May 19, 2010
How To

Using Google’s New Ad Sitelinks Feature: 5 Tactics to Make the Most of Additional Links in your PPC Ads

SUMMARY: Real estate on the first page of search results is scarce and valuable. Now, Google is giving some marketers four additional links for their PPC ads at the top of the page through its new Ad Sitelinks program.

Read how one team took advantage of this new paid search advertising format, which helped them lift clickthrough rates 14%. Includes three important details to know about the program and five tactics to help with your own tests.
by Adam T. Sutton, Reporter

When Kathy McNeill, Manager, Online Marketing, Oakley, was asked to join a beta test for a new Google ad offering, she and her team welcomed the chance.

"From a Web perspective, our paid search program is the largest contributor to our bottom line," McNeill says.

Curious to see whether they could improve their paid search performance, the team from the eyewear, apparel and accessories brand agreed to try the program, called Ad Sitelinks. The new offering placed four additional links on some of their paid search ads, chosen to take searchers deeper into their site.

After about two weeks, they noticed a 14% higher CTR on the team’s campaign for branded search terms such as "Oakley sunglasses." They also saw conversions jump 8.7% on that campaign during the program’s first week. By comparison, the team’s next-largest campaign, which did not feature Ad Sitelinks, had a 4.1% increase in conversion rate during the same period.

Here’s a breakdown of where searchers clicked on those ads:
o Main link: 93.51%
o Products: 4.03%
o Men’s: 1.21%
o Sunglasses: 0.89%
o Holiday Collection: 0.35%
o Total Ad Sitelinks: 6.49%

To help you incorporate Ad Sitelinks into your own search campaigns, here’s a deeper explanation of this new offering and advice from McNeill’s team about using this new program.

Ad Sitelinks -- 3 Details to Know

-> Detail #1. Advertisers need to qualify

Google only offers the Ad Sitelinks program to advertisers who meet a "high-quality threshold" (Although they don’t specify what constitutes "high-quality").

"If your account qualifies to run this feature, you'll find the option to set up Ad Sitelinks in your Campaign Settings tab -- it will appear as ‘Show additional links to my site’ under the ‘Ad extensions’ section," according to Google’s Inside AdWords blog.

-> Detail #2. Ads need to qualify, too

Even if you qualify as an advertiser, only some of your ads will qualify. Your highest performing ads served to unique, branded search terms are the most likely to trigger the four additional links.

Here’s Google’s advice for meeting their criteria:
o Your ad should have the first position above the search results
o Your ad should have a very high quality score (see Useful Links below)
o Your Ad Sitelinks URLs must direct users to pages that are part of your main website and allow users to navigate freely

-> Detail #3. You specify which links to include

Once you qualify, you will be able to enter up to 10 addition links to feature in your ads. AdWords will automatically select four destinations from that list when Sitelinks is triggered.

Google suggests putting your most important links first on the list -- but McNeil says it’s better to avoid using 10 links at once (more on that below).

Using Ad Sitelinks: 5 Tactics

-> Tactic #1. Highlight high-performing site areas

McNeil and her team were invited to take part in this program in late October -- just before the holiday season. They understood these additional links would only show for branded search terms, so they decided to highlight the best-performing areas of their website to quickly direct consumers to their most popular products.

"When someone does a search with ‘Oakley,’ they’re more in-line with our brand and they’re coming closer to making a decision to buy our product. At that point, my job is to make it as easy as possible for them," McNeill says.

The team sent three of their links to the most popular destinations of their site -- the products, men’s and sunglasses sections -- because "chances are that’s going to be what they want."

- Promote seasonal collection

Since the campaign extended into November, the team also included a link to a landing page for their holiday catalog, which included seasonal merchandise.

-> Tactic #2. Track each link’s traffic

The team added tracking tags to these links to monitor performance. Setting up their own tracking was important to tweaking their strategy. They were not able to perform A/B tests since Google’s testing tool, Website Optimizer, was not available for this new program.

The team instead monitored clickthrough rates on links and removed poor performers. For example, a "new releases" link pointing to a page featuring new products only captured a .01% CTR -- so they pulled the link.

-> Tactic #3. Don’t supply a complete list of 10 links

As mentioned, Google accepts a list of up to 10 links from which their system selects four to display.

McNeill’s team wanted more control over which links were displayed, so they limited their list to four links. Doing so ensured that the team knew exactly which links searchers would see.

Had the team listed 10 links instead, they would not have control over exactly which links appeared. Also, they would have had their hands full with six more landing pages to monitor. Because it was a test of a new program, the team erred on the side of caution and kept it simple.

-> Tactic #4. Set benchmarks

The team focused traffic to specific areas of their website to monitor performance in a controlled environment and set benchmarks. Two areas they focused on:
o Tried-and-true areas of their website, such as their men’s product category
o Seasonal content, such as holiday products

-> Tactic #5. Aim for more page-one space for branded keywords

Some marketers question the wisdom of purchasing paid search advertising on branded keywords. They argue that consumers searching for a brand by name are likely to click its natural search results -- so what’s the point of paying for clicks on the ads, too?

McNeill counters that paid search advertising gives marketers more control over the content on the first page of search results. Ad Sitelinks, she says, help marketers increase that control by giving them four additional links. Marketers can determine the ads’ copy and their links’ destinations -- whereas their organic results are less controllable.

Furthermore, your branded keywords are likely to have higher quality scores than your other keywords since their ads often attract strong clickthrough rates and are very relevant to your ad copy and landing pages. Those high scores make it more affordable for marketers to bid on their own brand terms compared to bidding on a competing brand’s terms. And branded search ads can be an inexpensive way to push your competition further down the page.

- Ad Sitelinks deliver additional clicks to the main link

The team’s main brand campaign experienced a 14% increase in CTR during the test, but only 6.49% of the clicks were attributable to their Ad Sitelinks. That means clickthrough rates on the ad’s main link jumped just by having the four additional links listed under it.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Sample from Oakley’s Ad Sitelinks test

Members Library -- Beat the Challenges & Reap the Rewards of Investing in Yahoo! PPC

Members Library -- Branded PPC: Search Ads Can Offer Great ROI, Along with Some Challenges

MEA Digital: Helped manage the team’s campaign

Google AdWords Help: What are Ad Sitelinks?

What is the AdWords Quality Score and How Is It Calculated?

Inside AdWords: Program Announcement


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