In Part 16, I pointed out that PPC accounts eventually have to expand beyond the low-hanging fruit if they’re going to contribute to further business growth. Part of that effort is to expand to higher-funnel research stage queries, to marginal queries that could be bid lower, and to long tail queries that no human being could rightly expect to discover via research or prediction.
There are a number of ways to do consumer research – or to brainstorm – to come up with these new avenues. There’s plenty of scope for ingenuity here; there are specific data sources you’d be well-advised to consult. One area you can mine is site search data (available, much of the time, in Google Analytics if not your own back-end website analytics). Indeed, Google Analytics site search data could be mined for criteria like which queries were the highest-converting. These might spawn ideas for new adgroups.
But one handy research engine to keep running over a sustained period is the Google campaign type called Dynamic Search Ads (DSA). DSA technology, according to Google, “use(s) your website content to target your ads and can help fill in the gaps of your keyword based campaigns.” It’s ideal for sites with a lot of product inventory, they say.
Essentially, Google’s ads bot spiders your whole site (or the parts of it that you specify via targeting options), and depending on your bid, the content of the page, and various other signals, dynamically inserts headlines and serves the ad to a user as a PPC ad in search results. Google’s sophisticated algorithm decides on whether there is enough of a match between a user query and the content on the page, not unlike the same process that occurs in the organic search results.
Many advertisers generate very poor ROI out of the gate from DSA, so hastily shut it off. In fact, it can be a constructive tool with multiple benefits to account management. Here are a few tips to make it so:
- Expect negative keywords to be a staple of your routine. Google’s matching may be quite experimental and broad, so consult the Search Terms report for performance data on a regular basis.
- Decide on an approach to bidding, such as one that features lower CPC’s than the rest of the account. With “lowball” bidding, you stand a chance of getting closer to your target ROI figures, even if the conversion rate from DSA is lower (this assumes steady effort in adding negative keywords and many judgment calls about which search queries are just too general in their intent to continue showing ads against).
- Don’t expect much benefit on smaller sites without much content (or retail businesses without very many products).
- Do consider building out more content on the website. Content strategies help your business performance in multiple ways. A content strategy helps build trust and authority with your target audience. It might ideally speak in a unique voice and carry over to multiple venues, such as organic social media and email. Resources on the website potentially attract more unpaid search queries (i.e. it’s an SEO benefit). But with sufficient content, that “SEO-like” effect is also viable when you enable a DSA campaign within Google Ads. With varied content addressing a wider array of research-stage concerns among consumers (or a target B2B audience), DSA can help you add new customers for reasonably cheap CPC’s. (In this sense, we sometimes give DSA the nickname “paid SEO.”)
- Consider a dedicated campaign that pursues a compartmentalized “DSA logic,” rather than enabling the Dynamic technology in every campaign, as Google now seems to want us to do. By considering DSA as a peculiar type of initiative that provides an incremental lift – and in this realm, explicitly guarding against cannibalization and overbidding on query inventory that should be available more cheaply – you can avoid the ambiguity that creeps in when one weaves multiple approaches to targeting into multiple campaigns. ‘Nuff said.
In terms of PPC account growth, DSA offers multiple benefits.
- Keyword research at scale. If you’ve built out and iterated a high quality PPC account, you should have a lot of keyword research already under your belt. But your own ideas may be no match for the vast array of consumer interests that are out there. Combine that vast and unpredictable universe with the wonders lurking in any large, dynamic website (a large number of product descriptions, or an active content strategy, would be examples of “large and dynamic”), and you wind up with an incredible trove of ideas (from queries that trigger the Dynamic Search Ads, as always viewable in the Search Terms report – a little unusual given that there are no actual keywords in the campaign!) that you can use to build out new adgroups or even whole campaigns. As you’ve already guessed, this is just an extension of the idea of using broad match keywords to study the query universe. DSA can even help you catch hot trends. It might help you in planning your product lineup for next year, or in deciding what products you’ll need to begin stocking more of. Consumer search behavior is real time, and as such, it’s like a Distant Early Warning system for incoming trends.
- Oh, and speaking of content strategies, if there are themes coming to light in DSA that aren’t adequately covered in your website content, this could help create a pretty extensive content calendar, which will in turn result in more of the free good stuff (website visits and engagement from organic search).
- Addressing higher-funnel queries. It may be a good idea – though somewhat challenging – to run two separate DSA campaigns. One, bid globally at moderate aggressiveness, for queries of middling intent (not the highest purchase intent, but product-related at some level, for example). The other, more tolerant of research stage queries or queries adjacent to your products (such as “peanut butter cookies recipe” instead of “buy peanut butter” or +cookies +online +shipping). If you can, bid the higher-funnel queries more modestly, and also give them a more generous ROAS target. Sometimes we search far and wide for new ways to spend the budget, when the answer is there, in our own products, in the content we painstakingly create on the website. We’re not holding our organic traffic to the same conversion rate strictures as we do paid, so use a similar logic when expanding your reach via “paid SEO.”
- Relieves you of scale issues on very large, categorized sites that pay for media, but which aren’t product-based (such as service directories). (Google Shopping won’t work here, but DSA will.)
- Acts as a convenient scapegoat. Inevitably, when an ad campaign affects multiple stakeholders, there may be a few people who take issue with your ads, even if there isn’t anything illegal about them, or, indeed, anything wrong with them at all. Because you haven’t specifically referenced anything or anyone (the matching technology just works off of your website’s content), you can answer complaints truthfully with an opaque explanation and a link to Google’s help files. If someone keeps complaining loudly, you may be able to add some negative keywords that would address the complaint, while scarcely making a dent in the overall effort.
As with most other moving parts in a paid media campaign, business growth is the name of the game. I wouldn’t bother with DSA unless I genuinely saw it contributing to a lift at reasonable cost.
DSA seems like a strategy to leverage automation and machine learning, which it is. Somewhat ironically, it’s going to be as much work as any other part of your account. You’ll have to watch queries like a hawk, and learn from them. You’ll have to have a strong sense of bid strategy and pitfalls like cannibalization. You’ll have to focus on good quality creative, at least the non-dynamic parts. And you may have to set up a lot of adgroups if you want to narrow things a bit by defining targets.Read Part 34: The Science of (Ignoring) Google Ads’ Optimization Score