Why take the trouble to set up Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) for your paid search ads?

A couple reasons include:

  • Higher click-through rates
  • Improved ad quality score
  • Personalized ads that appeal to multiple audience segments

All without having to set up multiple ads!

In this article, we dive deep into DKIs, what they are, and how to quickly set them up, so you can reap the benefits above ASAP.

Read along or jump to any section below:

What is Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)?

Dynamic Keyword Insertion or ‘DKI’ is an advanced Search ads feature that dynamically edit your ad content to match user keyword searches.

But what does it mean to dynamically edit something?

Basically, the dynamic edits DKI makes include changing certain words in your ad copy to match the search term a user enters in a search engine.

This automatic customization improves how relevant your ads are to users.

As a result of this relevance, user’s are more likely to click on your ad and onto your landing page

And good news: dynamic keyword insertion is available for Bing and Yahoo! Search ads, in addition to Google Ads (formerly Adwords).

How Does Dynamic Keyword Insertion Work?

Now we know that DKI uses dynamic editing to insert the keywords triggered by certain search queries directly in our ad text.

But how does this work?

Let’s use this example from an eCommerce product page to illustrate the process of dynamic keyword insertion.

DKI Creates Multiple Headlines with One Ad

Imagine you’re currently driving paid traffic to a product page.

All products on that page belong to the same category, and are very similar.

While the ads you run to that page are similar, you have to change them slightly to appeal to your different audience segments.

product page example for dynamic keyword insertion ads

For example, for the product page above, one ad might target snowboarders; another ad may appeal more to middle-aged commuters.

There are also multiple keyword searches you want your page to show up for, like:

  • Ski jackets
  • Men’s ski jackets
  • Women’s ski jackets
  • Waterproof parkas
  • Snow jacket

Or branded terms such as:

  • Burton jackets
  • Salomon jackets

In summary, what appears to be a single page requiring just one or two ads becomes much more complicated for an advertiser.

Why? Because once you multiply all segmented audiences and relevant keyword combinations, there could be hundreds or thousands of customized ad variations.

Luckily you can have customized ads and avoid creating those variations manually.

Instead, DKI lets you write one set of ad copy and makes those small changes automatically.

DKI Makes Dynamic Insertions Using Keyword Lists

So how does DKI account for these ad variations?

It starts when you create a list of keywords that relate closely to your page.

Then you add a little snippet of code into your ad text, in a place it makes sense to have personalized DKI text inserted.

The snippet of code alerts Google whenever a user searches something on our list. The DKI ad text then automatically changes to include that search term.

Here’s an example from Google so you can see it in action:

As you can see, the candy store inserted the DKI code after “Buy” for their chocolate product ad.

Instead of one generic headline, searchers will see the exact item they’re looking for (e.g., dark chocolate, or sugar free chocolate) when the ad shows up on the search engine results page.

Let’s take this same process and apply it to our first example, the snow clothes product page.

How would DKI edit that company’s ad for their ski jackets?

In our example, the code would look something like this: {KeyWord:ski jackets}

The keyword ‘ski jackets’ is the default text for the ad. That tells google to use ski jackets where you want a keyword to appear.

This default text will appear in the ad whenever that text can’t be replaced by a keyword in your list.

Default text keyword insertion mockup

When an ad is triggered with a keyword you are targeting, the default text ‘ski jackets’ is replaced with the relevant keyword.

keyword insertion example mockup

To illustrate, imagine if “Burton Jackets” was on our list, and a user searched for that term. The DKI ad would dynamically change “Ski Jackets” to “Burton Jackets.”

Why Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

Why use DKI at all? There are 4 main benefits to dynamic keyword insertion you don’t want to miss out on.

1. Easy (Scaleable) Personalization

Personalization is a trendy topic digital marketing experts love to talk about.

But what does DKI have to do with personalization? And why might it be important to your online advertising success?

Simply, personalization is when you apply what you know about an individual to custom-fit an experience or touchpoint for them.

Psychologically, meeting someone’s specific needs with personalization is one way to demonstrate empathy–a huge trust builder . And trust is a must before you can expect brand loyalty or consistent conversions and sales.

One big problem though. Personalization isn’t easy to do well (85% of CMOs in this Mckinsey study agree). It’s really hard to collect sufficient detail about so many members of our target audience.

That’s one reason DKI is so awesome.

Dynamic keyword insertion personalizes the ad dynamically–you don’t need to know anything about the user seeing your ad!

Recall, user’s who see your DKI ad supply the detail you need themselves (their search term).

