Why Villifying DKI Is Pointless

April 13th, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

Image courtesy gamespot.com

Dear Paid Search Advertisers,

This {KeyWord:fallback phrase} is not your enemy.

Many veteran PPC marketers tend to vilify dynamic keyword insertions (or DKI). They usually present examples of DKI which have been obviously done by someone who is not skilled in the nuances of paid search copy writing – this bothers me.

It bothers me because I think there is a valid purpose for dynamic keyword insertion in paid advertising. While some uses are nefarious (let‘s be clear – I do not own a black hat) a lot of them are legitimately useful for marketing efforts.

First let’s talk about how to use DKI because after seeing some serious DKI GONE BAD, I figured I should explain how to use it.

When using DKI, you need to be careful of how you input the word “keyword” before the colon.
{keyword:________} would make your inserted keyword will not be capitalized. By capitalizing the “K” in {Keyword:________} the first letter of the word is capitalized. When you type {KeyWord::________} every word will be capitalized. And when you capitalize every letter i.e. {KEYWORD:________} all of your letters will be capitalized and searchers will think you are partially deaf and/or screaming your headline at them – don’t do this.

Now that I’ve explained how to use DKI, let’s move on to when it is appropriate to use it.

BE WARNED! I am not advocating DKI abuse – use at your own discretion.

Image courtesy of jeffreyhill.typepad.com

The Good Use of Leveraging Other Brands

This is a scary, scary topic for most advertisers because they fear legal pursuit from owners – however DKI is probably the smartest way to advertise when you are a small third-party reseller. A great example is Apple. If you are a Main St. electronic boutique who specializes in selling discounted Apple computers, how do you set up a campaign that is effective that isn’t flagged by the ad po-po? Build a focused ad group using the trademark terms as keywords and  DKI in your headline.

The Eligible ad will fly through the review process unharmed because it does not directly mention Apple but the Under Review ad will result in you seeing this message time and time again:

Doing this can really help you penetrate a very specific niche of a larger market quickly and, if set up properly (i.e. exact matching the correct terms you want to appear in the headline), cost-effectively.

The Bad Use of Leveraging Other Brands

Using DKI for leveraging a competitors’ brand  is great when you want to undermine their newest promotion, expose possible unsightly transgressions, or just really piss them off.

Image courtesy of FOX TV Network

Let’s say you are the neighborhood traditional American restaurant and you want to increase your market share after some bad press comes out about a direct competitor – use it to your advantage.

Find all the variables and misspelling of their name, use one of those misspelling as your fallback phrase and have their actual brand name insert dynamically in the headline.

So if your competitor’s ad is in position one for the phrase “Bob‘s Burgers“:

Have your ad in position two with :

This will make your competitor $#*! a brick and Google won’t do anything because you are following their guidelines. This is like saying you love praying so you are giving it up for Lent – you got them in a technicality.

NOTE: I would never do this for a client – this is merely a suggestion for you devilish paid search marketers out there *polishes halo*

The Good Way to Avoiding Negative Approval Status

Another use of DKI is avoid long review process and disapprovals because of  “non-family“ or “adult” ad copy.  What are “non-family” and “adult” ads? Here’s the official definition:

Ads are reviewed and categorized as Family Safe, Non-Family Safe, or Adult Sexual Content depending on the content of the ad and website.

So basically anything part of the human anatomy and any word you wouldn’t say around your mother. I am frequently annoyed by this particular rule because I deal with a lot of plastic surgeons who perform cosmetic and reconstructive breast procedures. Breast – a word that is so mundane that to be considered “non-family” by the Search Overlord Googleus Maximus is ridiculous. I’m still confused that the headlines “Breast Cancer Treatment”, “Breast Implants Surgery”, and “See Big MILF Breasts Now” are all consider the same even though the context of the word is vastly different. Since this is a problem I run into on daily basis, using dynamic keyword insertion is pivotal to me getting ads up and running (without several phone calls and 5-7 business day wait time).

Here are some examples of ads that will be marked as “Non-family” and “Approved”.

Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com

The Bad Way to Avoiding Negative Approval Status

Google hates drugs and at the top of their list seems to be medical mary jane. I’m not sure why, especially considering it is legal in California (and safer than all other drugs).

Regardless of Google’s Stalin impersonation, if you are trying to advertise on Google for marijuana related ads and terms you are gonna have to jump through some hoops. What I’ve learned from my time running a medical marijuana campaign is you can trick Google into approving your ads and use DKI to make your ad relevant to searchers.


This is an ad I tried to run for for the lulz on a $100 free Google Adwords account just to see if I could do it. As soon as I hit the submit button, the image below appeared on my screen.

Google’s automated system was not in the mood for my shenanigans.

Using DKI, I changed the headline and even made the display url more ridiculous to prove a point and in less than 30 minutes my “medical marijuana” ad was not only Approved, it was receiving impressions.

The shocking part about this is my free Google Adword account’s medical marijuana ads were approved faster than a 6-year-old plastic surgery account that had the word “breast” in the adcopy (I swear Adwords’ review team is composed of untrained golden snub monkeys that respond negatively to the human anatomy – “DKI,” more like “DIK”.)

Image courtesy of zoofacts.com

They are sooooo cute but such terrible ad reviewers…

I guess this post was to make people aware it does not make you lazy, dumb, or a noob to use dynamic keyword insertion. In fact, I think if you know how to use is properly it can be extremely beneficial to your ad campaigns. Think of DKI as something to master, like martial arts. Could you possibly kill your ad group’s performance? Of course! But if you hone this skill you could be hundred hand slapping your ad competition, Kenshiro-style.

Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com