The Complete Instructive Guide: Page Feeds for Dynamic Search Ads

 

Dynamic Search Ads have been a commonly used tool for a few years now in many Google AdWords accounts. But one of the biggest irritations of management was setting up extensive rules for which pages of your site could show and which ones couldn’t.

In early 2017, Google announced it would be making our jobs just a bit easier. In a blog post, they announced Dynamic Search Ads Page Feeds and many of us haven’t looked back. So let’s start at the beginning and talk about what DSA Page Feeds are and how they can change the way you do DSA moving forward.

What Are DSA Page Feeds?

Dynamic Search Ads Page Feeds allow advertisers to upload a list of URLs from their website that have been cleared to use in Dynamic Search Ads campaigns. The idea is that you’ll no longer be required to set up multiple, complex auto target exclusions within your DSA campaigns.

Instead, advertisers are able to create a list of approved pages on a website, apply a small amount of formatting in an Excel sheet, and upload to Google Business Data to utilize only those pages for a Dynamic Search Ads campaign. Essentially, you’re telling Google AdWords to ignore the list of pages it has of your main website via it’s crawl and use only the preapproved pages you’ve added to your DSA feed to generate ads for your company.

Why Use Dynamic Search Ads Page Feeds?

DSA Page Feeds are essentially here to save you time and headaches. Whether you’re looking to get a better handle on which pages are showing in DSA or better control which of your pages are showing in what ad groups, Page Feeds can be a great solution for your irritations with the previous Dynamic Search Ads capabilities.

Here are some common irritations that can be managed with Google’s DSA Page Feeds:

  • Being surprised to see pages you didn’t know existed showing up as landing pages in your search terms reports.
  • Extensive auto target rules must be set up to exclude pages that are poor for DSA campaigns.
  • Irritations segmenting campaign structure by product groups based simply on the previously provided targeting options if your site doesn’t follow strict naming conventions (inconsistent URLs saying /product/a, /product/b, etc.).
  • Difficulty controlling who sees each conversion action depending on actions they’ve already taken on the site.

There are plenty of reasons Dynamic Search Ads Page Feeds can save you time and headaches within your account. But the first thing you should do is determine which pages you want to use, then get them formatted properly. The page feed itself is going to be housed in an Excel document, so our first step is going to be building the file we’ll be uploading.

Building Your AdWords DSA Page Feeds

We’ll get to the standard list of steps you need to follow to utilize DSA Page Feeds here in a bit, but the more important piece (and the first step) is to put the actual feed together. DSA Page Feeds in AdWords rely on a file you upload that comprise of two key data points: webpages and custom labels. Download their template file to get an example of what your feed should look like when you’re finished. Now, let’s jump into how we should put together the information in these two columns.

Choosing Your Pages for DSA Page Feeds

Depending on how big your website is, it can be quite a challenge to vet all of your pages for DSA success, but it can definitely be worth it in the long run. Rather than simply jumping into a website and clicking around, I like to take a bit more of a systematic approach. For sake of example, let’s use a website that I’m sure many are familiar with.

Website: shop.lego.com

Also, I’m a total nerd for LEGO, which makes this site fun to use as an example.

Anyway, here’s my process for finding a list of pages.

1.) Get a Sitemap

No matter if you’re in-house or at an agency, it’s almost impossible to stay up to date on all of the pages available to you through DSA. Either the site is still in progress, it’s having pages regularly added or taken down, the SEO team is making updates, or something else. So I always start by getting a sitemap of all the pages available to me so I have a clear starting point.

This might seem like a big undertaking just to get a DSA Page Feed in place, but I promise it’s not nearly as intense as it sounds. Especially if you already have a decent amount of knowledge about the site after working with it in other capacities (which you should), this process can take no time at all.

So where can you get a sitemap?

I’m glad you asked.

  • The Site’s Footer: Sometimes you can be so lucky that there’s already a sitemap linked to in the footer. This can be a great starting place, but I would still recommend using one of the following as a backup source as well.
  • Internal Teams: Many times you can ask around to either the SEO team or the development team and they’ll have a sitemap available that they’re using and are willing to share. Sharing is caring after all.
  • Google Search Console: If your site already has a sitemap but you can’t get it with either of the two methods above, it might be found in Google’s Search Console.
  • Free Tools: If all else fails, do it yourself. There is no shortage of sitemap tools out there. You can pick and choose which you use based on their different features, but one big piece to note is that many of the free tools have page limits (500,1,000, etc.) which can be a problem if you have a particularly large site. Here are to two I have personally used in the past: XML Sitemap Generator and XML Sitemaps.

2.) Vet Your Pages

Now that you have a solid list of pages to work with from your sitemap, it’s time to start vetting the pages for usage in your DSA campaigns.

Here’s the list of pages I got for the shop.lego.com site:

It’s a little over 600 pages long. So to make it a little easier to look at, I want to remove all of the URL information that’s the same for all pages. So I do a quick Find and Replace for “http://shop.lego.com/en-US/” and replace it with nothing, so I’m left with just the page paths.

This is where your knowledge of the site/business comes in.