Personalized vs non-personalized dki ad

And when their own language appears in your ad, that ad becomes immediately more relevant.

So not only is your DKI ad personalized, that personalization is scalable for every relevant searcher who sees your ad. Win!

2. Higher Click-through Rates

A higher click through rate (CTR) is one bonus result of the scaleable personalization described above.

When you create ads that are automatically relevant to your audience, they’ll naturally be more inclined to click your offer.

DKI does you an extra favor to help boost your CTR too.

In addition to dynamically inserting the searcher’s keyword into your ad, they also bold that text.

bolded keyword in ads

In a digital advertising world where your audience has the attention span of a goldfish, bolded text ensures the searcher sees the most relevant part of the ad.

3. Boosted Quality Score

As an aside, we also want to point out that DKI ads can boost your ad’s quality score.

Quality score is basically Google’s and other search engines’ way to assess how useful your ads are to searchers.

While quality score can’t technically be impacted directly, Google in particular emphasizes that expected CTR and ad relevance factor into this score.

What are some of the perks you might see if your ad’s CTR and relevance improve due to dynamic keyword insertion?

Well, Google likes when your ads are useful to searchers (it’s how they make money). So they may help you out by reducing your costs per click and improving your ad rank and delivery.

4. Saved Time & Resources

Still not sold on dynamic keyword insertion?

This final perk of DKI is for all our busy marketers and business owners out there.

If you’re looking for an easy way to save time without cutting corners, DKI is it.

Dynamic keyword insertion spares you from the time-consuming process of creating multiple, similar ads without sacrificing personalization.

Just create one ad that will customize itself for the searchers you target.

How to Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

Now, although DKI does have its benefits, ads can still perform poorly if set up correctly.

We break down the right and wrong way to use dynamic keyword insertion below.

The Correct Way

  • Review and follow Google Ads policies.

  • Make sure you have message match between your ad and your landing page.

In other words, make sure your ad copy, headline, offer, CTA, and tone match to similar elements on your landing page.

Maybe the advertised product is missing or hidden, maybe the ad directs to an outdated landing page…

Either way, there is zero benefit to getting a click if your landing page makes your audience feel like they’re in the wrong place.

In fact, it’s worse to create a compelling ad with a bad landing page, because you’re paying for clicks that are unlikely to convert.

  • Each keyword variation should make sense when inserted into the ad copy.

It’s pointless to dynamically insert keywords if that keyword changes the context or reading of the ad.

You should also check for misspelled keywords, or terms that should be plural or singular given your ad text.

  • Keep your keywords related to each other, so dynamic keyword insertions make sense across an ad set or campaign.

It may be tempting to target a wide variety of terms in the hopes a user will convert anyways.

But don’t forget that DKI works because it helps you create a relevant experience to a user.

So keep your ad sets closely related, and your landing pages up to date and tied to your ads.

  • Be succinct in your ad copy and keywords.

  • Test using the DKI keyword in the headline, description, or both to see what works for your audience.

The Incorrect Way

We’ve covered a few ways to create a successful DKI ad.

Now let’s dig into some easy ways to get dynamic keyword insertion wrong (so you can avoid them!)

  • Do not use DKI to target long-tail keywords.

Ideally, you want to choose keywords specific enough to your page but without getting too niche. Otherwise, you run the risk of them not showing because they are too long and eat up your word count allowance.

Also, your keyword choices need to be similar enough to fit in with the context of the ad copy. Burton Ski Jackets could be considered a long tail term on its own, but not when you realise that every keyword you’re dynamically changing is very similar.and so it’s a fine choice to use.

Whereas “Cheapest blue ski jackets near me” would be too longtail and not fit the ad or the rest of the ad copy.

  • Do not use DKI with Broad Match Keywords.

Broad match keywords are keywords that trigger your ad to show for searches that include similar or variations of your search term (including misspellings).

For Example:

Let’s say that you targeted the keyword “Jacket” for the ski jacket page. Sure, anyone can buy a jacket, and some people might be interested.

The problem is that the ad will also show up for people searching for ANY jacket. Leather jackets, suede jackets, etc.

The issue is that you cast your net too wide. You don’t want to include all jacket searches; just ones that show an interest in ski jackets (and other things you sell on that page).

In this case, broad match keywords used with DKI will lower ad relevance and burn through budget.

  • Do not use DKI for one-word keywords.

This tip is similar to our warning about broad match keywords.

Single-word keywords are also a no-no, especially in headlines.

It makes them look spammy.

  • Do not use DKI to target keyword misspellings.

