Improving Your AdWords Quality Scores With DKI

  |  June 14, 2011   |  Comments

Avoid common mistakes and start creating effective DKI ads immediately.

As the search advertising marketplace becomes ever more competitive, advertisers are on the prowl for the n¬ewest magic trick that will instantly raise their AdWords Quality Score (QS) and give them the chance to show their ads in the top ad positions without paying through the nose.

Interestingly, one of the most effective tricks is neither new nor magic. Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) has been around for almost as long as AdWords itself and, when implemented properly, can result in higher Quality Scores.

Over the years, industry pundits have lauded DKI as a secret sauce that gives them a real competitive advantage and higher click-through rates (CTR), while others have derided DKI as ineffective and the leading cause of spammy-looking ads. In fact, both of these statements are true. When done incorrectly, DKI ads look foolish and perform worse than regular static text ads. In contrast, well-executed DKI ads are a powerful tool that can dramatically improve your campaign performance.

How Does DKI Work?

Dynamic keyword insertion does just what its name implies: it dynamically inserts a keyword from your ad group into a DKI text ad when a search query on Google matches that keyword. With DKI, you can insert your keyword into your ad headline, description lines, or even display URL – or all three!

Dynamic keyword insertion is triggered by the syntax in your AdWords ads:

World's Top {KeyWord:Widgets}
Hundreds of {keyword:widgets} in stock.
Made in Canada. Free Shipping!

Assuming that your ad group contains the keyword blue widgets, when someone searches for blue widgets, AdWords dynamically inserts your keyword into the ad seen by users:

World's Top Blue Widgets
Hundreds of blue widgets in stock.
Made in Canada. Free Shipping!

This DKI ad is very relevant to the user's search query, and your keywords are displayed in bold text because they match the search query. Higher relevance and a greater number of bold words in your ad usually translate into higher CTR. Best of all, if you sell 100 differently colored widgets, and all of these colored widgets are keywords in your ad group (red widgets, green widgets, orange widgets, etc.), this single DKI ad essentially becomes 100 perfectly customized and highly relevant ads!

Does DKI Automatically Affect Quality Score?


As my good friend and AdWords authority Brad Geddes points out in his blog at, Google calculates Quality Scores for keyword-ad combinations in real time, which means that DKI has an immediate impact on QS. Google states in its online help that "each keyword's Quality Score is determined after the keyword is triggered and inserted into the ad seen by the user."

This impact on QS is relatively minor, however, compared to the impact of higher CTR. When your properly constructed DKI ads achieve higher and higher CTR, the quality score of your ads and keywords improves, too.

Common DKI Errors

Implementing DKI ads is quite simple, and Google offers plenty of documentation to help you get started. In the years we have been studying DKI, we have identified three very common mistakes that prevent advertisers from creating effective DKI ad campaigns.

First, advertisers often assume that the DKI ad inserts the user query, a common misunderstanding. AdWords inserts keywords from your ad group. This means that the words in your ad groups need to be listed in your ad group in the way in which you want them to appear online. For example, the broad-match keyword widgets blue will trigger on a search query for blue widgets. However, in your ad the headline will read:

World's Top Widgets Blue

Not the most sensible looking ad headline, is it? Also, be sure to avoid misspellings in your DKI ad group. Since AdWords inserts the closest match from your ad group, if you provide the keyword blue wigdits, for example, your ad headline will be:

World's Top Blue Wigdits

Second, many advertisers either don't know about the syntax options for controlling the casing of words, or don't fully understand them. AdWords offers six ways to determine the casing of text in your ads through the use of upper and lower case letters in the word keyword:

Ad Headline DKI Syntax:How Ad Displays Inserted Keyword:
World's Top {Keyword:Widgets} World's Top Blue widgets
World's Top {KEYWord:Widgets} World's Top BLUE Widgets
World's Top {keyword:Widgets} World's Top blue widgets
World's Top {KeyWORD:Widgets} World's Top Blue WIDGETS
World's Top {KeyWord:Widgets} World's Top Blue Widgets
World's Top {KEYWORD:Widgets} World's Top Blue Widgets

The syntax you select will have a big impact on how your ads display and perform. Get it right and you'll see your best CTR.

Those experienced with DKI syntax will notice that Google has changed the way in which the syntax for KEYWORD works. This syntax no longer capitalizes all the letters, but rather functions in the same manner as KeyWord. Google found that too many advertisers were violating ad editorial policies with excessive use of capitalization.

The third most common mistake that advertisers make is putting DKI ads into an ad group where the keywords have too many characters to be inserted dynamically. For example, the keyword yellow-purple widgets takes up 22 characters and will not fit into either the headline or the description lines. In this case, the ad will use the default text:

World's Top Widgets
Hundreds of widgets in stock.
Made in Canada. Free Shipping!

This isn't a bad ad, but it is not as specific as it could be if it had the actual keyword. In some ad groups we've audited, we've seen as many as 90 percent of ads presenting the default text. When this happens, the ad group CTR suffers, because it is the default text, not the dynamic keyword inserts, that drives the CTR performance.

Get a Free DKI Ad Audit

One of the best ways to learn how DKI really works is to audit your own campaigns to see if they are optimized for DKI. Find Me Faster is offering a free DKI audit to all SES Toronto attendees so that you can see how your own DKI ads are actually displaying on Google. The audit will include your DKI ad efficiency rating, a list of which keywords fail to insert dynamically and which are causing your ads to display sub-optimally, and a set of expert optimization recommendations.

To get your free DKI audit report, send an email to, and attach the keywords and ads from one or two of your DKI ad groups. You'll receive a complete report and optimization recommendations back via email.


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Matt Van Wagner

An award-winning speaker whose presentations are usually as entertaining as they are informative, Matt is the president and founder of Find Me Faster, a paid search engine marketing agency in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt has served as technical editor/advisor for three leading books on paid search, including Andrew Goodman's "Winning Results with Google AdWords," Mona Elesseily's "Yahoo! Search Marketing Handbook," and most recently, "Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing: An Hour a Day" by David Szetela and Joe Kerschbaum. Matt is a graduate of St Lawrence University, Canton NY (BS Economics) with an M.B.A. from Rivier College, Nashua, NH.

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