When you signed up for AdWords, I doubt you did it with the intention of just throwing up some copy and hoping people would find you with minimal effort. Yet, for many of you that may very well be the case. While doing the minimum amount of work might get you some results, you’re likely paying too much to get people to your site, or worse yet, you’re paying for unqualified traffic. Enter AdWords sitelink extensions.
The Ad Extension You Need to Take Advantage Of
Google has implemented many tools that make your campaigns much more effective at driving clicks and results. Google extensively tests all aspects of campaigns and will offer you options that tend to drive up their revenue from ads. It’s a win-win, that is, unless you don’t take advantage of them.
One of the more effective options they’ve included is called “sitelink extensions.” These enhanced sitelinks (“sitelinks” for short) give a user access to more specific pages on your website. These links appear below the main copy of your ad, extending the length, or “real estate” of your ad on the search results page.
Here is an example of enhanced sitelinks that can show below your ad:
When you set up your ad, you can enter up to 20 sitelinks and Google will display the ones they find are most relevant to a specific searcher’s intention. Of course they won’t show all 20 at once, typically displaying between 2 and 6 sitelinks below your standard ad. The ones they show depend on many variables including searcher intent, browsing device, CTR of each sitelink, and more.
Google recommends having at least 6 sitelink extensions available for a desktop ad, and 4 for a mobile ad. This gives you the best chance to have them include the most relevant links for each search.
The best part about these ad extensions? It does not cost anything additional to include Sitelinks – you will be charged as your normally would for any clicks to your ad, whether it be the main call to action or on the sitelink.
Why Are Sitelinks Important?
Including these extensions in your ads gets you additional space in the search results. Not only will your typical call to action and ad copy show, but users will also see other options to interface with your brand.
This additional real estate on the results pages leads to some great benefits for you, the advertiser.
1. Increase in Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
Giving users more options to interact with your company in ways other than navigating to one landing page, can increase the amount of clicks you receive to your website. Google estimated that including sitelinks on an add increased the average CTR by about 10-20% on general searches, and 20-50% on branded terms.
Proving You Are The Solution
This is useful for helping people learn more about your company if they come in through a broad match query where they might not be as familiar with you.
While your main call to action is likely about your brand in general, the user may have been searching for a specific product or service offering. Having some of your more popular services laid out in sitelinks can impact their perception of your brand as the solution, since they might have been searching for a service that it wasn’t immediately obvious that you offered.
For example, you might know from experience that someone searching for a “financial planner for seniors” will be likely to want help with estate planning. Your main company offering doesn’t show that option, so including this as a sitelink can increase the likelihood that user will trust you to help them vs moving on to a company that does call this out.
Spending Less Money for Clicks
The click-through-rate of your ad is very important to keeping your costs lower for advertising. Let’s say you are bidding on the same keyword as your competitor, “financial planner delaware.” You both bid the same amount, yet your ad includes sitelinks which increases the number of clicks you are receiving and help the performance of your ad. Since more people are engaged more with your ad than with your competitor’s, your quality score increases, and (in theory) you will rank higher every time – unless they start bidding enough to outrank you, or garner more engagement for their ad.
On your end, the increase in CTR might not be immediately apparent if the users aren’t clicking directly on your sitelinks. However, if they see additional details about your company or services you offer through your sitelinks, they can be more likely to click the main call to action, driving an increased overall CTR.
2. A Better User Experience
User experience is everything when it comes to increasing click through rates (CTR) and engagement. Sitelinks allow you to make it easy on the visitors and offer them some of your more popular visited pages so they can navigate to the information they need faster.
Let’s say you searched for a specific product and wanted to know how much it would cost you each month. You Google the name of the brand and end up clicking on the main link because they don’t show a plans and pricing option. Then you have to navigate through the site to get what you’re looking for.
Here is an example using Optimizely, an AB testing platform for conversion optimization. I searched in Google for their brand name:
This ad is only showing two sitelinks, neither of which is a pricing page, so I click on the headline. I’m taken to a landing page.
The top navigation bar has an option for “Plans”, so I click on that heading – I am not taken anywhere. These two options drop-down and I have to select one of those to get to a plans page – I select AB Testing.
