Jun 21 2019
Basis Technologies

How to Maximize the Potential of Dynamic Search Ads


Dynamic Search Ads in Google Ads have long been a powerful digital tool to expand the reach of an advertising program and discover new, relevant search keywords. Still, they often remain underutilized and misunderstood. Every advertiser should consider Dynamic Search Ads as a part of their advertising arsenal. Here’s a guide on the what, why, and how to maximize the potential of these keyword-less campaigns.

First, what are Dynamic Search Ads, abbreviated as DSAs? Since October 2011, DSAs have allowed paid search advertisers to target customers without having keywords. Google’s web crawling technology indexes your website, much like it does to produce search results, and Google automatically creates an ad when a search is relevant to the content of your website. If that sounds like magic, that’s because it is. Magic in the form of dynamic ad creation. DSAs utilize the very same technology that makes Google a valuable search engine in the first place; it’s ability to index websites and direct search results to relevant content.

How do Your Ads Work?

DSAs fit the following framework:

[dynamically generated headline]


Ad description

The ad headline that is shown when a DSA appears on the search results page is dynamically created from Google. The information that populates a DSA headline is pulled directly from the site. You still need to write a description line for the ad, but that is the only thing that can be adjusted. As you can imagine, having a specific and tailored headline that is about the actual product searched is a best practice, and is something that DSAs can help you achieve.

How does Bidding Work?

Since DSAs do not have keywords, bids are applied at the ad target level, called dynamic ad targets. DSAs use content from your website to target your ads to searches. There are a variety of targeting options:

Category - Sets of landing pages organized by theme. You decide which sets of pages to target.

Page Content - Descriptive content on the page contains a certain word or phrase.

Page Title - The title of the page contains a certain word or phrase.

URL - The page URL contains this word or phrase.

Each DSA campaign has one or more ad targets, and ad targets can be defined as any combination of the targeting options. Ad targets are typically broadly defined to help increase incremental search traffic.

Ad target bids otherwise function the same as a keyword bid, and DSA campaigns and ad groups have the same bid adjustments available (device, location, etc) as any keyword-based object.

Exclusions and Negative Targeting

A critical component to achieving success with DSAs is signaling when not to show ads. This can be managed via exclusions and negative keywords.

Exclusions - Exclusions come in two forms, the exclusion of a category, and the exclusion of specific webpages. When your website contains pages that you do not want to direct traffic to, those pages should be excluded. A common example of this is to exclude pages that contain the words ‘sold out’ to prevent customers from seeing ads for products with no inventory.

Negatives - Negative keywords can be added to DSAs just like with any other campaign. Despite DSAs having no keywords, negatives will prevent ads from showing in the case that a search query contains the negative keyword. For example, add ‘used’ as a negative keyword for a campaign dedicated to new car sales.

What’s the Easiest Way to Get Started?

Create a new DSA campaign with a single ad group. Set a single ad target that targets webpages containing your homepage URL. This ensures content across your entire website is contributing to ad creation and potentially showing for relevant search results. Next, include exclusions and negatives that overlap with content for which you already have keyword campaigns. From there, get more granular, try creating more precise advertising targets, and review the search queries generating traffic and conversions for new opportunities to expand your keywords.

DSA Maintenance

DSA setup is easy, but to have continued success advertisers should routinely reassess their exclusions and negatives to ensure not only that traffic is flowing to the appropriate pages on their site, but also that the traffic is relevant. The other major benefit of DSA campaigns is the opportunity to generate site traffic that would not have been generated via your existing list of keywords.

Most advertisers know what keywords contribute to the majority of site traffic, but reviewing search queries that lead customers to your site via a DSA campaign could help you discover valuable alternative search terms you can then add as keywords. This process should be performed periodically over time to generate additional program growth.

What about Bing?

Bing Ads offers DSAs as well and they function the same as with Google Ads. Bing explicitly recommends duplicating your Google Ads DSA campaigns in Bing, which tells you just how functionally identical they are to Google. The same successful practices you administer on Google are equally applicable to Bing.

Retail’s Best Friend

What industries or verticals stand to benefit the most from DSAs? Short answer, eCommerce, and online retailers. Reason being that DSAs will segment your website content into specific categories, such as product categories, to trigger highly relevant ads and landing pages. Advertisers who have a large catalog of webpages and products are ideal users of DSAs and will save time from needing to specify ad text and landing pages for every product.

Review of Pros and Cons


  • Create targeted and relevant ads automatically
  • No keyword lists
  • No need to update or customize ad titles
  • Discover new opportunities


  • Diminished Control

The good far outweighs the bad, and bad is an overstatement, there really is no bad. The diminished control found using DSAs can be mitigated with a comprehensive set of traditional keyword campaigns. The best search programs are using DSAs in addition to keyword-driven text ads.

The Bottom Line

DSAs are a valuable ad type that every advertiser should consider. When managed properly, including thorough reviews of exclusions and negatives, DSAs offer a low-risk way to boost search traffic that may otherwise have gone untouched.


To learn more about how you can create better, higher-performing ads that drive peak performance, connect with our digital media experts today.