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A Guide to Ad Builders in SA360

Save yourself time on regular manual ad copy changes by setting up an Ad Builder template in Search Ads 360. Learn how to automate the process with Merkle.

Updating and maintaining dynamic ad copy across a paid search account can be a very time-consuming process that can lead to inaccuracies or missed changes, particularly when these ad copy changes are actioned either through Google Ads Editor, or a bulk sheet. The larger an account, the more difficult this process becomes to manage and QA for mistakes, which is further complicated for accounts which require regular ad copy changes (for example a retail account with frequent sales). A way to simplify this process is to use ad builders in SA360. The true strength of ad builders comes when the templates are combined with business data to pull in dynamic ad copy, tailoring ads to the relevant ad group.


Google ad builders, business data - what does it all mean?


Ad builders in the SA360 interface do exactly what they say on the tin – build ads. They do this through the use of templates and can build ads across all Search ad groups in an account. One template can create ads in any number of ad groups, massively simplifying the uploading process.


Business data allows us to assign information about a client’s business to accounts, campaigns or ad groups, to either improve reporting insights or (in the case of ad builders) to automate campaign management. In this context, business data allows us to pull in dynamic text to create ads that are relevant to the ad group, and by extension the keyword and search query. We do this by creating a business data table in SA360, where each row contains information relevant to a certain area of the business. This business data row can then be applied to the relevant ad groups.


An example of how this would work, would be a for a retail account that has ad groups split by sportswear brands. In this case, you could create a business data table for “Sportswear Brands”, with a row for each brand. Once this business data row is applied to the relevant ad groups, an ad builder template can pull this information into an ad. I have also used ad builders when making large scale changes which affect an entire account, such as switching ad copy over to Black Friday or Christmas based messaging.


So you’re sold on the idea, how do you set it up in SA360?


Business Data Set-Up:

1. In the left navigation bar, select “Business Data”, then select “+ Business data table”, and give the table a name. You will want this to be something memorable - continuing the above example, this could be “Sportswear Brands”.

Business Data Table

2. The first column will automatically be created, which will be the name of the table plus “.ID”, so in this example, it would read “Sportswear Brands.ID”. In this ID column, you will create a row for each ad group “type” - where ad groups are split by the different sportswear brands, we will have a row for each brand – e.g. one for Nike, one for Adidas etc.

3. The next step is to add columns to the table. This is to give more granular detail on each areas- when using business data for ad builders, the columns will correspond to the aspects of the ad copy you would like to vary. In this example, that could be the brand name in the ad copy, the paths of the display URL, and the actual landing page. When doing this, it can help to draft an example of the ad copy you would like to use, to know what columns you will need. 

a.To add columns, when viewing the business data table you have created, select the settings cog and there will be an “Add column” drop-down box. From this, select “Text”, and then give the column a name, for example, “Path 1”. The name of the table will be appended to the start, so this will read as “Sportswear Brands.Path 1”.

4. Once you have created all the columns you will need for the ad builder, the next step is to fill in the business data table with the relevant information. In the example below, I have created a row for three sports brands, with three columns: Name, Path 1 and URL (landing page).

a. What is important to remember at this stage is that the ad builder will pull in this information exactly as it is written (i.e. case sensitive), so you need to write it exactly as you want it to appear. This includes having https:// at the start of your URLs, otherwise, SA360 will see this as an error - learn from my mistakes!

Business Data Table Example


The next step is applying these business data rows to the appropriate ad groups.

5. To do this, navigate to an ad group view and select an ad group - for example, this might be a “Nike” ad group.

6. Select Edit, and from the drop-down menu select “Change business data”.

a. Select “Add” and then select the table you just created (i.e. Sportswear Brands”).

b. Another drop-down menu will appear, containing all the rows in the business data table - select the one that is relevant to your ad group (i.e. Nike).

i. All these steps can be done in bulk, either by filtering for something like “Ad group contains Nike” and selecting all ad groups, or with a bulk sheet.

Change Business Data

Once this has all been done, you can start working on the actual ad builder templates.


How can you create Ad Builder Templates?


