Universal Dynamic Search Ads Roll-Out: The Pros and Cons of DSAs

24 May 2013

After two and a half years of preparation and 18 months in beta testing, Google AdWords have made Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) available to all its advertisers. This offers great potential to marketers, but as the widespread launch has been announced it has become clear that there are difficulties that can arise when marketers use DSAs without enough care or expertise.

Dynamic Search Ads are a way to allow Google AdWords to use your website, rather than specified keywords, to generate advertisements. As 16% of the searches that take place each day have never been seen before by Google, it is impossible to plan for every keyword combination eventuality in your PPC account. What DSA does is use up-to-date content from your website, as crawled by Google's organic search crawlers, to dynamically generate an ad with a dynamic headline and description lines pre-defined by you.

DSA campaigns can be generated from the content of your whole website but it is probably better to go with one of the narrower targeting options; either by product category, website URL, page title or page content.

Advantages of Dynamic Search Ads

One of the main benefits of DSAs is that you are able to target a wider range of search queries and choose to advertise a wider range of content on your site without having to create an expansive list of keywords and ad copy. This brings a much needed reduction in a PPC managers workload as you wouldn’t need to update AdWords with your new products, hotel destinations or online games, Google's spidering technology will do the work for you. Without the wait to write new ad copy for each new item you launch, your latest product line will show up in your PPC ads incredibly quickly. Companies who have very large product ranges, and those with fast turnovers, are likely to appreciate this benefit the most.

Many advertisers are having great success with DSA, with little extra work. Google reported that, during the pilots of the scheme, the majority saw, “5-10% more clicks and conversions”, and because complete statistical information is made available, many advertisers are appreciating the unexpected advantage of finding their AdWords reports are full of hundreds or thousands of new search terms. This data can be invaluable in planning future campaigns. And while using DSAs does require a certain leap of faith in handing the reins to Google, it is still possible to specify exclusions, so that your entire website isn't targeted. You can also include negative key words, to prevent your DSAs showing up against irrelevant searches.

Longer ad headlines than are usually allowed on AdWords have also been reported with DSAs, which is definitely a bonus.


There are some aspects to DSAs that have caused some concern. Possibly the biggest issue is that, by allowing Google the power to use dynamic search, you do relinquish some control over which searches your ads appear with. This means that it might be displayed alongside some very generic and irrelevant searches. This is where use of the exclusions and negative keywords is intrinsic. Although due to the very nature of DSAs a high level of work would be needed to keep on top of this.

Another reason that DSAs won’t be for everyone is the fact that they would undoubtedly require additional budget. If you find you are already loosing impressions share on your existing search campaigns then this is probably a priority, ahead of spending extra money on dynamic search ads.

Andrew Lolk at Search Engine Journal tells a cautionary tale about a previously well-managed PPC account, which spiralled somewhat out of control when DSAs were activated. It is clear that accounts running dynamic search ads do require attention, and that relying on Google to entirely self-regulate in this respect can lead to wasted money and badly targeted promotions. An increased budget and an account overseen by a PPC professional are often the best way to make the most of DSAs, so not all advertisers feel equipped to dip their toes in the water.

Overall, dynamic search ads can produce really good results but they do require regular maintenance to ensure that they are making the right assumptions about targeting. By agreeing to the broader exposure you may lose some ability to fine tune your marketing, although traditional PPC options are still available alongside the DSAs, which can help to balance out this effect. The keywords and other data insights you glean from DSAs can inform your future keyword bidding, and the technology certainly has exciting possibilities. Therefore with careful optimisation, dynamic search ads can help you to expand your marketing and target those searches that would otherwise not be catered for if you were limited to keywords identified in advance.