Dynamic Search Ads for Hotels; Are They for You?

taking notes on dynamic search ads
Alex Corral
Alex Corral
September 8, 2016
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Paid Search
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For those of you that are not familiar with Dynamic search ads for hotels, let me briefly explain what they are. Dynamic search ads, or “DSA” are a way to dynamically serve customized advertisements to your potential customers via Google Adwords.(1) Google uses their web crawling ability to show the user the most relevant piece of content on your website and ties it into one of your AdWords ads. In theory, this could mean better coverage of keywords, with ads that are relevant to the user, at impressive scale.

You can imagine the time-saving possibilities from a managerial perspective. You could save precious time because you won’t have to create each and every ad. If you are in Sales or Marketing, then you probably also caught on to the potential boost in relevancy for the user. It is safe to say, that if you put “time saving” and “more relevant” together, then the outcome should be BETTER ROI, but can you achieve this with DSA's?

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you how good the ads might be, but instead to show you that there are some caveats to DSA’s. Below I will outline some of the most common in the hotel industry, and I will let you know how you can guard against them. Once you know the potential risks that are out there, you can make a more informed decision on whether you should implement Dynamic Search Ads.

How to Get Started With Dynamic Search Ads: A Backstory

I would start by having a look into your Google Analytics to see if there are any patterns that stick out. This should be focused on areas of your website that are either getting a decent amount of traffic, or pages that have quality goal conversions.

A good place to start with Google Analytics is on the All Pages tab in your Behavior Reports. You can find common themes, and look for patterns in the traffic that is being sent to your site.

While you are in Adwords, there are currently four options within DSA to segment your traffic:

  • Categories from your website
  • Urls with certain strings of text
  • Page title with certain words
  • Page content with certain words

If you see relevant categories in your Analytics, then you can use those to start and plug them into your DSA’s. I find that the other Urls with text & page titles and content provide more control when setting up your accounts. With that being said, you could learn a lot about how Google views your site if you choose the categories section.

Now that you know how you can get started, I will fill you in on some of the things that you should be aware of before dive right in.

Going Into DSA’s Without Goals

This type of search ad only works if you set out with very clear goals and a solid structure. You have to make sure that there is some rhyme to your reason & that there is some logic behind it. You can use it to mine for long tail keywords, increase CTR’s in your account, or you can use it to lower your overall CPA, but they all require their appropriate setup and strategies.

You Don’t Have Enough Content for Dynamic Ads to Work

DSA’s are not for everyone. The websites that tend to benefit the most from these ads are content rich. If you do not have the content on your website, then it might be more of a hassle to set up the DSA campaigns. You might end up being better off just setting them up the old fashioned way.

Not Keeping The Length of Sales Cycle in Mind

With greater than 50% of hotel searches and hotel bookings occurring 60 days out (2) , you should be prepared to wait a few months to see results. This is one of the biggest reasons that DSA’s won’t work for your hotel. You have to be patient and the results and information will continue to flow through.

Not Thinking About Landing Pages Or Only Linking to Home Page

We mentioned this earlier but you need to make sure that you have great landing pages. The reason that DSA’s work is because they pair a page on your website to a user’s query. If you have the content on the page and can get the user there, then you have won half of the battle.

Once they are on the page, you need to make sure that you provide them with a useful user experience when they get there. If you run a dynamic ad and use the homepage as the URL you are dooming yourself to a bunch of potential wasted ad spend. You may get some information, but most likely it won’t be much. Since no one likes to waste money, it is best to invest the time in building a great landing page that will delight the users of your website and give them the information that they are looking for.

Not sure where to start? Use this handy little Landing Page Checklist plugin for Chrome to get started. It will help you make the best landing pages possible.

You Set It And Forget It

Anytime that you automate something, you need to make sure that you periodically review it. When I take over a PPC account, this is one of the first things that I check for. You would be surprised to find many DSA’s that have been long forgotten.

There is a wealth of knowledge available to you from DSA’s. The best place to start is in the search terms report. In this report, you can see what key terms your ads are showing for that are not relevant to you and add them to a negative keyword list or you can do the same for top performing words. You can also remove undesired landing pages by using dynamic ad target exclusions.

If set up properly, they can yield great results. Look at how Trivago used them to achieve a 140% increase in click-through rate (users clicking your ad to your website), and lower their CPA (cost-per-acquisition) (3). A helpful hint, products that involve more decision-making or have higher dollar value tend to have longer booking windows. This means that higher ADR might cause longer booking times. You have to give Dynamic Search Ads some time to bake, otherwise you might cut the cord too early. If this is something but you cannot stomach I would suggest avoiding Dynamic Search Ads.

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1. “Using Dynamic Search Ads – AdWords Help – Google Help.” 2012. 3 Jun. 2016 <https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2471185?hl=en>

2.  “For hotels, a new reality of booking lead times and path-to-purchase …” 2015. 3 Jun. 2016 <http://www.travelweekly.com/Kurt-Weinsheimer/For-hotels-a-new-reality-of-booking-lead-times-and-path-to-purchase>

3.  “Trivago Sees More Clicks and Lower CPAs in 50+ … – Think with Google.” 2016. 3 Jun. 2016 <https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/trivago-sees-more-clicks-lower-cpas-in-50-markets/>

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