  1. Firstly, in the left-hand navigation bar, select “Templates”. From this page, select “New” and from this drop-down menu, you can select either “Text ad builder”, i.e. standard ETAs, or Responsive ad builder, which will build out RSAs. The process will be the same, there will just be more headlines and description lines for RSAs.
  2. Give the template a name - for this example, we may be creating an ad builder template for t-shirts by brand, so we could call it “T-shirt Brands v1” (it is probably a good idea to number them as you will likely want more than one ad in each ad group).
  3. Select the Engine - at this stage, we can only select one engine for a template, so if you run activity in multiple engines, you will either need to duplicate the template or have regular engine syncs set up. If you have regular Bing syncs set up, changing the template will update the add rather than creating a new one.
  4. Select which ad groups the template will be applied to - this will be a case of filtering for the same ad groups you applied the business data to - this may be as simple as “Ad group contains Nike”. Once you have selected the appropriate ad groups, select “Next”.
  5. At this stage, you can start creating the ad copy by filling in the template. If you had drafted an ad when setting up the business data table, you will just need to copy this into the appropriate fields - otherwise, just write directly in the text boxes. 
Ad Builder Template


6. When you get to an aspect of the ad that is supposed to be different for each ad group, you will need to select this from the Business data drop-down section. These will be written in the format: c:“table name.column”, such as c:“Sportswear Brands.URL”, as it references a specific column in the business data table.

Add business data to template

7. When this is written in the template, it should look something like:

a. Buy [c:”Sportswear Brands.Name”] Online

i. When you preview the ads, the dynamic parameters are automatically replaced by the relevant business data for that ad group.


An important feature to remember at this stage is the “fallback” option. For each aspect of the ad that is pulling in business data, there is a risk that the ad copy could exceed the character count. The fallback option allows us to input a second option which will be defaulted to if the ad copy does overrun. It is a good practice to try a couple of shorter variants of the dynamic option in the fallback headlines, before finally adding in a static variant, which does not change and is therefore certain to remain within the character limits. This might look something like the following:

Fall back headlines

How do you review your ad copy with an ad builder?


A concern with making lots of ad copy changes in Google Ads Editor or by using a bulk sheet is that it is difficult to review or preview all ads to ensure there are no mistakes. With an ad builder, all ads can be previewed before uploading. The first 50 ads built out can be previewed in the SA360 interface, or you can download an excel document with up to 500,000 sample ads. What makes it easier to review is the “Error” column in the downloaded spreadsheet, which will specify if there are any errors, and if so what they are, such as invalid URLs or headlines and description lines that have exceeded the character limit.


What next? Updating ad builders, pausing and reverting to BAU? 


Setting up business data tables and ad builder templates can take a bit of time, although it is quicker than manually updating ad copy across an entire account. However, once the set-up has been done making changes is much quicker and is as simple as changing the ad copy in the template. Once you make changes, as with the initial set up, you can preview what the ad copy looks like before posting - again, this is either through the UI for the first 50 ads or by downloading an excel file.


Another change you can make is the associations - it could be that you no longer wish for certain ad groups to have ads managed using this tool, or that you want to apply the ad builder to new ad groups. This can be done by navigating to the Ad Groups tab in the standard UI, selecting those you wish to change the association for, selecting Edit and "Change ad builder" from the drop-down menu. From here, you can either add or remove ad builders from those ad groups.


Once you have made changes, you can check the “ad builder evaluated” column (next to each ad builder in the templates section) to check if the changes have been made. This is also where you will be notified of any errors. 


If you decide you no longer wish for ads to be managed by ad builders, for example if they were used for a set promotion or period (such as Christmas or Black Friday), then you just need to pause the ad builder template, as this will pause the ads that it has generated. This can be actioned from the “Templates” tab.


Anything else to consider before getting started with ad builders?


If you update an ad manually that has been generated by an ad builder, the ad builder will stop updating the ad - meaning that if you make a change to the ad builder template, this ad will not be updated automatically. To resume control of the ad through the ad builder, you can set the “ad builder managed” status to “Yes” in the UI (you can add this as a column to see what the status is).


This set up may all sound a bit complicated, but once you have done it for the first time, it is really simple, and should save you a load of time on manual ad copy changes!


If you have any questions on what we covered in this blog or would like any further information, feel free to get in touch:

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