For example, being someone who is both a verified nerd and a fan of LEGO, I’m able to see pretty quickly that many of the pages are specific product pages. I know an “AT-AT” is a Imperial walker from the original Star Wars series. “Airjitzu” fits in the Ninjago world (an original LEGO theme). “Arkham Asylum” and the “Batcave” are part of LEGO’s Classic DC series.

My context clues allow me to easily ping certain pages as viable for my DSA Page Feed with no more than 1 second looking at each. If I’m not sure what a page is or if it’s a good fit for DSA, I will flag it and come back later.

After reviewing all the pages in my sitemap, I determine that only 29 of them need further vetting.

Not too bad. And that took all of 10 minutes. How many keyword research projects to do you do that only take 10 minutes?

Once I’ve further vetted my questionable pages, I’m left with only those l want to use in my page feed. So I add the “http://shop.lego.com/en-us/” back to the beginning of each URL and them to the first column in the template sheet.

Whew!

But we’re only halfway done.

Utilizing Custom Labels in DSA Page Feeds

The second column of the DSA Page Feed template is for custom labels, one of the best control features to come out recently for DSAs. To cut right to the chase, custom labels are going to impact the actual structure of your Dynamic Search Ads campaigns.

These labels allow the advertiser to avoid many of the elaborate Auto Target criteria previously needed to segment pages into groupings they like. With custom labels, we’re not longer relying on only Page URL, Page Content, Page Title, or Google’s preset categories to build our structures. Now we can leverage our own identifiers through custom labels.

The closest relation we have to custom labels for DSA Page Feeds are the those custom labels available for Shopping Campaigns, so if you’re familiar with those, then you’re already halfway there for our purposes.

Based on the sitemap we ran earlier, here are some potential custom labels I would add to our LEGO DSA Page Feed:

For these sets, I’ve chosen a number of different labels I think might benefit my campaign structure down the line. I’ve included branded series names like “DC Comics” and “Star Wars”. I’ve also included some additional segmentation that can classify some products in special groups. For example, “Rogue One” is a specific Star Wars movie, so all of those sets can be grouped together without overlapping any other films from the series.

Additionally, “UCS” stands for Ultimate Collector Series. These products are typically much more expensive, quite a bit larger, and are usually more difficult to put together than other sets.

These should be in their own area as they’re meant more for adult builders and require a specific audience.

Whether you’re using it for pages to target or pages to exclude, custom labels can save you quite a bit of time if you utilize them right. Here are a couple quick best practices for DSA Page Feed labels:

  • Keep Structure In Mind: These labels are used to create Auto Target rules in your campaigns, meaning they have a big impact on the structure itself and how you’re able to segment. Keep this in mind when choosing how you label things as they should follow some logic path for your later segmentation.
  • Follow Proper Formatting: In your upload sheet, each page gets one line and all custom labels for that page must be on that line as well. Put a semicolon in between each of your labels and no other demarcation. Although the example shows all capital letters and no spaces, neither are hard rules. You can use whatever capitalization strategy you want and can use spaces between words within a label rather than underscores or dashes.
  • Prioritize Your Labels: Each page can only have 10 labels, so use them wisely.

How to Set Up DSA Page Feeds

Setting up DSA Page Feeds are relatively simple. Here it is from start to finish, including the steps I’ve elaborated on above.

  1. If you haven’t already, download the DSA Feed template.
  2. Choose the pages you would like to leverage in your Dynamic Search Ads campaigns, then add them to the template following the appropriate formatting. (Note: do NOT add tracking pieces here. Only the webpage URL. Tracking can be added later.)
  3. Log into your Google AdWords account and head to the Shared Library, Business Data section of the account.
  4. Click +Data and choose Page Feed from the drop down.
  5. Then Browse for your file, then upload and apply.

Simple as that. At this stage, however, you’re only halfway done. You’ve given Google a list of webpages you would like to use in your DSA campaigns, but you’ve yet to tie that to the actual campaigns. Here’s how that process looks:

  1. Go to the Campaigns tab within your AdWords account and navigate to your Dynamic Search Ads campaign.
  2. While in the DSA campaign, go to the Settings tab.
  3. In the second section, there will be a section that says Dynamic Search Ads: Use my website.
  4. Click edit, then choose the second dropdown that says Use my page feed only.
  5. Choose the DSA Page Feed you’ve just uploaded and hit save.

Now your DSA campaigns are only going to choose keywords, ad copy, and landing pages from within that page feed you uploaded in the prior section.

Do I Target My Page Feed, My Site, or Both?

The shortest answer here is “it depends”. Just like with nearly any other type of campaign structure decision, it’s really up to your personal preference and what you’re trying to achieve with your Dynamic Search Ads that determine what targeting type you should use.

Here are some general rules of thumb:

  1. Use Google’s index of my website if the majority of your pages follow landing page best practices and only require a few exclusions to be made.
  2. Use URLs from my page feed only when the majority of your site is not a good fit for Dynamic Search Ads and it’s easier to create a list of what is a good match than what isn’t.
  3. Use both URLs from Google’s index and my page feed when most pages are your site are a good fit, but you would like to get more granular with how you structure your DSA campaigns and you want to leverage your ability to write custom labels for certain pages (either for targeting to exclusions) rather than writing Auto Targeting criteria.

