Save Time: Embrace “Dynamic” Solutions in PPC

As PPC professionals, we usually have some degree of “control freak” running through our veins. Some folks might be on the lighter end of that, but it’s no secret that one of the things we like most about our profession is the ability to pull strings and make things happen. We like to control things at all levels within our accounts, then see the performance that setup earned, then make adjustments accordingly. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a bit of a maddening process. And can take quite a bit of time and energy.

But is all of that control paying off? Are there ways we could loosen our grip just a bit, let something else take over, and still see great results?


Luckily, and not surprisingly, our advertising platforms have developed a set of tools to help us managers out. I’ll be talking about seven ways within your accounts that you can leverage these dynamic tools to help make your day easier without feeling like you’re losing all control. We’ll start with the lowest amount of dynamic interference and move to an ever decreasing level of control from there.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Dynamic Keyword Insertion, or DKI, has been around for quite a while and most advertisers are already somewhat familiar with it. Dynamic Keyword Insertion allows advertisers to adjust their ad copy to include the keyword that triggered the ad to show if it fits in within the character limits. If not, you can provide a default text to show when your keyword doesn’t fit. Here’s an example:


In this case, your ad would show “Buy Dark Chocolate Online” as the default headline if any of your keywords in that ad group caused the headline to go over it’s 30 character limit. Here are a few example headlines in this scenario:

This tool has essentially replaced the need for more granular account set ups. Prior to Dynamic Keyword Insertion, one would have to create very tightly themed ad groups with minimal keywords and then written specific keyword inclusive headlines to produce the same results. Dynamic Keyword Insertion allows advertisers to save some time on the actual build of the account and still be able to leverage these keyword specific headlines.

  • Time Saving Score: Low
  • Best Uses: Accounts with low campaign structure segmentation.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords & Bing Ads
  • Areas to Watch Out For: It’s important to remember that this is Dynamic Keyword Insertion, not Dynamic Query Insertion. Any text that replaces your default text will be based on the keyword that triggered your ad, not the query the user searched on. This means that if you’re trying to cover your bases with lots of different word orders in your keyword list, you could end up with some pretty funky ad text that might not make lots of sense grammatically.

Dynamic UTM Parameters

Dynamic UTM Parameters don’t end up having an audience-facing impact on your ads like the rest of the tools I’ll be discussing today, but they do impact how accurately you’re able to track your campaign performance. Although Google and Bing both have their own versions of autotagging, sometimes those simply aren’t sufficient. In some cases, companies need both the Google click ID (GCLID) tracking for Google Analytics and additional UTM parameters (or non-UTM) for other tracking platforms.

Say you want to track each keyword and its performance through your CRM. To do so, you would have to create individual tags for each keyword with the utm_term tag being present for each. With ValueTrack parameters, rather than having a different tracking template for every single keyword in your account, you can simply add utm_term={keyword} and the advertising platforms will dynamically insert the term that was triggered.

Outside of keywords, there are some other tracking parameters that can make your tagging job easier. Whether you’re looking to get some specific insights into ad position, device categories, or some more intricate results for Shopping Campaigns, there are a number of these parameters that can save you time so you don’t have to manually write each tag out.

  • Time Saving Score: Low
  • Best Uses: Any company who needs additional information on top of autotagging.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords & Bing Ads
  • Areas to Watch Out For: In both of these channels, it is possible to leverage both manual and auto-tagged URL parameters, but you need to be very careful that you don’t cause your ads to be counted twice (by duplicating the same UTM parameters) or override your data in Google Analytics as explained here.  There is the ability to have Google Analytics track both, but you need to set up an override ride in the settings as explained here.

Ad Customizers

Ad Customizers, like DKI, are a way to adjust your ad copy based on different attributes, but allow you to leverage information from your business rather than just a keyword. Take this image for example:

This is advertising flight inventory from NYC. On any given day, the inventory and price of these flights changes, putting whatever ad copy you wrote the prior day out of date. Both the flight count and the price in the ad above are able to be dynamically changed by using Ad Customizers. Here’s how.

