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Dynamic Search Ads – How Close Are They to Paid SEO?

There’s been a lot of talk about Google’s new Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) format/campaign structure and how effective they might be for different types of businesses.  Much of the conversation has focused around how effective keyword-less advertising can be and how this specific move by Google might forge a new direction for search advertising.

A question that I began to ponder when studying DSAs was how close is the move from keyword to content-based advertising coming to simply being paid SEO?  In the #ppcchat discussion group on Twitter, @GnosisArts suggested a compare/contrast.  So, here’s my best take.  Looking forward to all of you jumping in the comments with your take.

Landing Page Indexing

For SEO and DSAs, this is the same.  Google uses their organic search index of your site to match your site pages with search queries that it deems to be relevant to each page.  So, whether you’re doing SEO or using DSAs, you need to make sure all of those geeky SEO issues are straight on your site in order to rank effectively on good search queries for your pages.

good seo

Search Query to Landing Page Matching

For SEO and DSAs, this is also the same.  Just like with SEO, you don’t tell Google which landing page to use for a search query with DSAs.  Search queries are matched to the most appropriate landing pages of your site on the fly as searches are conducted.  Therefore, you need to have good on-site optimization to make sure you clearly “tell” Google which page is best for which queries.

Google needs to be able to make it’s own choice of landing page for the ad it’s going to show.  This why they have to use the organic index.  They have to look at all of your pages to pick the best one.  You need to help them do this or who knows what kinds of results you’ll get.  I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the SEO of a site directly affect it’s ability to rank in paid ad positions.


Staying on the surface without getting into complicated formulas, how your search results listing is ranked is the same for SEO and DSAs conceptually, even though they’re different systems with different ranking factors.

Conceptually, with both the organic and paid ranking systems, listings are ranked based on relevance, quality and popularity.  But, the specific quality and popularity factors that go into the two ranking formulas are different.  With SEO, it’s about content-to-search query relevance, content quality, and web popularity measured by citations (links, likely social signals and who knows what else).  With DSAs, it’s about content-to-search query relevance, content quality (more now with DSAs) and click popularity.

With both, the higher your “score,” the higher you will rank.  The only real difference here is that you have to pay something to be eligible for ad position rankings and the amount your are willing to part with is factored into your ranking.

Isn’t this Paid SEO?

So, with these major similarities, it seems to me that dynamic search ads are neither Paid Search nor SEO, but Paid SEO.  Your thoughts?



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Mike Fleming

Mike Fleming stays on top of the latest strategies in Paid Search and Web Analytics to make sure every campaign he manages for Pole Position clients brings measurable, profit-maximizing value to their company and their website visitors. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a beautiful, sweet, caring and admirable girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him. Read Mike's full bio.

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