Here are some examples of how you could use option 3:

  • Target All webpages, but utilize a Page Feed to house all of your no-brainer (or non-no-brainer) exclusions (terms of service, sitemap, privacy, etc.).
  • Utilize a DSA Page Feed to segment pages by conversion action. Utilize your All webpages target in one ad group targeting all users. In a second ad group, target only retargeted users who need to see either the same conversion action again or a new one depending on the action they took the first time (converters vs non-converters).

Editing Your Page Feed

Once you’ve uploaded and tied your DSA Page Feed to your campaigns you’re all set to advertise. But what if you need to make changes to your page feed after upload?

Google thought of that.

Rather than requiring you to remake, adjust, and reupload a new file, you can edit each line of your page feed right within the AdWords interface.

Head back to the Business Data section in your Shared Library and click on the page feed you’d like to edit. You’ll notice that when you scroll over each line for a page it will turn yellow.

You’re then also able to edit both the page URL and the custom labels right from within the line editor by clicking either and making adjustments.

Additionally, Google have made it easy for us to add or remove pages to the feed without the need for a file.

To add files, click the +Item button and add in your URL and custom labels, then hit save.

To remove a URL from your DSA Page Feed, simply check the box next to that line item (or multiple line items), click the “Edit” dropdown at the top, and choose Remove. Simple as that.

Lastly, if you simply need to edit any number of your line items, there’s also a crazy handy widget that allows you to “Set Value”, “Find and Replace”, or “Append Text” right within the interface.

Simply choose the line items you want to edit, then Edit > Change Items.

So, so simple.

Creating Auto Target Rules in DSA with Page Feeds

Now that our Page Feed has been created with proper labels, is in the account, and has been tied to our campaigns, it’s time to start creating our rules for targeting. Just as you would with any other Dynamic Search Ads campaign, head over to the Auto Targets tab to start writing your rules for who sees which pages.

The biggest difference you’ll notice here is that the option to target categories Google has put together for you has been replaced with a section that allows you to leverage your custom labels.

This is the most basic form of using your custom labels in DSA campaigns. This section allows you to target individual labels by adding them one at a time and adding them to the targeting.

If you’re only wanting to target at this level with no other parameters, this is your best bet.

But if you’re needing to be more nuanced in which pages can show and you’d like to use labels to do that, there’s an Advanced Section for you.

In this section, you can effectively choose your own adventure as to what combination of factors are required for a page to show. Think of these as being the DSA Page Feed equivalent to Custom Combination audiences.

Choose which feature you’d like to filter by, then add in your criteria in the box to the right.

Then click the +Add button below to set your second criterium.

You’re again given the full suite of filters to choose from, so there’s no real limitation to what rules you can build other than your imagination and the balance between traffic and control in Dynamic Search Ads.

Creating Multiple Page Feeds

In some specific instances, it might be beneficial for you to create multiple Page Feeds for specific strategies in your account. Here are some scenarios where multiple DSA Page Feeds might be a good idea:

  • Multiple Sites: You’re advertising multiple domains in the same ad account. This can be as complex as example.com vs fakesite.com or a simple change of the top level domain from example.com to example.co.uk.
  • Large Page Inventory: For some sites, there could be thousands of eligible pages. In this instance, it might make sense to break the site down into logical segments and create individual page feeds for each that can also leverage their own unique custom labels.
  • Greedy Labeler: If you’re simply not satisfied with the 10 label limit, you could create two Page Feeds with the same list of URLs, but with different labels. You would then have to be sure you applied both Page Feeds to the campaign in the step stages.
  • Positive and Negative: Depending on your overall DSA strategy, you could also create separate Page Feeds for those pages you want to target and those you want to exclude.

There are almost certainly more scenarios where you would want to utilize more than one DSA Page Feed, but hopefully this list will get your mind started down the path to creating the ideal strategy that’s right for your campaigns. From all indicators, there are no limitations on the actual number of Page Feeds you can use in your account or within any individual campaign, so segment to your heart’s content!

Conclusion

Page Feeds are a fantastic way to better customize your Dynamic Search Ads strategy and give you more control which of your pages show, where they show, and how they’re represented. Although it requires a bit more work in the setup phases than utilizing Google’s crawl of your website, Page Feeds can save you a lot of time and headaches from page exclusions and complex Auto Target rules.

What has been your experience with Page Feeds thus far? Do you love them? Hate them? Have suggestions for improvements? What strategies do you love to roll out with your Page Feeds? Share with us in the comments!

Comments (4)

  1. Michelle, What is the best way to implement DSA if my inventory of 1000+ items keeps changing? I mean, do I have to upload new pages when it arrives and gets listed, or is sold? Thanks!

  2. Hi Martin – If the page URLs are always different, I think you’re best off not using Page Feeds. You might be best using the normal URL rules since your pages are constantly changing. If they’re the same pages that just go on/off, you might be able to get away with page feeds, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. Hope that helps! Thanks!

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