSAs provide the following benefits to advertisers who use them effectively:

  • They can fill gaps that keywords may otherwise miss, increasing your reach.

  • Provide searchers with a landing page and ad experience that is more tailored to their needs than through manual ad means.

  • An opportunity to spot potential new keywords that may be relevant for your business.

  • The ability to identify potential new landing pages that may be relevant to searchers.

  • Its targeting methods even make them an option for websites with inconsistent URL structures.

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