AdWords Dynamic Ad Targeting Grows Up

by Jack Howse on Friday 30 June 2017

It is 2017 and paid search has truly entered its teenage years – trading keywords for dynamic targeting as we ourselves once traded polo shirts and bowl cuts for hair dye and regrettable fashion choices. As paid search grows up, we too must move past the simpler strategies of its youth and embrace it for the channel it is maturing in to.

Not 5 years ago, ad formats such as Dynamic Search Ads and Google Shopping barely existed and all the emphasis was on keywords. “Keywords are key” was the advice given to me in my first PPC training session and while this was indeed good advice at the time, our training has had to become significantly more extensive as the platform has evolved.


Increasing Investment


Across the agency, we see accounts investing more and more into keyword-less activity, with Shopping impressions growing slowly from introduction of activity in 2014 and even overtaking search in late 2016. We expect this change in investment to continue to grow – and with good reason. 


Why Invest in Keyword-less Activity?


Like overbearing parents, unwilling to relinquish control over our maturing PPC accounts, there can be a temptation to avoid keyword-less activity. The fear is that without keyword targeting our accounts may run rampant, however the truth is often the opposite. While keywords are by no means redundant, the options provided in their place are extremely versatile and add incremental reach in an increasingly competitive space.

Dynamic Search Ads as we currently know them were relaunched in mid-2015 following a Google claim that 15% of search terms on any given day have never been seen before. DSAs, working using Google’s web crawler to identify search terms relevant to the target website, were intended as an answer to ensure coverage on such terms.

Whether or not the 15% figure holds true, we consistently see DSA activity generating traffic that would not have otherwise been covered by keywords. The reason for this being that user behaviour is almost impossible to predict, and when there are thousands of search terms seeing no more than one or two impressions a month, the impact of adding these terms as keywords to the accounts is usually small. Instead, using DSA to increase long-tail coverage and relevancy means that the focus of optimisation can be on wider-scale testing.

Another form of keyword-less activity, Google Shopping, is perhaps more well-known due to their difference in format on the SERP itself. Google’s confidence in this format has continued to grow over the years; moving from free to monetised, from placement on the right-hand side to prime position.

 It’s the difference in format which means that Shopping activity doesn’t perform in the same way as keyword activity – even for the same search terms. The ability for the user to see both the product image and the price before even clicking the ad drastically changes how qualified a user is when they do go on to click. It’s this qualification that often leads to substantially stronger conversion rates – and, as a consequence, often a more competitive landscape with higher CPCs. With these strong conversion rates in mind, it’s easy to see why Google might push the Shopping format more and more.
It’s due to the competition and growth opportunities on the Shopping landscape that we’ve developed our in-house feed management solution – known as Forge. It allows us to import raw feeds, run bespoke content adjustments and data transformations such as custom labels, and output feeds ready for Google shopping, Bing, Yandex, Facebook and any other platforms needed, as frequently as required. 


Where Next?


With Google pushing keyword-less targeting more every year, an open approach to new formats is vital in order to take advantage of the incremental opportunities they bring. With considered testing and optimisation, we can ensure that as AdWords moves forward, our campaign strategies and approach moves forward with it.