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Alert: DSA Conversion Optimizer Will Override Exact Match Keywords!

Published: August 23, 2016

Author: Jacob Ehrnstein

Recently I ran test to see if we could move our traffic away from a large Dynamic Search Campaign to our keyword campaign so we could better track the traffic as it came through our account. What we found was an interesting flaw in the AdWords system.
Because the dynamic search campaign was set to high levels of targeting throughout the site, the campaign was targeting many areas of overlap in our existing keyword campaign. The queries in the dynamic search campaign were competing against our broad match modified keywords in the account and getting the majority of the traffic.
Our first test – the preferred method of adding in negative keywords to block the traffic from coming into our dynamic search campaign and forcing it into our keyword campaign – had proven disastrous to our traffic volume, and we were unable to regain the volume after we added the negatives to test. So we decided to try another approach: adding exact match keywords to our keyword ad group.
Google states that if an exact match keyword is present within the same account as a dynamic search campaign, that keyword will only be triggered within the keyword ad group and not the dynamic search campaign. Our plan was to add exact match keywords on high-traffic search terms into our keywords campaign; according to Google’s statement, this would have pushed that traffic over from DSA.
We started with 20 high-volume keywords and added these queries into corresponding keyword ad groups.
What we ended up finding was that even with the exact match keywords in our account, we were still seeing traffic come through our dynamic search campaign. How was this possible when it so clearly stated in Google’s documentation that exact match keywords would block these queries?
I’m sure by now you can guess based on the title of the article, but here’s what happened. After speaking with Google about this issue, we discovered that because our dynamic search campaign was set to Conversion Optimizer, it was overriding exact match keywords when CO found an auction valuable enough to compete in.
Here’s an example of the competing keywords:
I’ve changed the keywords in this example to hide what we are actually targeting, but here you can see that during the same time period the exact match keyword was added, queries are showing in our Dynamic Search campaign – not at all what we had hoped would happen!
While this isn’t the biggest worry since CO won’t override negative keywords that can be easily added, it is worth talking about since it really shows the power of CO – as you can see above, the dynamic search campaign still drove the most traffic for that query over the time period.
Ultimately, to solve this problem we did a blend of Dynamic Search expansion and negative keywords to better track the traffic coming in. But let this be a lesson to you: even if you think you’re got the campaign splits figured out, make sure to double-check!

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