• Using dynamic keyword insertion in AdWords URLs for higher click throughs

    by  • April 1, 2007 • Google, Pay Per Click • 11 Comments

    While most people use dynamic keyword insertion in their Google AdWords campaigns for ease of use and customization when using large lists of keywords or to use for tracking purposes, most people don’t realize they can also use dynamic keyword insertion in their display URLs to increase clickthroughs as well.

    First, let’s look at the display URL and how it works. This is the URL that AdWords displays when your ad shows up in the Google search results or when displaying on the search or content network. And as per AdWords requirements, this display URL must match the destination URL…. however, what most people don’t realize is that they don’t need to match exactly.

    Usually, this is used by advertisers when they have a long and nasty URL string attached to their destination page. For example, if my destination page had a url like www.example.com/browse.html?ie=UTF8&node=42607011&prodid=123456 most advertisers chose to use www.example.com as the display URL for that ad. However, there is an even better way to do this that would increase CTR rates.

    Consider the fact that in Google AdWords, if someone is searching for the keywords that trigger your ad, any of those keywords you have in your AdWords ad will automatically be bolded. Usually, people reserve using dynamic keyword insertion for just the title, destination URL and occasionally in the description, but rarely for the display URL. And if you don’t happen to have the keyword in your base URL, you are missing out on additional bolding that makes your ad more noticeable and stand out from the rest.

    If you were searching to buy a digital camera, and you two ads that where nearly identical except for the display URL.

    example.com Vs. example.com/digital-camera/

    Which one would stand out to you the most? And second, which ad do you think would be the most relevant choice when you had searched for “digital camera”. Definitely the one with digital camera in the display URL.

    And what is the added bonus? Very few advertisers are using this in their current campaigns. Bizrate is an example of one who uses this well, but you can easily do several Google searches for competitive keywords without a single advertiser using this technique for higher CTR. So it is very likely the only ones in your ad results who will have bolded URLs at all are the ones with keyword domains.

    Do keep in mind that the display URL has a 35 character limit. Depending on your destination base URL, you could be getting close to it. You can consider removing the “www.” at the beginning of the display URL. And if you happen to run over the 35 character limit once your base URL and keywords are displayed, it will go to the default you selected. So be sure to pick a default highly targeted to your overall keyword list for the ad group.

    A couple housekeeping notes. It is within the AdWords terms to show a different display URL from the destination one, as long as the base URL (the www.example.com part) does match. However, do ensure that you have a custom 404 set up, or use .htaccess, to ensure they go to your homepage or alternate landing page. That way if someone just types in www.example.com/digital-camera/ that the potential visitor (or AdWords team member!) will end up on a real landing page not a browser 404 error. And you’d be surprised at the number of people who will type it in rather than clicking on the ad… especially if your ads are also displaying on the content network.

    Dynamic keyword insertions can also cause your keywords to be disapproved for “incorrect keyword insertion”. This is common if you are selecting keywords that would turn the ad into complete nonsense once the keywords are inserted into the ad copy.

    It is also worth noting that the displayed keyword(s) will be from your keyword list, not from what Joe Surfer types into his Google search box. So if you have broadmatched cameras, and Joe Surfer searched for digital camera, your display URL would only show cameras, not digital cameras.

    To use the dynamic keyword insertion simply ad {keyword:default} into the title, description, display URL or destination URL. The “default” part you would customize to be the keyword(s) you want to appear if Google is unable to insert the specific keyword for some reason, such as the display URL going over the 35 character limit or the title going over the 25 character limit. Chose it wisely.

    Many advertisers are a little bit scared of using dynamic keyword insertion, primarily because Google doesn’t offer much documentation on its usage. But you can definitely increase CTR by using it. If you are still a little wary, create a second ad copy within your ad group, and Google will automatically rotate between the two and then automatically select the ad copy with the highest CTR. So it is a win-win way to try out new ad copies, including this one with dynamically inserted keywords in the display URL, and see which ad copies result in the highest CTRs for you.


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    11 Responses to Using dynamic keyword insertion in AdWords URLs for higher click throughs

    1. April 5, 2007 at 1:22 pm

      hey jen,

      i like the direction this site is heading. i’ve heard about setting all areas to match the users search except for the destination url. i’ll try this out. thanks!


    2. Edgar
      April 5, 2007 at 3:58 pm

      Hey Jen.

      I’m really amazed how advanced topics You are covering in the first posts. However I can’t be happier right now. Way to go!

    3. April 5, 2007 at 9:24 pm

      Good post.
      I agree with everything except 404 page. Should not return 200 response.

      Also worth to mention here shoemoney adwords arrow trick.

    4. Pingback: TOL network » Archive » Novo blog da Jennifer Slegg

    5. May 12, 2007 at 3:07 pm

      Great info, but I can’t get it to work they way I’d like. Using {KeyWord}.example.com, the URL is dynamic but it shows up in the form: Paid+Adwords+Keyword.example.com. That’s pretty good, but I’d really prefer hypens to plus marks. How do I get it set up so it looks like: Paid-Adwords-Keyword.example.com?


    6. January 27, 2008 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Jen,

      Thank you for all the info on this blog. Would this be true for YPN?

    7. April 17, 2008 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks again for this reminder. Increased my CTR a lot.

    8. Pingback: 9 Things I Dislike about Google Automatic Matching - Scott Clark

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    10. September 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm

      You fail to point out the negatives of using DKI…

      1) DKI doesn’t increase the revelancy of your ad.
      2) It can lead to poorly written ads.
      3) Tracking sales copy changes and performance becomes difficult

    11. March 16, 2013 at 9:33 am

      neil is right, there are a few drawbacks especially when trying to understand ad copy changes.

      There’s also no hard and fast rule for DKI, we often see DKI have a negative impact on one ad group and then have a positive effect on a very similar/related ad group.

      No rhythm or reason, but to put it simply test, test and test again.

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