Hyper-Customize AdWords Ads with Business Data Feeds

Recently, Google released a new feature for AdWords that may have flown under the radar for many SEM account managers. It’s called Business Data (or more specifically, ad customizer data), and it’s buried under the “Shared library” tab along with your bid strategies and audience lists. With business data feeds, advertisers can actually customize ads to serve a dynamic message depending on the search query.

How does this differ from keyword insertion, or dynamic search ads (DSAs), both of which allow you to customize ads to a keyword? It’s all about control. Advertisers can use a business data feed to insert any number of text or number strings into the headline or body of an ad, contingent on a given keyword being matched when the ad serves. In contrast, DSAs leave the content of the text ad up to Google to scrape off of your website, and keyword insertion is restricted to just that – inserting the keyword itself into your ad copy when it is searched on. These are both useful for increasing Quality Score and click-through rate, but are limited in scope and flexibility.

A business data feed is similar to a Merchant Center feed in that line-items provide information to AdWords on what content to serve based on the user’s search query, but rather than products or SKUs, we’re now focused on the actual keyword (Shopping Campaigns leave the matching of the query to the product largely up to Google’s algorithms).

Let’s say you want to run Search ads on a long list of model numbers for kitchen appliances – something people tend to research before searching for precisely what they want to shop – but you don’t have the ecommerce capabilities on your website required for Product Listing Ads. For each product, you’d like to be able to include the price, appliance type, brand, and any brand-specific sale deadlines, as well as the model number itself in the ad. Keyword insertion will get you as far as that last request, and you can’t rely on DSA’s to provide exactly the information you want to advertise.

Google’s support docs provide a great guide for setting up and managing your first ad customizer data feed here, so I’ll dive right in to some of the less obvious nuances of this feature.

In the AdWords interface, a customized ad will look something like this:


For any parameter, ‘bizdata’ references the data feed’s name as uploaded to your Shared Library, and the reference column from that feed goes after the period. So, let’s say someone searches on a KitchenAid mixer, model number KV25G0X. If you’ve set up a tight ad group with phrase-match keywords, then Google would match the query with the corresponding columns in the feed, and serve an ad like this:


The user sees exactly what model they’re searching for, the price, and the sale and its end date – a high-quality text ad. With a curated business data feed, an equally relevant ad will serve every time a model in your campaign is searched… using only one text ad!

There are essentially infinite possibilities when it comes to ad customization, since any number of custom columns can be included in the feed. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when drafting your customized ads:

  • The 25/35/35 character limits do still apply to these ads. This means that, for any possible search, your ad will have to ultimately conform or it will be disapproved. You will almost certainly run into this the first couple times you try to upload your ads, but don’t be discouraged! With just a little bit of word-smithing and manipulating your parameters, it’s possible to craft a conformed ad. Using a temporary =LEN() function in Excel while you are filling out your data feed can be helpful in quickly determining the longest value in each column, so you know what your limits are when considering additional text in the headline or description row.
  • Even after you’ve created one or two fantastic, rule-abiding text ads using ad customizer parameters, you’ll still need to include a regular text ad in each ad group that you’ve linked your ad customizer feed to. This caught me up big time, because it’s not really mentioned anywhere I’ve found except for the disapproved keyword status. My guess is the “regular” ad acts as a fallback for Google to serve should it not match a query to your feed – so make sure it makes sense for all keywords in that ad group!

A couple more tips and tricks for ad customizers:

  • Conceivably, you can use any keyword match type in your data feed, but I recommend sticking with phrase- and exact-match keywords to ensure that your ad says exactly what is relevant to the associated keyword. Don’t let Google decide that a query might match your ad – keep it tight.
  • A neat feature included in customized ads is the ability to include a countdown. So, if you want to have a text ad that looks like this:


You no longer need to update your ad copy every day by using the new COUNTDOWN function. So as the advertiser, you’ll see this:


Within a day of the sale date, given enough space the countdown will actually display the remaining time to the minute! Be sure to use the format “yyyy/mm/dd hh:mm:ss” in your feed to take advantage of this granularity.

  • Question: what if your discount is different for each brand or product type? Answer: don’t hard code your discount! For each model (keyword), include a column labeled, say, Sale_discount, then use {=bizdata.Sale_discount} in place of the 15%.

Hopefully it’s now clear that ad customizer data feeds provide awesome flexibility, leading to a wide range of possibilities for certain advertisers to increase their ad relevance. Toy around with your columns and parameters before going live with your ads – there are a lot of neat ways to go about drafting customized ads once you understand the format.