A friend of mine saw the following ad in her Gmail account recently:

(Hint: she sends and receives a lot of email about horses.)

What happened here? How did such a large company produce such a nonsensical ad? The answer is what I call “DKI Abuse.” DKI stands for Google Adwords’ Dynamic Keyword Insertion option, a powerful and, obviously, easily misused tool. (I wrote about another classic–and humorous–example of DKI Abuse in my post “Classic Misuse of Dynamic Keyword Insertion.”)

What Is Dynamic Keyword Insertion?
(If you already know, skip down to the next section.) First, let’s look at the positive side. What is the Dynamic Keyword Insertion feature in AdWords, and how does it work?

Dynamic Keyword Insertion is a code that you can put in several places in an AdWords text ad (the headline, body lines, and display URL). When space allows, the DKI code will insert the keyword text from the associated ad group that matches what the actual search query. You can specify default text for when there is no match that will fit in the space.

So, for example, let’s say you have an ad with the default headline “Widget Sale,” and you replace “widget” with a DKI: {KeyWord:Widget}. In the list of keywords for that ad group you have “red widget” as a keyword. If someone enters “red widget” as part of their search query, and Google matches your ad to it, the headline the searcher will see becomes: “Red Widget Sale.”

The benefits of DKI properly used should be obvious. Ads that contain the exact text the searcher entered generally get higher click-through rates (CTR), and higher CTR leads to better Quality Score, which ultimately gives you lower cost-per-click (CPC) charges.

For more about Dynamic Keyword Insertion and how to use it, see this Google Adwords help file.

How Can Dynamic Keyword Insertion Be Abused?
Abuse of Dynamic Keyword Insertion like the example at the beginning of this post occurs because of three reasons:

  1. Ignorance of how DKI works and what it actually will do.
  2. Laziness on the part of the account manager who understands how DKI works, but doesn’t bother to think through the results that might occur from his various keywords.
  3. Use of too many keywords in an ad group, especially too many broad match keywords.

All three of those reasons are inexcusable for a professional Google AdWords account manager.

So what’s so bad about misusing DKI? Improperly setup ads with DKI can result in any or all of the following:

  • Low CTR – Most searchers will skip the ad as not answering their search intention.
  • Frivolous clicks from searchers misunderstanding the aim of the ad. This means paying for a lot of unqualified clicks that are unlikely to result in sales or leads.
  • Lower Quality Score, which means that you will pay more for clicks at any given ad position.

Take Away: Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion, but be fully educated about how it works and what it does. Spend time thinking through how your ad might be displayed in relation to likely search queries matching your keywords.

If you are seeing DKI abuse in your company’s ads, it might be time to consider a new AdWords management agency. (Also see my series “Is Your Paid Search Agency Ripping You Off?“) Virante paid search managers are highly-trained, Google certified professionals who know how to avoid paid search pitfalls and how to accelerate your return on investment.