4 Pitfalls of Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

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Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is an advanced feature in each major search engine that can help you create more relevant ad text by automatically inserting a search query into an ad text. When used correctly, this tool can be very helpful in increasing the relevancy and click-through rate of an ad text. But if not applied correctly, your ad can end up disjointed, confusing, and completely irrelevant.

Inspired by a PPC Hero reader submission, this post will review some pitfalls that you need to be careful of when using dynamic keyword insertion.

Pitfall #1: Entering the DKI Code Wrong

Both beginners and experienced pay-per-click managers can fall victim to an incorrect keystroke. Whether it is a misspelling, missing space, or extra punctuation, most of us are guilty. However, when it comes to dynamic keyword insertion, a wrong keystroke can make the difference between a highly targeted ad text and ad spam. You have to be very careful how you type in the code. With one mistake your ads will end up irrelevant and in this case, spammy.

In the example below, the manager incorrectly entered the DKI code by adding an extra space before the colon. So the DKI code was entered in as {keyword :Eligo} versus {keyword:Eligo}. That extra space before the colon makes all the difference. When you enter the DKI code, confirm that there are no errors by taking the time to double check your work.

Pitfall #2: Misspellings in Ad Text

Bidding on misspelled keywords is an age-old practice for pay-per-click. But when you are using DKI with misspelled terms, those keywords are going to end up in your ads. In this example, all of these accounts were bidding on ‘chilrens’ to capitalize on a common keystroke mistake in search queries. For all three advertisers, their ads utilized DKI for headlines and the misspelling ended up in the title.

No matter how targeted and relevant you ad is, having a misspelled keyword in the headline or description will automatically hurt your credibility. To avoid this, restructure your pay-per-click account so all misspelled keywords have their own ad group… and don’t use DKI in this ad group!

Pitfall #3: Using DKI for Broad Match Keywords

In the cases below, the pay-per-click managers have combined DKI with broad match keywords. So when a searcher types in ‘Obama’ or ‘Leg Amputees’ they are served ads that are both irrelevant and confusing. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am certain that the Secret Service would not approve the transaction if I tried to purchase President Obama at an online bookstore.



The goal of using DKI is to serve highly relevant targeted ad text based on search query. Relevancy is hard to achieve with broad match keywords because you have a lot less control of when an ad is served. Do not use DKI when you are running broad match keywords. In many cases your ad text is going to end up with non-relevant terms.

If your ad texts look similar to the examples above, then you ad groups are too broad to begin with. Make sure your ad groups are structured properly for DKI so that every keyword in the ad group can appear in your ad text. Also consider your match type. DKI is best implemented in conjunction with exact match terms. By using exact match, you can define the keywords that will appear in your ads, and tailor the ad copy so it remained relevant across multiple search queries.

Pitfall #4: Creating Generic Ads

Formatting is crucial to creating relevant ad text using DKI. I often see DKI headlines that use only one keyword like our example below. This means the entire headline is one word, when is not optimal when you have 25 characters to work with. These headlines often look spammy, and in most cases, do not have high click-through rates.

Boost your headline relevancy by including another keyword similar to the example below. Of course, this format assumes that your ad groups are structured properly. If you cannot achieve something similar, then you need to consider restructuring your campaigns into more targeted ad groups.

Keyword Headline = Buy {KeyWord:Red Shoes} Now!
red shoes Buy Red Shoes Now!
red pumps Buy Red Pumps Now!
red sandals Buy Red Sandals Now!

Now you know some of the common pitfalls for using dynamic keyword insertion. Always remember, DKI should be used with extreme caution. It should only be used in the case of giving relevancy an extra boost. It should not be the crutch of your pay-per-click campaign. But when you decide to use it, make sure you don’t fall victim to these pitfalls!

For more examples on improper uses of dynamic keyword insertion, check the Your PPC Sucks blog.

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  • http://immanuelruby.wordpress.com/ immanuelruby

    Thanks for sharing. Well said about the pitfalls of DKI Carrie. If we use DKI properly means which will help increase in CTR and helps in reducing CPC as CTR is high

  • http://www.vizad.com Robert Brady

    While it spans a couple of your pitfalls, the biggest issue I see with using DKI is message mismatch. Either the ad itself doesn’t make any sense or the ad doesn’t match up with the offer and copy of the landing page, leading to a bad post-click experience. Great tips Carrie.

  • http://www.searchenginesmarketer.com Mark Kennedy

    Ebay, Amazon and Target are soooo guilty of these.

  • http://ppcisme.com Erez

    You mentioned that the keyword insertion tool help you create more relevant ad text by automatically inserting a search query into an ad text. Until few months ago I thought so too, but than I’ve read this article by Google: http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=74996
    It says that it won’t use the actual search queries, but it would use the keyword that triggered the ad.
    Also they are mentioning that it will do the same for the content network, and that’s just weird. Even Googler’s told me it’s not true. Do you think this article is wrong?

  • http://theppcblog.com Matt Umbro

    One thing Google has been doing within the past few months is allowing titles that are over 25 characters to show if the ad utilizes DKI.

  • http://www.searchenginesmarketer.com Mark Kennedy

    @Matt Umbro. Yes, you are right. It depends on the width of the actual letters used in the title/keyword, but if you bid on a keyword longer than 25 characters in exact match and put that keyword in it’s own adgroup with a DKI titled ad, you may get this to happen for you.

    Google “Philadelphia Piano Lessons” and you may see what I’m talking about.

  • http://www.wordstream.com/ Robert

    Erez is correct Google shouldn’t be using the search query but rather the keywords the search query matched against.

    I would say that broad match is not the issue here when using DKI, really you have to make keywords lists are “good”. That’s why creating small, tight, specific groupings assures you an easy way to be organized and make sure your utilizing things like bids and DKI correctly.

  • http://www.yourppcsucks.com Your PPC sucks

    Thanks for the props!

    You are awesome Carrie ( and the rest of the PPC hero crew too )

    - Jon

  • http://www.gadgets-4-free.co.uk Chris

    Great advice, I’ve just started with DKI and it’s good to know the potential pitfalls. I’m sure you’ve saved me some lost revenue.

  • http://www.medi101.com Emr Vendors

    I think its a great work done.