How to Audit Your DSA Campaigns | Dynamic Search Ad Optimization

October 12, 2020

9 Minute Read

At BFO, we’ve seen digital search ad campaigns lead to big results for our clients. Like any paid search effort, these results didn’t just happen. Like any great marketing opportunity, DSA campaigns need regular auditing to keep them from turning a great investment into a big marketing expense.

The way DSA campaigns use your site content to match user searches to your ads, it might seem that if your site is ranking well for your targeted SEO keywords, you can just let the ads run. We don’t recommend this.

Unlike search engine results page (SERP) rankings which are free, dynamic search ad click costs can add up fast – very fast! Un-audited DSA campaigns are a fast way to see your return on ad spend (ROAS) skyrocket, click-through-rate (CTR) plummet, and budget bust.

There are three elements we focus on when doing a DSA campaign audit:

1.  Monitoring your target audiences’ search trends.

2.  Keeping site and ad content and their CTAs hot, relevant and up to date, based on these search trends.

3.  Managing and adjusting DSA campaign settings to match search and content changes.

It’s worth noting you may need a few months of data to understand how your audience responds to DSAs before you can really start optimizing. Whether you’re just getting started or already running campaigns, you’ll need to do regular audits of your DSA campaigns to keep your ads relevant and ROAS acceptable.

We recommend following the process above for an efficient audit.

Search Trends, Keyword Monitoring and User Experience

Although DSAs don’t require you to maintain target keyword lists, you still need to know your audiences’ top search terms. These terms need to be in your site or page content, especially since these user search terms will tell Google your ads are relevant to the target audience. Generally common audience language does not often change, but trends do. Keeping up with trends and their impact on search is vital to the success of your display search ad campaigns.

What to do:

  • Review current SEO keyword trends
  • Review current position for target keywords you want to rank for
  • If the DSA campaigns have been running for a while, run reports showing change over time, such as YOY reporting. For newer campaigns, monthly reporting can reveal changes in keyword trends.
  • Look at metrics like click-through-rate (CTR), conversions, and return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) in Google Ads or Bing Ads, but don’t overlook impressions (traffic). Following traffic shifts can help to understand audience interests and what and when their searches best match your offer. By knowing how your target audience responds to your content, you’ll be in a better position to optimize both your content and ads.
  • Review device engagement. Has there been a shift from desktop to mobile? Are there specific hours audiences engage with your ads? Identify all of these relevant details to understand your audience and simplify optimization.
  • Confirm your current DSA campaign site or page targets continue to match audience search. For example, you might find you need to change your campaign targeting to specific pages instead of categories, such as if all your products fall into the same category. Alternatively, if you’ve been targeting your entire website and gotten a low response, it might be worth targeting a category and specific page.

Website and Landing Page Content Updates

With your keyword analysis completed, you can now make your content updates.

Content updates should be done in collaboration with the SEO team for optimum optimization. Furthermore, content should be done after you’ve identified any changes in page targeting. For example, if you’re going to target specific pages, you’ll want to focus on content changes to those pages over those on the home page. Content updates could even involve the creation of new pages entirely.

What to do:

  • Identify where you need content and keyword updates. The SEO and content teams will need to work together to weave in the keywords naturally.
  • Sync/write CTAs to meet user expectations and that offer a practical and reasonable next step.
  • Note the language used in content updates to ensure consistency when you update the description lines in the DSA campaign settings in the next step. The more tightly synced your content, keywords and SEO efforts, the better matched your campaign will be to your target audience.

DSA Campaign

Now it’s time to take all the keyword research and content updates and unite the messaging in the campaign as you hone your audience targeting.

Here’s what to do:

  • Review Negative Keywords. While DSAs don’t require keyword lists, you do need to manage the keywords you don’t want impressions for! Review the current list and add any keywords you wish excluded for your ads.
  • Update description lines and ad extensions. Google creates the ad headline, but you are responsible for the description lines. These should be optimized to reflect your website or web page content, especially if any of those pages were updated.
  • Confirm Dynamic Ad targets for each ad. If you’re going to target specific webpages, you can add/remove URLs and create rules to target the specific web pages. Using rules gives you a greater ability to target specific products and optimize your bids based on performance.
  • Make bid adjustments. Based on ad and/or product success as well as any changes to strategy and goals, review and adjust bids as appropriate. Adjust bids to based on device usage. If ads are doing better on mobile than desktop, these settings should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Review the ad schedule. Confirm the times your DSAs run matches your audience behavior and response. Narrow or expand the schedule as your data indicates.
  • Check label accuracy for custom feed (if applicable). If you’re targeting specific pages with rules and have loaded a custom feed, check product labels to ensure they remain accurate. Optimize.
  • Confirm remarketing approach. Is your DSA only for remarketing or are you using it for both remarketing and acquisition? Check your settings and adjust.
  • Do a technical SEO audit. You need to make sure tags on all targeted pages are implemented correctly and pages are indexable. If you’re targeting the entire site, you may want to do a full site audit.

Use Regular DSA Campaign Audits to Maximize Conversions and Drive Profits

DSA campaigns can keep you in front of your target audience when they are most ready to buy. Admittedly, DSAs don’t always get the last click, but their presence keeps you and your products in front of your audience and at the front of their minds, making them an important part of the sales funnel and a driving force behind conversions. The key to keeping your SDAS successful is regular audits and optimization to ensure the audience remains well-targeted and every ad relevant.

Curtiss Gulash - Director, Paid Media

Curtiss Gulash

When Curtiss is not being a Brewmeister, brewing amazing craft beers at Big Cat Brewing Company, in Cedar, Michigan, he is BFO’s Paid Media Team Lead with a specialty in marketing automotive brands. Curtiss is known for his super-human energy and loves taking a project from start to completion. He understands the world of digital media through and through and manages to juggle multiple curveballs, be a terrific team player, and a super coach to his staff.