Maybe “Diznee World Tickets” has a similar search volume to “Disney World Tickets”…

But search volume is no excuse to include the misspelling in your DKI ad!

Why? Because Google can’t show ads with misspelled words.

  • Do not use DKI to bid on competitor keywords or trademarked terms.

The problem here is that when a brand name or trademarked product appears in your headline or body of an ad, it can appear as if you’re trying to advertise a counterfeit.

Even worse, your audience could perceive you as impersonating the brand.

This has a negative impact on brand loyalty, and even legal implications in many industries.

As you can see, almost all of the issues that people have with setting up DKI incorrectly are bad targeting and keyword choices.

Just remember: when selecting keywords for dynamic keyword insertion, don’t make them too broad or too specific, and always consider the landing page your traffic directs to.

Stick to the best practices that we discussed earlier, and you should do great.

How to Set Up Dynamic Keyword Insertion

There are two main ways to set up your DKI ads: guided and manual.

For both set up methods, start by creating your Search ads as usual.

Then, add your keyword list.

This list includes the keywords/search terms you believe are relevant to the landing page you’ll drive your search ad traffic to.

set up your exact match keyword list

These keywords should be similar, but vary slightly to include potential searches from multiple  audiences or for different products on the page.

Basically, cover your bases but make sure your ad still makes sense with DKI dynamically inserts terms from your keyword list.

Finally, set the keyword match type to ‘exact match’ (NOT broad match), and click Save and Continue.

The next page in Google Ads is where you’ll create the ads–and this is where you’ll decide to use either guided or manual set up methods.

Guided Method

The guided method walks you through the whole process; you start simply by adding the keyword code in guided mode . The ads platform take you through the setup.

For Example

You decide if you want your dynamic keywords in the headline or the description section (or even both).

Then type in a { bracket. In the drop-down menu, select Keyword insertion.

guided dki method 1

Once selected, fill out your ads default text . This is the ad text shown by default when your ad shows up for someone who entered a relevant search term outside of your keyword list.

add the default phrase

Then, choose which ‘case’ the default text should be formatted in. This will change how it appears in the advert.

  • If you’re dynamically changing the headline, then use the ‘Title Case.’
  • If the keyword is midway through a sentence, then use ‘Lower case.’
  • And if the keyword appears at the start of the description, use the ‘Sentence case.’

Then simply click apply.

Right now all you have is the keyword without the ad copy, so make sure you copy paste that in, with the default keyword in the correct location in the title or description.

For Example

Rather than just leaving the ad as {keyword:ski jackets}, I would write the headline and make sure that the code is in the right place.

Save money on our 2021 ski jackets


Ski Jackets On Sale Now, Up To 50% Off!

The main benefit of the guided method is its simplicity. Once you add the { symbol, just follow the provided prompts.

Manual Method

The manual method differs from guided because you add the headline or body copy first. Then you manually add the DKI code at any point in the headline or description.

dynamic keyword insertion manual description example

Once you get to the section where you want to add the dynamic keyword, you write it in by enclosing it in brackets like so: {keyword:my default text}

Warning: In the manual mode, you need to specify how the keyword is formatted when it appears in the ad. You do this by altering the word ‘keyword’ inside the brackets. Google will use this to format the ‘case’ of your DKI term.

For Example:

  • Keyword is Title Case: {KeyWord:Ski Jackets}
  • Keyword is Sentence case: {Keyword:Ski jackets}
  • keyword is all lower case: {keyword:ski jackets}

Make sure your default text will make sense across your descriptions, then click apply. 

Can You Add Dynamic Keyword Insertion to Responsive Search Ads?

Yes, you can, and you actively should.

In addition to Google’s push for everyone to use responsive search (i.e., phasing out expanded text ads in 2022 ), it’s also another automated way to save time while serving relevant messages to your audience on Search.

Responsive search ads aim to find the best performing ad versions by testing multiple headlines and description combinations.  

In fact, you can write up to 15 different headlines and 4 descriptions.

When you factor in DKI…that’s a lot of ad options being tested for you!

Just make sure you:

  • Preview each of the different headlines and descriptions to double check that your keywords still make sense in context
  • Pop a few best-performing keywords into headlines, as well as descriptions
  • Include a few headlines that don’t have keywords in them, so you don’t annoy your audience with repetitive ads
  • Write short and long descriptions; Google can create more interesting ad text this way.
  • Follow other best practices Google recommends for responsive search ads in general.

Match Post-Click Landing Pages & DKI

We’ve pretty much covered everything about DKI so far.