To get started, you’ll need to think about what all aspects of your ad copy you want to be dynamic. With standard and custom attributes available, Ad Customizers offer nearly an endless list of options available for your ads. Here is a list of the types of changes you can make:

  • Device Preference
  • Scheduling
  • Start & End Dates
  • Target Campaigns, Ad Groups, Keywords
  • Target Keyword Match Types

Ad Customizers allow for very intricate ad customization in real-time, but will require a bit more set up in the early stages to make that happen. Not only will you need to adjust your ad copy to accept the dynamic Ad Customizer variables, but you’ll also need to create and upload a spreadsheet that houses all the details around your customizations.  As an added bonus, it’s also possible to schedule regular updates of your Business Data into AdWords so you don’t have to manually upload a new spreadsheet every day.

Now let’s return to the flight example above. With the use of Ad Customizers, you’ve created your ads to accept dynamic parameters and each day the data now populates flight counts and fares from your daily automatic updates from the Business Data spreadsheet that you’ve created. Instead of spending a good chunk of your time each day creating ads that are up to date with your flight inventory, you’re able to dig into the higher level data and make more impactful changes to your account, saving you time and money.

  • Time Saving Score: Medium
  • Best Uses: Companies with needs for intricate or multiple customizations in each ad.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords
  • Areas to Watch Out For: With each new layer of complexity you introduce to your ads, it’s also important to keep things straight and ensure you’re not creating ad Frankensteins. Give a spot check with numerous variables in your spreadsheet to ensure all possible combinations make sense so you’re not scaring potential customers off.


Countdowns are a type of Ad Customizer that allow you to dynamically count down to a certain time directly in your ad copy. These are great if you want to create a sense of urgency with your ad messaging by dynamically letting folks know when your event or sale will end.

In the past, pulling this type of messaging off required quite a dance, typically with multiple bulksheet uploads or the use or automated rules in a delicate sequence. Now, it’s a simple matter of some dynamic text in ad copy, which is also relatively easy to set up with the help of their Countdown builder widget.

Countdown functions have some fairly advanced capabilities. First, they’ll automatically count down based on the largest unit of time. They start with days, then hours, then minutes, so you don’t have to worry about adjusting your unit of time. Second, ads with Countdowns will automatically stop showing at their specified date. Again, meaning no manual intervention or additional automated rule is needed when your sale or event ends.

Lastly, if you want to utilize Countdowns in a recurring manner, there’s a way you can do that as well. Say you have a series of events that you want to advertise without changing out the ad copy. Simply apply a little Ad Customizer know-how with an assist from a Business Data upload to specify the list of events and their end dates to dynamically update the ads based on the time each event takes place. By default, ads will start showing 5 days before an events scheduled Countdown end time, so you don’t even have to worry about turning ads on in the first place. An example of that can be found in this link.

  • Time Saving Score: High
  • Best Uses: Companies with sales or time sensitive events like live webinars.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords
  • Areas to Watch Out For: Countdowns are actually a fairly safe type of dynamic ad variable. There are a number of safeguards in place for Countdowns and your ads will automatically shop showing once they have reached their end date. That said, if you’re using Countdowns in all ad variants in a given ad group, then once your event is over you’ll be left with 0 active ads.

IF Functions

IF Functions are a very recent addition to the PPC world. Launched in early 2017, this new features allows advertisers to adjust ad copy in similar ways to the Ad Customizers above, but also have a few tricks up their sleeve. First, IF Functions have some differences when it comes to their abilities. They allow you to adjust ad copy per the user’s device in a similar manner to Ad Customizers. But IF Functions also have a pretty awesome new feature: dynamic text based on audiences. If you’re using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) in your campaign, IF Functions allow you to craft different messaging for audience members depending on which list they fit in. This can be very powerful if you’re offering different incentives for each audience.

Previously, this type of message segmentation would require a highly segmented and prioritized build out of Retargeting campaigns with audience and ad copy matchups. This could cause accounts to be very over built and tough to manage. Not to mention the time it takes to build the required infrastructure might not be worth it given the size of the audiences. With the use of IF Functions, we can keep our audiences pooled together, keep our account sizes down, but still reap the benefits of customized copy for unique audience members.

Lastly, IF Functions are a bit different than Ad Customizers in that they don’t require a Business Data upload. Dynamic text can be written directly into the ad text in the same way Dynamic Keyword Insertion is done. Depending on the scale of your ad adjustments, this can either be a big time saver or a pain in the butt, so think your dynamic text strategy through before choosing one strategy or the other where you have a choice.

