Digging Into DSA Strategies

This week Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem) is hosting in place of Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) with another great question set titled “Digging in to DSA Strategies.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Do you use Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) in your accounts? Why or why not? What’s your opinion of them?

  • Yes. Love it, especially with large ecom websites. – Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
  • I’m a fan. I use them in nearly all of my accounts whether on a large or small scale. – Michelle Morgan
  • Yes, sometimes. Particularly when an account is new, DSA is a great way to get something live quickly. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • Yes. Great tool, if used with control. – Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
  • I use DSA in Ecom clients bc they help cover holes in targeting while I build Search campaigns to focus on top brands/products. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • I use them pretty much everywhere, regardless of size. They plug a lot of possible holes. – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • We do for some accounts! Shady as they may sound, they definitely make your life easier. – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • Using them mostly on accounts where we want to collect new search queries without going full broad. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • I’ve used them, but the account I was testing dropped their budget and I haven’t had a chance to revisit. – Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
  • Not currently, as I would want a client with a bigger budget. I tried it two years ago, but the queries shown for were awful. – Kevin Adams (@KevinAdamsPPC)
  • Was useful for getting a recent ecomm site campaign off the ground while getting shopping feed details settled. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Used to at my old agency. Not with my new as ad copy is highly regulated with legal restrictions, unfortunately. – Kimberly Wingo (@wimmiekingo)
  • Yes, they’re great for prospecting and keyword expansion. Most big retailers use them A LOT, but good for smaller guys too. – Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
  • Mostly for Ecom campaigns, content marketing and query discovery. Set lower bids to collect data and analyze results. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)

Q2: Before you launch campaigns, what types of analysis do you run to determine viability, if any?

  • I really don’t, but I keep tight control on it after it’s launched. Negative keywords, geo targeting, etc. – Mike Crimmins
  • I use the Google Keyword Planner & run the site through it to see what Google thinks it’s about & the keywords it suggests. Gives a good idea of the queries you might match to so you can proactively add negatives before launch. – Michelle Morgan
    • I go the same route and then hit main site sections for specifics. – Nate Knox
  • Analyze the website to see if there are common URL patterns to segment DSA. Both for targeting and excluding. – James Svoboda
  • If you’re targeting DSAs by URL, make sure the page has enough context for Google to make a solid correlation with queries. – Joe Martinez
  • Do I have the budget to cover necessary campaigns & still try DSA? What will DSA cover that I can’t set up easily in Search? – Kirk Williams
  • Read the website. Anything to be afraid of (About us, disclaimers, policies worries, ect). – Mark Irvine
  • DSA is more “Ready, Fire, Aim” then carefully planned ahead. – Kyle Crocker
  • I’m curious to know how many of your clients are knowledgeable in DSA. Do they have opinions or just say things like, “oh cool”? – Nate Knox
    • Most of my clients don’t care about the tactics. However, some love how DSA can replace things like non-brand campaigns. – Mike Crimmins

Q3: What types of accounts do you think are best suited for DSA campaigns?

  • Large ecommerce clients with many products or SKUs – DSA does dreams there. – Mark Irvine
  • Ones that have some budget to play with. – Michael Fleming
  • DSA works best on ecom sites for me so far. Or websites where I can’t find the right keyword mix…if that makes sense. – Mike Crimmins
  • Ecommerce and Content Promotion campaigns. – James Svoboda
  • Those looking for keyword expansion as long as the site is viable. I find them useful in almost any vertical. – Michelle Morgan
    • I’ve been extremely hesitant outside of highly specific applications. Maybe I need to test more. – Timothy Jensen
    • Agreed! this can also be a good way to pitch it to clients. – Erin Sagin
      • Yep. When I discuss DSA, I talk about diminishing returns of me doing keyword research vs letting DSA take the reigns. – Michelle Morgan
  • Any site with a large, frequently changing inventory. – Timothy Jensen
  • Primarily Ecom bc of the ability to cover entire account far more efficiently than manually building out 20K Search campaigns. – Kirk Williams
  • Can be a good helping hand for clients that are very niche and have low search volume. Must emphasize the “can be.” – Joe Martinez
  • Large websites with many new products where keyword expansion can be easily missed. Also good for complex products, B2B. – Jordon Meyer
  • The only instance i can think of is if someone’s churning out a LOT of content without the time for a detailed strategy. – Andrew McCarthy
  • I like them and even use it as further fodder for working on their site content more. “If Google can’t figure it out, work on it." – Nate Knox
  • Any deep site. There needs to be more pages/content than can be individually managed. A 10 page site probably wouldn’t work. – Kyle Crocker
    • Frankly, if you’re resorting to that level of automation for a 10 page site, you’re doing it wrong anyway. – Timothy Jensen

Q4: Are there any types of accounts you specifically DO NOT use DSA campaigns for? Why?

