Google AdWords dynamic keyword insertion changes

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is a feature in AdWords that allows you to automatically insert keyword text into an ad. It is particularly helpful for ad groups that have a large number of related keywords that share the same selling points – such as model numbers for a particular product line – though it can be used much more extensively to increase the clickthrough rates of your ads. Relatively recently Google has been changing how DKI can be used, and it can cause major problems for advertisers who rely heavily on it.

The syntax of DKI looks like this:

Buy {keyword:default_text}

For “default_text” you plugin whatever text you’d like to display when your bidded keyword cannot be inserted. In the past, the main reason why a keyword would not be inserted was because it caused the line of ad text to exceed character limits. Occasionally, a member of Google’s editorial team would also mark keywords ineligible for DKI. However, Google has recently made changes that establish a minimum quality score threshold for a keyword to be inserted into ad text. This change has had some negative consequences for common uses of DKI.

Google’s new DKI policy can cause relevancy problems with Google ads. In cases where DKI is coupled with keyword destination URLs or otherwise keyword-specific landing pages; Google is often choosing to show a less relevant ad over a more relevant ad. In this case, it should never be in Google’s interest to show the less relevant ad, even in cases where their system is assigning lower quality to the keyword, as long as the landing page shares the same relevance to the keyword. Here is a hypothetical example:

Keyword:
HP XK 30300

Keyword Destination URL:
http://some-company-domain-goes-here.com/HP-XK-30300 (goes to a page all about model # HP XK 30300)

Ad:
Buy {KEYWord:HP Products}
Low Prices on all HP Models.
Order Today and Get Free Shipping!

Notice the use of “KEYWord:” in the headline . . . more on this later. But imagine that this keyword “HP XK 30300″ is in an ad group with a thousand other model numbers. Also imagine that each keyword has it’s own keyword destination URL that takes the visitor to a page for that model number (a common way to setup something like this). Now imagine that for whatever reason, Google has decided to give this keyword a low quality score (probably for ad text); also not uncommon. Because Google has given the keyword a low quality score, when a search engine user enters a query into Google for “HP XK 30300,” he/she will see an ad like this:

Buy HP Products
Low Prices on all HP Models.
Order Today and Get Free Shipping!

Instead of an ad like this:

Buy HP Xk 30300
Low Prices on all HP Models.
Order Today and Get Free Shipping!

Because the visitor is sent to a page about model number “HP XK 30300″ the first ad is misleading. It makes you think you’ll go to a generic site where you will have to enter another search, and where you might not find the model number you’re looking for. This ad will undoubtedly be surrounded by organic search results that are all specific to that model number, putting the ad at a disadvantage. Even if your keyword was scored low, it never makes sense for Google to show the first ad instead of the second one, because the second one is inherently more relevant. This is a common occurrence though for a common use case with DKI.

Back to the use of “KEYWord:”. . .  another feature of dynamic keyword insertion is you can affect the capitalization of the inserted text by using different variations of “keyword:”

keyword:
KeyWord:
KeyWORD:
Keyword:
KEYWord:
KEYWORD:

“keyword” will insert your text in all lower case: hp xk 30300. Using KEYWord will insert your text with the first word in caps and the first letter of subsequent words capitalized: HP Xk 30300. Notice this isn’t the correct capitalization for the model number; in this case, it should be in all caps: HP XK 30300. Google no longer offers this option. KEYWORD does not place the inserted keyword in all caps, it is equivalent to using KeyWord where the first letter of each word is capitalized. Because of supposed advertiser abuse of the all caps function, DKI often cannot handle acronyms properly.

While DKI is typically pretty handy, Google has made some changes that make your ads less relevant for some important cases when DKI is most suitable. For smaller keyword lists, it may make sense to break out keywords into their own ad groups with specific ad text that does not use DKI, but if this was practical to do in the first place, you probably wouldn’t have been using DKI. It’s always good to checkup on your ads though using the ad preview tool to make sure your DKI ads are displaying the way you expect them to.