  • Time Saving Score: Medium
  • Best Uses: Any company with differing messages by device or audience.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords
  • Areas to Watch Out For: Since IF Functions live within your ads, it can be tough to determine ad testing winners since you’re not entirely sure which message each person saw. I would suggest testing IF Functions against non-IF Statement ads, or testing them against each other (i.e. one IF Statement ad offers Discount A, the second offers Discount B) for easiest ad copy winner determinations.

Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads, or DSAs, are the first of two fully dynamic campaign types that we’ll discuss. Rather than only scratching one particular dynamic itch, DSAs take a number of things out of the advertisers hands to save them time and grow their online presence. Rather than building regular keyword-targeted search campaigns, Dynamic Search Ads let you target search users based on how closely their queries relate to the material on your website. Ads are then dynamically generated (partially) to show those users a meaningful message.

Here is a list of what Dynamic Search Ads do for you:

  • Enter your ad into relevant auctions for search queries found to be relevant to you based on your website copy.
  • Choose a headline to match closely with that query.
  • Determine a landing page for your ad that ties closely to the query and headline.

The goal of DSA is to help advertisers move beyond their current keyword lists to find new, relevant search queries for their companies. They’re explicitly intended as a complementary campaign to your normal search efforts, and aren’t supposed to replace Search campaigns. Prior to Dynamic Search Ads, advertisers would have had to rely on broad match queries to help them find this type of additional scale in search queries, at times with the new options being pretty far outside of their intended audience.

Depending on the quality of your website copy, Dynamic Search Ads can allow you to find new queries in a more controlled way than regular broad match keywords. You just have to be willing to give up control of your ad copy and landing pages to do it.

  • Time Saving Score: High
  • Best Uses: Any company with good websites.
  • Available Channels: Google AdWords & Bing Ad
  • Areas to Watch Out For: Just like any other search campaign, Dynamic Search Ads can often reach into certain queries that simply aren’t ideal for your business. Regular reviews of the search query report are part of maintenance best practices for DSA, though at some point you might find yourself rendering your DSA useless. But that’s OK. It’s what you should be doing.

Dynamic Retargeting

Dynamic Retargeting is another fully dynamic campaign type like Dynamic Search Ads. It combines the abilities we have to remarket to people along with a product feed to serve ads based on the specific products someone viewed while on your site.

Prior to Dynamic Retargeting, this level of granularity was very hard to achieve. Similar to my example from the IF Function section, having this type of control over ad copy would have meant a pretty extensive set up with audiences based on pages/products viewed, highly customized copy, etc.

Now, advertisers are able to make a couple adjustments to their site tagging to allow for this type of highly customized messaging to be used. Additionally, this same type of targeting can also be used in Facebook. They have their own version called Dynamic Product Ads that function in a fairly similar fashion. For each, you’ll need to ensure you have site tagging rolled out and a product feed in place. Then you’re off to the races.

  • Time Saving Score: High
  • Best Uses: Ecommerce Stores
  • Available Channels: Facebook & Google AdWords
  • Areas to Watch Out For: As with any retargeting, it’s important to make sure your retargeting ads are driving to those folks that have the highest likelihood of converting. Dynamic retargeting ads do a great job of letting you reach back out with a specific product or set of products that they’ve viewed in the past, but with this specificity comes the greater chance of recognition. If you overload someone with too many impressions, or continue to advertise the same product to them after they’ve purchased, you’ve got a greater likelihood of irritating them with Dynamic Retargeting than if you used more generic retargeting.


There are quite a number of ways you can cede a bit of control within your ad copy without giving up specificity and while also getting some time back. Not all of these tools might be right for all accounts, but I encourage you to get creative and try to find ways they can work. In the long run, it’s typically more valuable to focus on the larger picture at hand rather than spending hours in a spreadsheet with ad copy variants.

So what do you think? Are you ready to let the advertising platforms take a little work off your plate? How have you been able to use these (or other) tools to save you time while still getting the job done? Share with us in the comments!

And check out the other posts in our Get Your Time Back: A Little PPC Automation Goes a Long Way series.