  • I haven’t encountered one yet where I thought it was a bad idea based on business rather than a poor site. – Michelle Morgan
  • I wouldn’t say specific types of accounts, more like websites with little content that don’t work well with DSA. – Mike Crimmins
  • Pharma or legal clients. At best, you get a lot of “naseau and constipation” searches. At worse, you risk policy violation. – Mark Irvine
  • That’s why it’s ideal for Ecom. If done well, really can be fairly decent way of bringing in traffic to non-popular products. – Kirk Williams
  • So far, the only cases outside of budget I’ve said no to are policy situations (guns & ammo) and bad sites. You can just apply negatives for bad search, so why not? – Nate Knox
  • Bad websites are the biggest deal breaker I’ve run into so far. Luckily no major policy pieces to steer clear of. – Michelle Morgan
  • (1) Any low budget account. (2) Any smaller account (lead gen, more than likely) with few pages/categories. – Kirk Williams
    • Do you say low budget just because you feel you could use the spend better somewhere else, or some other reason? – Michelle Morgan
      • Correct, I’d rather invest that limited budget in top Exact match terms, Shopping, etc. – Kirk Williams
  • Sensitive topics, clients with strict ad policy, if they’re not even doing retargeting or RLSA yet. – Jordon Meyer
  • Every. Single. Account. IMO if you’re relying on DSA, you don’t have the time or skills to do the job properly. – Andrew McCarthy
  • What if your client only wants to focus on certain products/services? Seems like DSA won’t work for that. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
    • Actually it will. Like Remarketing you can select URLs and URL patterns to match and promote. – James Svoboda
    • That’s when I roll up my sleeves and get granular with what I let DSA have access to. – Michelle Morgan
  • Never hurts to test it out. Try it on any account. If you’re cautious, just use a lower daily budget. – Joe Martinez

Q5: When starting a DSA camapign, do you tend to start by casting a wide net or by being very specific about targeted pages?

  • Wide net at first, with a close eye. – Mike Crimmins
  • I go sitewise with a low bid. Let’s just see what performs well and let it guide the rest of our search focus. – Mark Irvine
  • I do both. Cast a net and then set up a separate, small target to see how things shake out. – Nate Knox
  • I usually have one wide-net AG with VERY low CPCs, just to see what happens. Primarily have specific targeted AGs bid higher. – Kirk Williams
  • Wide net with low bids and budget AND targeted ad groups for select pieces of content to target with higher bids. – James Svoboda
  • Typically I start with a wide net, a low budget, and proactive negative keywords & excluded pages, then optimize from there. – Michelle Morgan
  • Focus on client’s important areas of business first. Then test out a wider net to find new opportunities. – Joe Martinez
  • Somewhere in the middle. For ecomm, start with a whole product category and go from there. – Michael Fleming
  • Go wide, low budget, high hopes, sip some coffee, think about that one time… Then reel it in and adjust targeting. – Jordon Meyer

Q6: When looking to optimize DSA performance, what reports & optimizations do you use regularly?

  • Search Query Report. – Kirk Williams
  • Search query reports, ad copy, etc. But my fav is finding the landing page performance via Google Analytics. Create a segment for just DSA campaign(s) then compare performance for every page that was used, then exclude bad ones. – Michelle Morgan
    • Love the idea of a DSA specific Analytics Segment. – James Svoboda
      • It’s fantastic. As long as your naming convention is easy to find, it couldn’t be easier to make then analyze. – Michelle Morgan
        • What naming convention do you use? I wish Analytics would recognize AdWords labels for things like this. – James Svoboda
          • Following up on your targeted ad groups note, I usually call mine “Search – DSA”. Let the ad groups handle segmentation. – Michelle Morgan
  • SQR by far #1. Then I’ll take bounce rate into consideration more when URL targeting to start weeding out bad pages. – Joe Martinez
  • This isn’t technically an optimization, but my fav thing to do to DSA campaigns is add remarketing lists. – Kirk Williams
    • Love it. Do you have audiences segmented or just a master list that comes back through DSA? – Michelle Morgan

Q7: How does your DSA strategy differ when using it for different business types? B2B vs B2C? Lead gen vs ecom?

  • I tend to get more granular with eligible page controls for lead gen. Ecom product pages tend to include pretty specific copy. Also, lead gen sites don’t always have clear CTAs on all pages like ecom. So I like to weed those out ahead of time. – Michelle Morgan
  • More likely to target a single page for lead gen rather than a category of pages. – Michael Fleming

Q8: Do you have any strategies or rules of thumb you think others should consider a “best practice”?

  • Run your site or potential landing pages through the Google Keyword Planner before getting started. Also, based on feedback from this chat, I’d say always create a segment in GA for your DSA traffic so you can analyze. – Michelle Morgan
  • Add all live search keywords as negatives into your DSA campaign. Supposed to filter these out already, but I do it to be safe. – Kirk Williams
    • Totally agreed. I always do this. Had DSA cannibalize traffic too much even though it’s not supposed to. – Michelle Morgan
  • Keep ad copy a little more “generic” since you don’t know what queries you’ll be attracting. – Michael Fleming
    • Good point. CTA is often generic as well like “Read More”. – James Svoboda
    • Good call. It might not be ideal, but can help this ad type perform better if you’re more generic with copy. – Michelle Morgan
    • I think RDSA should become a universally known, “must try” for Ecom clients. – Kirk Williams

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
• Kevin Adams (@KevinAdamsPPC)
• Kimberly Wingo (@wimmiekingo)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
• Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)

Digging into Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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