Dynamic Keyword Insertion – Dos and Don'ts


A BidCop angry about poor PPC campaign results

Heard horror stories about dynamic keyword insertion? Dave Earnshaw explains how this oft-neglected paid search technique can work wonders for the right kind of business – if you follow our advice, that is…

Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) has a bit of a… ‘spotty’ reputation amongst PPC managers.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the technique, it’s a way of including keywords in ads without having to create dozens of ad variations.

Let’s say, for example, that we’re a clothing retailer, and we sell jackets in all the colours of the rainbow. It would be difficult for us to manage ads for the hundreds of colour variations we sell, so we use dynamic keyword insertion to increase ad relevancy, by including the keyword in the headline.

We use this code:

{KeyWord: Cool Jackets}

This means when users search for any of the keywords in this ad group, Google will try to swap out the headline to include that keyword. Like this:

Red Jackets PPC ad

If the keyword is too long to fit within Google’s character limits, the substitute headline (‘Cool Jackets’) will display instead:

Cool Jackets PPC ad

Why Are Some People Wary of DKI?

Used carefully, DKI can be a quick and easily manageable way to improve campaign performance.

But if it’s done badly, then it can be a magnet for irrelevant traffic, and can make your ads look unprofessional, and – in the worst case scenario – downright weird.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get it wrong, and many advertisers do get it wrong. What’s more, some businesses simply don’t suit dynamic keyword insertion – it’s best for retailers who sell lots of product variations, or those whose products can be described in many different ways.

However, if yours is the kind of business for which DKI can work, and you follow a few best practices, you could find that this technique pays dividends. Because they’re more targeted, DKI ads tend to see higher click-through rates – but you have to be prepared to give up some control and visibility.

So with that out of the way, here are our DKI dos and don’ts. We’ll start with the don’ts…


Use the wrong code.

The correct format for the DKI code looks like this:

{KeyWord: Substitute Headline}

Note the ‘{ }’ (curly brackets) that open and close the code. ‘Keyword’ signifies that you want Google to dynamically insert the keyword. This is followed by a ‘:’ (colon) and then a space, then the substitute headline.

If you enter the code incorrectly, Google will simply display the broken code as your headline. Needless to say, this is useless and offputting for customers!

Use broad match keywords

Ideally, you should use exact match keywords with DKI, built out from your search query reports. Careful use of phrase match and modified broad match may be OK, but broad match should be avoided.

The reason for this is that broad match tends to bring in irrelevant search queries. This is not so much a problem when your ads have clear headlines signifying their subject matter, but a DKI headline will appear relevant, even if your ads and landing pages are not.

Use DKI in your ad text

Or rather, be very careful about using DKI in your ad text.

Using DKI in your headline simply shows that the landing page you’re linking to will be relevant to customers’ needs. But using it in your ad text can make it look spammy, especially if it’s overused.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re adamant about using DKI in your ad text, never use it more than once.

Use misspelt keywords

Bidding on misspellings can be a good idea for non-DKI ad groups – they often have lower costs per click than the correctly spelt keywords. However, in DKI ads, the keyword will appear in the ad. This looks very unprofessional – to the user, it’s like you’ve misspelt your own headline.

Use competitor keywords

You shouldn’t use competitor’s brand keywords, for similar reasons to the above – they’ll appear in your ad copy. It’s against Google’s guidelines to include direct competitors in ad text or headlines.


Think about formatting

You can choose how your headline will look by varying the capitalisation of the word ‘keyword’ in your DKI code.

Typically, we use the variation ‘KeyWord’, which Capitalises The First Letter  Of Every Word In The Title. This is in line with best practice.

Other variations include:

‘Keyword’, which capitalises only the first letter of the first word, and

‘KEYWord’, which capitalises the whole first word, and the first letter of each subsequent word.

Feel free to experiment with these formatting options. But whatever you do, don’t use ‘keyword’, which puts the whole title in lower case, or ‘KEYWORD’, which CAPITALISES EVERYTHING.

They just look silly.

Take advantage of less-restricted character limitations

Although in a typical ad, headlines are limited to 25 characters, Google tends to be a little less strict when it comes to dynamically inserted keywords.

This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all – you can’t expect your headline to appear for, say, a 40-character keyword. In an instance like this, Google would revert to your substitute headline, as defined in the second part of your DKI code:

{KeyWord: Cool Jackets}

But if you’re bidding on a 26- or 27-character keyword, there’s every chance that Google could bend the rules and let your ad appear.

Test, test and test again!

In the world of paid search, it’s important to run tests whenever you try anything new or make changes to your campaigns. DKI is no exception!

When you try DKI, run a split test alongside normal, non-DKI ads on the same keywords. If the DKI ads get better click-through and conversion rates, then it’s a good idea to make the switch!

News on PPC and Google advertising from BidCops – providing Google PPC help for paid search campaigns.


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