Dynamic Keyword Insertion: Possibilities and Pitfalls

Using dynamic keyword insertion in text ads is one of my favorite ways to boost a sagging click-through rate in an ad campaign. However, there is a fine art to using effective dynamic insertion to avoid awkward text ad phrasing that could actually hurt your performance.

First, let’s go over the basics. Here’s how dynamic keyword insertion works: you enter a specific formula into your text ads, and then whatever search query the user entered gets substituted for the formula in the text ad. The formula looks like this:

{KeyWord:Default Keywords}

And here’s how it would look in a draft text ad:

{KeyWord:Default Keywords}
Crazy Eddie has the best deals
on stuff! Buy, buy, buy!

In this case, everything between the brackets will be substituted by the user’s search term. So let’s say that I do a search for “discount widgets.” Here’s how the above ad would look to the user:

Discount Widgets
Crazy Eddie has the best deals
on stuff! Buy, buy, buy!

Notice the bold keywords? Besides adding highly relevant keyword to your text ads, dynamic keyword insertion has an added bonus. Any search terms a user enters are automatically bolded in PPC text ads. This adds another way for your text ads to stand out from your competition. Pretty neat, huh?

You may be wondering about the text after the colon (“Default Keywords”) in my example above. Here’s where the drawbacks of dynamic insertion come in. If a user’s search term exceeds the character limit imposed by the search engine (25 characters for headlines in Google, 40 characters for headlines in Yahoo), then you need to have a shorter, “default” keyword to take the place of the too-long query. Let’s say that I did a search for “discount widgets within 20 miles of Austin Texas.” Obviously, that’s going to be too long to cram into the headline. In this case, the search engine would show the title as “Default Keywords.” You can add whatever defaults you want after the colon, as long as they abide by the appropriate character limit. I recommend choosing relatively generic keywords that could easily apply to any relevant search term in the ad group.

One more thing about dynamic formula technique. The way you capitalize the word “keyword” in your formula affects how the inserted search term appears in your ad. Here’s the breakdown:

{keyword} search term
{Keyword} Search term
{KeyWord} Search Term
{KEYWord}* SEARCH Term
{KeyWORD}* Search TERM

*using excessive capitalization in your text ads could get your ads disapproved by the search engines. No one likes to be yelled at on the internet.

So what’s the benefit to all of this trouble? Using dynamic keyword insertion offers two perks to your text ads. First, you get to automatically use ad text that is highly relevant to your user’s search term. Second, this highly relevant text will be bolded in your ads, providing another eye-catching element to your ads. In my personal experience, ads using dynamic keyword insertion tend to provide a better click-through rate than identical ads without the dynamic text. This can give a flagging ad group a boost if you’re not getting enough clicks on your ads.

Dynamic keyword insertion doesn’t automatically fix things, though. You need to make sure that all of your keywords in your associated ad group would sound right inserted in the dynamic formula. After all, these are the keywords that your users will be searching for to see the ads. It helps to do a quick read-through of your keyword list before implementing a dynamic keyword insertion ad to make sure things are going to work out. It will save you some embarrassment (and keep you from losing potential customers!) in the long run.

Bonus Pro Tip: you can also use dynamic keyword insertion formulas within your ad description lines, but this can get a little tricky since you want to devote as much space as possible to the benefits of your service and other useful information. I generally only use dynamic keyword insertion for headlines, but have seen success in the few cases where I used it in the ad body as well.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
This entry was posted in Google AdWords, MSN AdCenter, Text Ads, Yahoo Search Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dynamic Keyword Insertion: Possibilities and Pitfalls

  1. Rex Dixon says:

    Would you happen to have any type of A/B Test results to share on our site – abtests dot com?

  2. Pingback: Create a successful Google Adwords Account (Part 1) « About Online Marketing