Evaluating Page Performance for Dynamic Search Ad Campaigns

At Clix, we love Google’s dynamic search ad campaigns. However, it is one of those tools that you can easily think isn’t working if you don’t utilize a few basic optimizations.

Since most PPC pros are familiar with search query analysis, I’m going to skip that optimization and say make sure you remove completely unrelated queries just as you would in other campaign types. A best practice is to also exclude all of your current search keywords as well.

One of the easiest optimizations to overlook and underutilize is the ability to evaluate and adjust pages that are being used in your dynamic search ads campaign.

DSA Page Feeds

When using dynamic search ads, I have found that the easiest way to manage these campaigns is by having a dynamic search ads page feed in place. This list is an upload of URLs to communicate to Google which pages of your site should be utilized in the campaign (instead of giving Google the change to include things all pages of your site as a potential Final URL). If you need more information about setting these up, Michelle Morgan wrote a great complete instructive guide on page feeds for dynamic search ads that you should definitely check out.

What I want to talk about today is evaluating the performance of your pages after your campaign is setup and you have some data. Performance might be looking a little off or just not in line with what you’re seeing in normal Search campaigns. These optimizations will help you to get the most out of DSA with just a few optimizations. I hope that you can find some easy takeaways to apply to your DSA campaigns.

Reviewing DSA Page Performance

Within your DSA campaign, navigate to the “dynamic ad targets” option in the lefthand navigation of the new AdWords interface.

Select “Search Terms” at the top.

This report is not just search terms. It also includes which pages were dynamically shown and which headlines were generated with which search queries. It’s a pretty all-encompassing report, which is what I like about it. Download the report with all of your necessary metrics and the date range you’d like to examine.

This is where you’ll want to get Excel involved, otherwise, this analysis will be near impossible.

Once in Excel, you’ll want to make a pivot table. Why? That’s because there are many variations of the ads you setup + the dynamic headlines (these are pulled from the page headlines) + final URLs that you will be dizzy trying to evaluate performance at such a granular level. The pivot table will give you a much higher view in terms of page performance and will allow you to drill down into headlines more if you need. (More on that later.)

Make sure to remove the total lines from the report before creating the pivot table. Below is an example of my pivot table. I suggest adding columns for CPA, clickthrough rate and CPC for additional insights.

Let’s hop into evaluating performance and how to make improvements.

Improving Page Performance in DSA

Here are some metrics I use as a guide through this process:

  • Pages that have spent more than the CPA goal for the campaign.
  • Pages that are performing well.
  • Pages that have high clickthrough but low conversion rates.

Let’s talk about what to about all of these situations.

High Spend, No Conversions

If you’re going to make one adjustment to your DSA campaign, make it this one. Since Google is attempting to read the pages of your site, there is bound to me some mixups sometimes and ads that just don’t translate well with the pages that are being selected.

In my pivot table, I have a $150 CPA goal. In this case, I want to keep the pages that have spent $150+ from showing any longer.

To keep Google from using these pages, you’ll want to go back to the Dynamic Ad Targets page in the interface. Select “Negative Dynamic Ad Targets” in the navigation. Click the blue plus sign to add a negative dynamic ad target. You can select to put this exclusion at the ad group or campaign level. In my case, I want to get rid of these pages altogether, so I’m selecting campaign level.

Enter the page URL from the report into the blank and click add.

This is the way that I most commonly add pages as exclusions, but you can also use the Category, Custom label, Page content, or Page title if you want to be more specific or broad with your exclusions. For beginners or for campaigns that do not have an overwhelming amount of traffic, using the URL is probably the best way to do this without getting too technical or impacting performance too much.

Once you have added all of your exclusions, click save.

Pages That Are Performing Well

For pages that are performing well, you may want to break them out into their own managed ad groups. This helps you have more control over the ads and the performance levels. It’s important to note that there are a couple of ways to do this: You could setup a separate DSA campaign for these placements and make sure there is no overlap between the two, but I have an easier way to do the same thing.

Head to Business Data > Page Feeds. Edit your custom labels by adding a different label to the pages you want to break out. Make sure this is different than other labels you’re using elsewhere.

Head back into your DSA campaign. Setup a new ad group.

Add a name, bid and then select your custom label and click “add” and then “save and continue.”

Make sure to add some ads that have copy that is specific to the pages with your new label.

To cover all of your bases, I’d recommend excluding the other labels that are being used elsewhere in your campaign just to prevent overlap. Use the exclusion process outlined above but instead of excluding by URL, exclude by custom label.

Pages That Have High Clickthrough Rate but Low Conversion Rate

As with other ads and campaign types, you can conclude that there is a potential mismatch between your ad and landing page if folks are clicking your ad but not converting. This is even more likely to happen with DSA since Google is dynamically matching the query with your page and headline.

Here is how to handle that issue:

In this example, the cost is not exceeding the CPA limit. Folks are clicking the ads, but are not converting. First, I would recommend digging in a little. Review the dynamically generated headlines which are also available within the search terms reports from the auto-targets tab in your DSA campaign.

As you can see, headline 3 has spent the bulk of the budget, but something seems to not be working perhaps between the headline and what the landing page is offering. Making an adjustment to the page title is something I’d recommend asking your SEO team to handle if you’d like to keep the page live but the headline is performing poorly. If after adjusting the headline, you’re still seeing poor performance, I’d say it’s time to exclude that page and put budget elsewhere.


There is a lot of potential for DSA, you just need to make sure you are making adjustments and putting your best pages forward. With a few adjustments, you can see some great results from your DSA campaigns.

If you want some more information about DSA and all of the things it can do for you, check out this presentation, “Making DSA a Tool for Every Account” by Michelle Morgan.

What are your biggest tips for managing page performance in your DSA campaigns? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!