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GUEST COMMENT Dynamic display ads: what they mean for retailers

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by Alistair Dent

Google has changed the way retailers create display ads for individual products, to make it simpler to advertise lots of different products.

In the past, you had to create a separate ad on Google’s Display Network for every product you sold. If you sold hundreds of products, that meant creating hundreds of ads.

But the new Dynamic Display Ads (still in limited release), mean that you can create a single ad for all your products, using one of a number of templates that Google has created (called Contextual Dynamic Creative templates). Google will then choose the most relevant product, price, location, and other relevant information from your Google Merchant Center to display in the template ad. Google bases its choice on the context of the page it appears on. It analyses the context of the site you’re advertising against, and chooses the most relevant product to show in the ad, from the products listed in your Google Merchant Center Feed.

For example, if you sell a range of sports goods, and you’re about to show an ad next to an article on skiing, Google will automatically choose skiing equipment from your products and show it against the article. If your ad is going onto a blog about football, then it will choose to show the products most relevant to football from your feed. That means that you’re showing the most relevant product from your website to people who have already shown an interest in its subject matter.

Or if you’re in the fashion business, and sell everything from dresses to handbags and accessories, you create a single template-based ad for all your products, and Google chooses which product, price and information to show. On a specialised jewellery review blog, your jewellery range would appear in the ad. On a fashion review site reporting on the latest dress trends, your dresses would appear, and so on. All this is done dynamically by Google.

How to set it up

The first step is to make sure all your products are listed in the Google Merchant Center.

Then, synchronise your Merchant Center Feed with your ad. This means that all your products can be shown, depending on which is the most relevant.

Next, choose an ad template. There are various options, but they’re all fairly straightforward. You can choose to show a single product, or a number of products together, and of course you can customise the ad template to reflect your brand, choosing things like colour, headline size, and background images.

If you want to keep it really simple, you can just upload your logo, and let Google do the rest for you: if you choose the auto-optimised layouts option, Google will automatically lay out your ad in the format that is likely to perform the best, based on matching its data with your product type.


Google has also rolled out the system to retargeting ads. So it will dynamically choose and show relevant product ads to people who’ve been to your website, and remind them of the product they viewed but didn’t buy; or show them similar products that might interest them. It takes information from the web user’s history on your site to determine what product to show in the ad. You can be very precise about how you segment your audience, and what you want to show them. This doesn’t just mean showing them things they didn’t buy first time round. Going back to the skiing example: if someone’s just bought skis from you, you might want to show them the latest range of ski wear next time they visit a relevant site.

Pros and cons

Let’s start with the positives. It makes sense that people are more likely to want to see an ad that’s directly relevant to their interests, and are more likely to buy from an ad showing a product that they care about.

The old way of creating ads was hugely time consuming, and you couldn’t match your product with the context of the site your ad was shown on. Dynamic Display ads are simple to set up and to update (for example if you want to tailor the ad for seasonal sales campaigns).

The results from retargeting ads are impressive. Google claims that people using dynamic retargeting have seen as much as 450% increase in sales from retargeting ads using dynamic display.

The downsides? Google’s assessment of context is pretty good – and it’s getting better all the time. But it’s not perfect yet. Not every ad will be precisely targeted. And you’re choosing from a template, so there’s a limit to how creative you can be.

If you have a very complex product, the amount of automation may not be ideal, until Google refines its targeting more. But if you have a straightforward product set, that can be shown with an image, a price and a logo, and minimal information, Dynamic Display Ads will work extremely well for you.

Alistair Dent is head of PPC for specialist PPC agency Periscopix

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