But there’s one exciting addition we want you to know about. It’s called DTR or ‘Dynamic Text Replacement.’

It’s not technically a part of DKI, but it works in tandem with it to get even better campaign performance.

Let me break it down.

Remember the message match we mentioned earlier?

Basically, we want the landing page to work together with the ad, providing a matching and positive experience from a user’s click to when they convert.

There’s a technique that good copywriters and ad designers use called mirror language.

It’s where you research your audience, find the language they use to describe something, and then put those words into your sales page or ad copy.

Mirror language works great for improving sales, because it makes the copy feel like it’s the exact thing that the audience wants. Your solution resonates with them because their own language describes it; like DKI, mirror language improves relevance and trust.

Dynamic text replacement (DTR) is similar to this mirror language concept and is incredibly effective.

It works like this:

First, you set up a landing page with Dynamic Text areas on a landing page creator like Unbounce.

Here we can see the ‘control’ or standard version that will be displayed to most people.

Then, you connect your DKI campaign and run ads to that page.

Here’s the cool thing: The page tracks the specific dynamic keyword that the user searched for and clicked on from the DKI advert…

dynamic text replacement and dynamic keyword insertion example

…and then it uses that keyword to edit the page copy dynamically!

dynamic text replacement example

See how the text has changed to match the specific keyword from the ad group that the user searched with?

It’s only a basic form of personalization, but it’s still super effective because it feels like this offer is the exact thing they are looking for.

And better still?

DTR is not affected by any of the recent privacy and tracking limitations.

The customization is connected to the search term and not a user’s personal information. Using dynamic text replacement, you can still get some minor personalization even if someone has privacy settings in place.

It takes a little more planning and preparation in advance to map out the page and ad and connect them, but the results can be worth it.

  • Cheaper ads
  • High quality traffic
  • Better quality score
  • Higher-performing pages.

It’s a win-win situation for only a little more effort!

9 Common Reasons Dynamic Keyword Insertion Still Doesn’t Work for You

So you’ve followed the best practices, and DKI is still not working for you.

We put together 9 common reasons why.

Let’s start troubleshooting your issue with dynamic keyword insertion:

  • Are there general problems with your ad?

Double check the Google Ads policies and fix any ads, keywords or extensions they might have flagged in your account.

Additionally, DKI won’t help you if your ad doesn’t have many impressions. Double check that your ads settings are good and there are no bid management mistakes for that campaign.

  • Do you have too many characters? 

Keyword insertion has a character limit! This includes a maximum 30 characters for headlines, 80 characters for the description, and 15 characters in the URL path.

  • Does the ad make sense with each keyword variation?

When the keywords are inserted, they must fit the context of your ad. DKI is only helpful if your ad text still reads smoothly, so make sure all keyword variations fit the copy.

  • Is the ad copy compelling enough to make them want to click?

You should have more ad text than just the DKI keyword. Also, make sure you’ve written ad copy that converts well .

  • Do you have misspellings? 

Again, Google can’t publish ads with misspelled words, so double check your keyword list and ad text.

  • Do you rank for this particular keyword organically?

If someone sees an ad for a company and an organic listing for that same company, they may click that organic result instead. Creating ads that apparel to users with commercial search intent may help.

  • Do the landing page and the ad match? 

Like we mentioned before, message match is one of the most important aspects of a high-converting landing page. Additionally, if you’re advertising a product, make sure that product is easily findable on your page.

  • Are you trying to use dynamic search ads? 

Some ad types don’t use keyword targeting to serve ads to searchers. Dynamic search ads are one of those types.

If you’ve set keyword insertion up with your dynamic search ads, the ads will not insert your keywords. Instead, the default keyword insertion text will show in your ad description.

  • What is the post-click experience (your landing page) like?

In addition to maintaining your brand aesthetic, make sure your landing page loads quickly and is easy to navigate.

Run a QA test beforehand to make sure the page is live, forms and buttons work, and tracking is set up (on all devices).

Note: some landing pages don’t even support dynamic text. If your URL does not, remove keyword insertion from your landing page URL.

Final Thoughts on Dynamic Keyword Insertion

So there you have it—the complete guide to Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI).

If you follow these best practices, you should be able to get higher CTR and better ad performance, regardless of if you’re running on Google ads, Bing Ads, or other search engines.

Daniel Daines-Hutt

Content Writer

A self-confessed ‘marketing nerd’. Daniel has a background in Direct Response advertising, but ironically, it’s his Content Marketing that people know him for. He’s had the Top 10 content of all time on inbound.org and Top content of 2017 + 2018 on GrowthHackers.

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