Google’s Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaigns dynamically match search queries to a relevant page on your website, creating highly targeted ads on the fly. Read on to learn how to leverage this tool to boost conversions.

Here you’ll learn:

  1. What are DSA campaigns?
  2. What is DSA targeting and how does it work?
  3. How to set up DSA campaigns
  4. DSA ads vs. RSA ads
  5. The benefits of DSA campaigns
  6. Disadvantages of DSA campaigns
  7. Best practices for DSA campaigns

Looking for the MVP of PPC ads? Google Dynamic Search Ads are the utility player of the Google Ads game.

DSAs are one of the simplest methods for connecting with potential customers actively searching on Google. This Google Ads campaign type is particularly adept at creating ads for businesses with extensive product inventories. 

This comprehensive guide will explore what DSA campaigns are, why they’re valuable, and how you can harness their potential to boost your marketing efforts. 

We’ll also share some actionable expert advice from HawkSEM’s Senior SEM Manager Alyssa Galik that you can apply to your next campaign and highlight the best strategies and common pitfalls to avoid.

 What are DSA campaigns?

DSA campaigns dynamically match a person’s search queries to a relevant page on your website, creating highly targeted ads on the fly. They’re designed to fill the gap between traditional keyword-driven Search campaigns. 

A softly unfocused backdrop captures the essence of a contemporary shopping mall, adorned with the graceful movement of shoppers who traverse its halls in search, Generative AI

(Image: Adobe Stock)

These ads typically work well for businesses with large, frequently changing inventories or websites with extensive content. If you have only a few products or offerings, you may find that other types of campaigns work better. 

 What is DSA targeting and how does it work?

DSA targeting works by scanning the target pages and using page titles and site content to find relevant audiences. Here are some ways it does that.


One of the main DSA targeting options is “categories.” With this targeting choice, Google Ads automatically selects relevant categories based on the content of your website. When you build your campaign, you review and select the categories you want to appear for. 

When a person on Google enters a search query that falls within one of your selected categories, Google dynamically generates an ad headline and matches it to a relevant landing page on your website. 

This broad and versatile approach makes it an excellent choice for businesses with many products or large volumes of content on their site.

Specific webpages

If your goal is to promote specific products, services, or pages on your website, specific webpage targeting is a great strategy to choose. 

This targeting option allows you to pinpoint exactly which pages you want to advertise, ensuring that your ads are highly relevant to users’ search queries.

You determine the specific URLs you want to target in your DSA campaign settings. 

When a user’s search query matches the content of those specific pages, Google dynamically generates an ad headline and directs users to the corresponding landing page. 

This level of precision will help you ensure that your ads align closely with the user intent.

All webpages

For maximum coverage and a set-it-and-forget-it approach that works well for marketers who are pressed for time, all website page targeting is a great option. 

With this strategy, Google Ads scans your entire website and creates ads for any relevant search query, providing comprehensive coverage across your site.

Google’s web crawling technology continuously examines your website’s content. When a person enters a search query that matches any content on your site, Google dynamically generates an ad headline and links it to the most relevant landing page. 

This option ensures that your ads are displayed for a wide range of relevant searches but gives you the least amount of control over where people land on your site.

Pro tip: Don’t go all in from the get-go.  “When first launching a DSA campaign, I would suggest only selecting a few landing pages to start then, eventually you can look to expand to your entire website,” advises Galik. “In order to minimize the wasted spend, be sure to add all your current keywords as negatives, as well as consider adding the career, sitemap, or documentation pages that may not bring in high-intent traffic.”

 How to set up DSA campaigns

Setting up DSA campaigns is a pretty straightforward process now.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to set up DSA campaigns.

Create a new campaign:

  1. In your Google Ads account, select “New Campaign” and choose “Search.”
google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

2. Choose a campaign goal: Select the most relevant campaign goal based on your marketing objectives (these options are the same as it is with other campaign types).

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

3. Select Campaign Type: Choose “Search.”

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

4. Choose conversion goals and the results you want to get from the campaign. Then, name your campaign and click Continue.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

5. Select bidding and customer acquisition settings.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

6. Set up your campaign settings.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

7. You’ll need to put something in the keywords and ads section to create the campaign. You can pause or delete this later.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

8. Add your budget. Then, finish the review and launch. Hit publish when you’re done.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads screenshot)

9. Now, go into your newly created campaign. Navigate to the ad group level. Click to create a new ad group and choose dynamic.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

10. Enter your website into the first box. Then, name your ad group. From here, enter your website targets and choose categories if they’re available. Then click save and continue.

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

11. Here, you’ll be asked to create some ads. The headlines will be automatically generated for you. You should create two to three options to test. When you’re finished, hit Save and Next. Now, you’re all set!

google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

 DSA ads vs. RSA ads

The difference between DSAs and responsive search ads (RSAs) lies in both in copy and targeting. RSAs belong to a standard ad campaign type, while DSAs are added to a dynamic campaign type.

While both are automated, here are their key distinctions:

  • DSA: DSAs are a type of text ad. These ads are created dynamically by Google based on your website’s content. Google generates headlines based on the user’s search query and matches it to relevant landing pages. It also uses your final URLs to generate display URLs. You write the description lines.
  • RSAs: RSAs are an ad format available in standard ad groups. They allow you to create multiple ad headlines and descriptions, and Google dynamically tests different combinations to find the best-performing ad. It offers more control over ad messaging compared to DSA campaigns. They allow Google’s machine learning to create ad combinations relevant to user query and intent.

So, if RSA offers more control, why would you want to use DSA campaigns?

 What are the benefits of DSA campaigns?

DSA campaigns offer a huge range of advantages for all kinds of businesses. Here are just a few.

