Search Campaigns

Types of Search Campaigns

Last updated November 2nd 2023

There are a few major types of Google Ads search campaigns: Generic Search, Branded Search, Competitors Search, and Dynamic Search (DSAs). Each type of search campaign serves a different purpose in a Google Ads account. It's important to understand the differences so that you sensibly allocate account budgets and achieve your overall objectives.

Generic Paid Search Campaigns

The term "Generic" is used by advertisers to label search campaigns that are not focused on targeting keywords with brand terms in them. When someone mentions a search campaign, they're usually referring to a generic search campaign.


Imagine the business Yama Momo Japanese Restaurant. Keywords in its generic paid search campaigns might include "sushi takeaway london" and "japanese restaurants open late" but not branded keywords like "Yama Momo opening hours" or "Yama Momo bookings".

Paid Search Brand Campaigns

These search campaigns only use brand-related keywords that specifically identify the company or its products. These keywords may include the name(s) of the business and its variations or misspellings.

There's an age old debate on whether running a brand campaign is worth the cost. Whether you believe that there is or isn't incremental conversion opportunities beyond your organic listings, you may want to run a brand campaign to prevent competitors from running ads against your brand terms.

Best Practice

Separating Brand Traffic

It's critical to keep Brand-related search terms in Brand campaigns, separated from non brand search terms which belong in Generic and Dynamic search campaigns.

Brand-aware searches are towards the bottom of the marketing funnel and have drastically different performance metrics when compared to generic campaigns — Brand campaigns often produce conversions at a fraction of the cost of generic campaigns due to their high conversion rates and low CPC.

Mixing Brand and Generic keywords will make overall performance look more acceptable, and mask the inefficiencies of Generic campaigns (averages lie!)

Create a shared negative keyword list which contains all of your brand terms. Apply this list to all generic search and dynamic search campaigns.

Competitor Search Ads Campaigns

It can be advantageous to bid on competitor-related search terms. These searchers are at the bottom of the funnel and are already solution-aware. That said, CPCs here can be disproportionately high, meaning the economics of competitor campaigns can be hit or miss.

It is not uncommon for emotions to come into play when a competitor "retaliates" by bidding on your brand terms, driving up the CPCs of your brand campaign - a "tit for tat" situation. Also consider the potential brand cost of bidding on competitor terms - it can be seen as distasteful. For example, you don't see brand-rich companies like Apple bidding on its competitor terms and taking pot shots from afar in their ad copy!

A more measured approach might be to focus on comparison-type search terms like [your product vs competitor product] or [competitor product alternative] where your ad would more naturally be appropriate.

Dynamic Search Ads Campaigns

These are special types of search campaigns that don't use keywords. Instead, they use dynamic ad targets. A dynamic ad target is a URL or a set of URLs which Google uses for 3 major elements:

  1. It crawls this URL to deduce which search terms it should show your ads for
  2. It creates the headlines for the ad (the advertiser only writes the description lines)
  3. It's the destination URL for the ad.

It's a way for Google to ensure alignment between search term -> ad copy -> landing page.

Advertisers frequently use Dynamic Search Ads for the purpose of keyword discovery - Google will often match relevant search terms that an advertiser hasn't already thought of. These search terms can then be used for keyword expansion and deliberately targeted in Generic Search Campaigns.

Best Practice

DSA campaign architecture

A frequent pitfall is to lean into automation a bit too much by targeting All Web Pages in a single ad group and hoping that Google sorts everything out. This can lead to Google driving traffic to undesirable landing pages (a product return policy, a career's page, the about page) and makes it difficult to understand what's working and what's not.

Instead, we recommend that you target 1 URL per ad group. And if you still want to cast a wide net, you can add an “everything else” ad group which targets All Web Pages but excluding all your deliberately targeted URLs in other ad groups.


Guillaume DevinatGuillaume Devinat
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