Google Dynamic Ads Are The Latest In Digital Marketing Snake Oil
Recently, I was auditing a Google Ads account for a large company. They had hired a full-time employee to manage PPC campaigns, and had let the individual go after a few months of less than stellar results. When looking into the account, I saw that the only ad formats used were Dynamic ads.
Google has been flaunting these ads recently, saying that they are the new step in the evolution of the Google Ads platform. Dynamic ads are supposed to revolutionize the PPC industry, using machine learning to automate much of the process. I’ve seen other providers spouting the same line to the public, bragging that they’re using “Dynamic PPC” ads.
The problem? The ads don’t work.
This week, I’ll dive into what dynamic ads are, how they display, and what real test results are showing, both from POSH Digital Media, and from other PPC experts.
What Are Dynamic Ads?
Dynamic ads promise to be the latest and greatest development in Google’s machine learning toolbox. Developments from this initiative, like RankBrain, have been very positive in the overall search landscape. Dynamic ads work in a similar fashion, by modeling actual search behavior and mirroring it to produce ads.
On the ad creation side, rather than setting up a list of researched keywords, Google uses your website to target the ads. For example, I ran a test for a client who happens to be a real estate agent in Tampa, Florida. When I input his website, I was given the option to use either Google’s index of his website, or select specific pages from the site to use as a basis for targeting.
When using the Google index, I was taken to what normally would be the keyword input page if I were running a traditional Google Ads campaign. Instead, I was shown a list of topics that were populated due to the site content. While some of the options made sense (real estate, Tampa homes for sale, Tampa real estate agent), some were way off base (Tampa retirement homes, Tampa Rays home plate, fishing in Tampa). Again, I was given the option to either select these topics, choose specific URL’s on the site, or simply choose all web pages. I ran one ad for each option, out of curiosity.
Next, what normally would involve creating headlines and descriptions was completely different. For the headlines, I was shown the following text [Dynamically Created Headline]. I wrote a couple of descriptions, and hit “create”. For those that have run Google Ads campaigns, you will automatically recognize how different this is from creating a traditional search ad.
Display of Dynamic Ads
Have you ever asked a small child to write a sentence for you? While you can generally make out what the child is writing, the language is usually a bit choppy. For example, a sentence like “The cat ran across the street” might be written as “Cat ran across street”.
This is what the dynamically generated headlines look like when using dynamic PPC from Google Ads. Headlines such as:
“Sell Tampa Home”
“Tampa House Buy”
“Real Estates Tampa Bay”
Why does it look like this? The answer is: You!
Well, not you specifically, but the general public and the way they both type and speak to Google. Much like RankBrain maps actual user behavior, Dynamic ads try to map and mirror actual search queries entered by the public, and match it up to your website content.
But think about how you type a search into Google. You might be in a hurry. So why type out “sell my home in Tampa” when you can type “sell Tampa home”? With the majority of searches truncated in this fashion, it is no wonder that the dynamically generated headlines look so silly.
The other issue you run into with this is a lack of impressions. When running the dynamic campaign vs. responsive search ads to (in theory) the same audience, the metrics were unbelievable.
Total Impressions (Dynamic Ads): 451
Total Impressions (Responsive Ads): 3,716
CTR (Dynamic Ads): 1.89%
CTR (Responsive Ads): 7.31%
While no data exists on this issue, it is my theory that Google’s emphasis on ad quality and relevance scores is actually causing the Dynamic ads to perform at this sub par level. By creating copy that is so off base, Google’s other AI systems might be creating problems for Dynamic Ads.
So Why Use Them?
In short, the answer is “don’t”. However, there are many reasons why a digital marketing agency might use them, and reasons why Google is promoting them so heavily.
Agencies like them because they’re easy to set up. You can set up thousands of accounts very quickly, because no actual research goes into the ad creation process. If the ads fail, you can blame the machine, the client’s website, or any number of factors not related to the agency’s performance.
Google likes them because for some time, one of the biggest myths surrounding their platform has been cost. Many small businesses see Google Ads as too costly to be of real, long-term value. Tack on management fees from an agency (average cost of $900/month) and some businesses can’t afford to run PPC.