1. Efficiency and time-saving

Anyone who works in digital marketing probably feels like they never have enough time to do all of the things on their task list. 

With so many marketing channels, business profiles, and marketing assets to manage, finding time to do everything to the standard you want can be difficult. 

Imagine you manage the marketing team for an ecommerce store with hundreds of products that change every season. To create individual ads for each product would be a monumental task. DSA campaigns automate this process, saving you countless hours. 

As your product catalog evolves, so do your ads, without any need for you to make adjustments. This can save you a huge amount of time and allow you to put your team’s manpower to other tasks. 

2. Discover new keywords

DSA campaigns will help you uncover new keywords and search queries and fill the gaps in your keyword coverage. These campaigns continuously scan your page content, page types, and other parts of your website, uncovering valuable keywords that you might not have thought to use. Many marketers use this type of campaign as a catch-all to ensure no stone is left unturned. 

“DSA campaigns allow you to find opportunities that you may not have explored without developing a robust strategy,” explains Galik. 

“By selecting high intent landing pages on your site and ensuring you have the proper exclusions in place, you can test and learn about other keywords that have conversion opportunities.” 

Where do you see these keywords? In the search term report!

3. Greater adaptability

DSA campaigns ensure that your ads are shown for relevant searches, even if they are not covered by your existing keyword lists.

Let’s say you own a news website. New things are happening every day, and you have to constantly update your site with new articles. 

Traditional campaigns struggle to keep up with the ever-changing content. DSA campaigns, on the other hand, dynamically generate ads for each breaking news story as it appears on your site, ensuring you capture immediate traffic.

Another good example of this is if your site frequently changes pricing because you run sales or have offers. DSA campaigns will be able to scan your site and update your ads accordingly.

4. Effective for sites with large inventories

One of the huge benefits of DSA campaigns is that it can scan sites that are enormous. If you have a product catalog with thousands of products, there is no way that you would want to go through each one and create an individual ad for it.

But DSA can do just that. And quickly. The limit for DSA ads is 25,000 targets per account, but you would need a pretty huge site to exceed that limit. DSA campaigns can, therefore, make managing your ads simpler. Whether you add new items, discontinue others, or update product descriptions, your ads remain synchronized with your website content.

 What are the disadvantages of DSA campaigns?

DSA campaigns can be highly beneficial, but there are a few disadvantages for some.

1. Less control

DSAs give you less control over your ad copy and targeting. If you work in a regulated industry or have another reason for needing more control, they may not be ideal for you.  

2. Easy to waste spend

DSAs require you to refine your targeting and add exclusions regularly. Without this, you’re in danger of wasting ad spend.

3. Overlap with other campaigns

Due to their nature, DSAs can create overlap with other campaigns. You’ll have to keep on top of your search terms report and liberally add negative keywords to ensure you’re not cannibalizing other campaigns.

 Best practices for DSA campaigns

DSA campaigns have major benefits for saving time and effort. But this means that marketers can approach them with a set-it-and-forget-it approach.

While they definitely require less effort, if you want to get the best results from them, you still have to implement a proper strategy.

Here are some best practices to follow with DSA campaigns. 

1. Start with well-structured website content

Your website’s content needs to be logically organized into categories and subcategories for DSA campaigns to work effectively. Organization makes it easier for DSA campaigns to match search queries with relevant pages on your site.

2. Conduct thorough negative keyword research

Identify and add negative keywords that are irrelevant to your products or services. This prevents your ads from appearing for unrelated search queries.

For example, if you have an ecommerce site that sells electrical goods, you might want to eliminate keywords such as “manual” or “instructions.”

3. Use ad extensions

Ad extensions like sitelinks, callout extensions, and structured snippet extensions provide additional information and may encourage more people to click on your ads.

Sitelink extensions, for example, are additional links that appear below your ad’s main description. They allow you to highlight specific pages on your website that might be of interest to users. 

You could use sitelink extensions to showcase key products or categories. For example, if you’re managing an ecommerce site, you can create sitelinks for “Best Sellers,” “New Arrivals,” or “Clearance Items.”

4. Monitor your campaigns

We’ve already covered that the set-it-and-forget-it approach will not help you get the most out of your DSA campaigns. While they require a lot less effort to set up and maintain, you still need to monitor them to avoid wasted ad spend and gain insights that could benefit your entire marketing strategy. 

Keeping an eye on your DSA campaign will help you identify issues, make timely adjustments, and maximize their performance. A major part of successful ad management is iterative testing and implementing improved settings such as keywords, bidding strategy, and targeting options. Tools like our own ConversionIQ can be a valuable asset and help provide the insight you need to do this.

Specifically, you will probably want to keep an eye on your key performance metrics (KPIs) such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, cost per conversion, and return on ad spend (ROAS). These metrics provide insights into how well your DSA campaigns are performing.

5. Pair your DSA campaign with Smart Bidding

Since DSAs use machine learning, it pairs well with other machine learning tools. Automated bid strategies complement DSAs greatly because each element can be tailored at the time of auction.

“I find DSA campaigns are paired best with an automated bid strategy, whether that be Max Conversions, tCPA, or something else,” says Galik. “This helps Google only enter auctions for higher value opportunities that may at one point become a part of the overall strategy or capture one-time demand.”

The takeaway

DSA campaigns can empower you to save time and harness the power of automation. Not only will DSA campaigns save you time, but they will also assist with keyword discovery and can amplify your advertising strategies to reach new and wider audiences. 

By following best practices, optimizing ad extensions, and continuously monitoring campaign performance, you will save valuable time and unlock the full potential of DSA campaigns to achieve outstanding results that will skyrocket your ROAS.

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