The Beginner’s Guide to Dynamic Search Ads

Google launched Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) in 2011 and new updates have been rolling out ever since to help improve this campaign strategy. If you’re not familiar with DSA campaigns, this is how they work: Google either crawls your site or a page feed of your site URLs that you provide to index it. It will then use that data to dynamically determine what searches to show your ads for.

When it finds a query match, it will generate a headline and match it to the page it finds most relevant to the search. Since there are no keywords involved, these campaigns can work great as a gap filler for Search campaigns; considering that 15% of Google queries are new every day, you might be missing those with your Search keywords and DSAs can capture those for you.

Are DSAs the Right Fit for Your Business?

If you’re looking to expand your reach on Google but don’t want to try a strategy as broad as the Display Network or Broad match Search keywords, DSA is probably worth a test. But before diving in, there are some central questions you should ask about your website to help determine if DSAs could work well for you:

Do I have thorough site content?

Is that content up-to-date?

Do I have clear calls-to-action on my site?

If you answered Yes to those three questions then you should give DSA a shot. Having a site that meets the above criteria is ideal to get the most out of your DSA campaign, but if your site content is a little hit or miss you can still test DSA by setting up Page Feeds with just your best pages.

Setting Up Page Feeds

This is a new-ish feature for DSA campaigns (which Bing just rolled out too), and it’s proven really valuable in our accounts.

To get started with Page Feed setup, head to the Business Data section of the UI, which will default to the Data Feeds page:

From there, select the blue + symbol, then choose Page Feed:

At this point, you’ll have the option to either upload your file or download a template if you’re unsure of how to set up your file:

If you download the template, you’ll get the following:

Here, you’ll want to utilize the Custom Labels column to help categorize your pages. You’ll be able to set bids based on your labels so you’ll want to really consider these and get a good strategy in place. You can add multiple labels per page if needed, separated by a semicolon.

Once you’ve laid out the pages you want to include with their corresponding labels just upload your file. Note that it can take Google some time to crawl your feed, so these won’t serve immediately.

Campaign Setup

Whether you’re using a Page Feed or not, to create a DSA campaign, you’ll choose the + icon, then ‘New Campaign’ in the UI to get started:

Then choose Search for your campaign type:

From there, you’ll want to un-check the Display box and put in your core campaign settings like Geo, bid strategy, budget, etc. To select Dynamic Search Ads, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Additional Settings’ and you’ll see the option for Dynamic Search Ads:

Once you expand the dropdown menu for Dynamic Search Ads, you can check the box to select it. You’ll then put in your domain, language and choose your targeting strategy — just Google’s index of your website, the Page Feed(s) you uploaded or a combination of both:

If you choose the first option, index of your site, you’ll be taken to the following page for ad group setup:

You can see the three choices vary from broad reach of All webpages, to Categories that Google has generated, to a list of exact URLs you input or rules if you want to get a bit broader.

I would recommend you structure your ad groups for DSA similarly as you would a regular Search campaign. That said, I wouldn’t recommend the All webpages option as you’ll want to be able to tailor your ad Descriptions to the most relevant pages.

If you choose the Page Feed option as your targeting source, you’ll be taken to the following page for ad group setup:

Here is where you can add your custom label(s) that you uploaded in your page feed. In terms of campaign structure, I’d recommend the same thing here as above, where you break out your ad groups/custom labels similarly as you would in your regular Search campaigns.

Reviewing & Optimizing DSA Campaigns

In addition to your usual Search campaign optimizations, like reviewing Device performance, day parting etc, there are a couple key performance categories you’ll want to be sure you review for DSA campaigns to help ensure things are continually on the up and up.

Landing Page Performance

Whether you’re letting Google fully take the reigns on what pages to show where or you’ve created your own page feed, you should regularly review landing page performance. You’ll find this data in the same place as non-DSA campaigns, under Landing Pages in the lefthand navigation: 

You’ll be able to add bid modifiers to your landing pages based on performance, as well as exclude some pages if needed. Here’s an example of page performance in one of our DSA campaigns; you can see how much it varies:

You can see that some of the poor performers should be considered for exclusion and some top performers should get bid boosts. Whether you’re reviewing performance at the campaign or ad group level, just drill down to the Dynamic Ad Targets page in the lefthand navigation bar (shown in the above screenshot).

To add certain pages to adjust their bids, click the blue + sign, then choose Specific Webpages. From there, you can enter the individual URLs you want to adjust bids for or you can create a rule if the ones you’re evaluating can fall into similar categories and be bid upon as a group:

To exclude certain pages, just click on ‘Negative Dynamic Ad Targets’ at the top. Then you can exclude by either URL, URL rule or custom label if you’re using a feed:

Search Queries & Negative Keywords

The other key thing to monitor for DSA campaigns is Search queries. While DSA can be great for mining new terms, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on the kind of traffic your campaigns are picking up. I generally recommend reviewing your Search queries on a weekly basis when first launching, then you can move to a less frequent cadence after you’ve gotten some strong negatives in place.

Secondly, you’ll want to be sure to exclude your existing Search keywords from your DSA campaigns to help avoid cannibalization and keep your traffic segmented.


Ultimately, if you have a great website and you’re looking to expand your Search reach, DSAs can be a great asset to your marketing efforts. With the right campaign structure and regular performance monitoring, you can likely drive some solid performance from Dynamic Search campaigns.

For more DSA pro tips, check out our articles here and here.

What about you? Have you tested DSAs? What kinds of results have you seen? Let us know in the comments section below!