Once I click AB Testing, I am taken to a matrix of sorts that explains the differences between their Starter option and the Enterprise plan. It tells me that I can try it out for free which is pretty nice.
The only problem is that nowhere on this long page is there any indication on how much I am going to be paying after my “Free Trial” expires. Of course, this is likely their intention so they can get people into the product and using it regularly, however it’s not the best user experience.
Aside from pricing being a good sitelink to include if it makes sense, it would be wise to include some of the more popular pages people navigate to on your site. If they are organically going to those pages, there is likely a lot of value being derived there.
It’s also important to think about the relevance of these pages in relation to the buyers funnel for your business. Which pages would be helpful to someone looking to learn more about your solution?
Of course there will be some strategy behind which pages you want to include, but this is a good place to start. You can find some other ideas for sitelinks to include below.
3. You Get More Real Estate on the SERP
Including sitelinks with your ads will allow your brand to get a bit more space on the search results page (SERPs). If your ad could take up more space without directly costing you more money, wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that opportunity?
Of course you would.
Yet, there are still plenty of AdWords advertisers not taking advantage of this option – maybe because they weren’t aware of it, or didn’t want to spend the time creating a few more lines of text.
To show how much of a difference this can make, let’s take a look at this local search. I searched for “financial advisor philadelphia” and these are the results:
The first result is for AXA advisors, and they are not utilizing sitelink extensions. Their ad looks sparse and doesn’t take up much space.
The second result is for GuideVine who is using sitelinks. Now, they might not be the greatest, but they are still getting more space on the page and look a bit more professional because of it.
The third result uses no sitelinks and has 3 words in their description – there is definitely some room for improvement here as well.
The fourth result for WSFS Bank is utilizing sitelinks, callout extensions, and is taking full advantage of the space they are given. This one looks the most professional and is getting the most space of the four ads. In fact, their ad is taking up 35% more space in terms of length, and is 80% larger in height than the top ad.
4. Improving Your Quality Score
Your AdWords quality score is based on multiple factors, but there are three main pieces:
- Your click through rate (CTR)
- The relevancy of the keywords targeted to the ad copy and the landing page
- Historical performance of your ads
As mentioned above, using sitelink extensions will likely increase your CTR, which ultimately drives up your quality score.
Why does quality score matter?
Your quality score determines where your ad will show along with how much you will need to pay to get be in that spot. Since CTR is a major factor in defining what your quality score is, and ultimately where your ad will show, it’s wise to use the tools given to you in order to stay relevant.
Not only will a higher CTR drive up your quality score, but isn’t that essentially what we are after with ads anyway? Getting the highest number of relevant people to engage with our ad.
5. Appear More Authoritative
Sitelinks are not just for paid search campaigns. As they introduced this feature around ten years ago in 2006, a typical Google user has seen and interacted with organic sitelinks before. It’s no wonder that including these same links on a Google ad would help the user see this company as more authoritative or relevant.
As every person is now seeing thousands of marketing messages per day, having some solid ground to stand on can really help. Instead of just having a link that says “We sell the best financial services, come be our customer!”, what if you saw that same message, with some links underneath to a page about pricing and one with a store locator?
I might think, “oh, well these folks have an office so that adds a layer of credibility, and they are also allowing me to see how much this is going to cost before I even contact them.” It would not set off my BS meter as fast as a single lined CTA asking me to give them my money would.
Google shows sitelinks in the organic results as well, you just have a little less control over what goes in those places. With an AdWords ad, you can include up to 12 options of links to show users that are pages you want them to see.
Examples of Sitelinks You Can Use
Knowing that sitelinks can help you and why they are important is great, but what kinds of ways can your business use them? Here are some ideas:
1. Service offerings
If you run a financial planning company, maybe you offer a free upfront audit of a clients finances; this would be a great way to get someone who is a little wary of using a financial planner in the first place to engage with your brand. This is one way to lessen the barrier to entry for potential clients.
Including one of your more popular products as a sitelink could help them see that you are a company who offers what they were looking for.
3. Sales and Promotions
If you are running a special or sale on your companies offerings, it might be wise to include this as a sitelink to gain more traction that offering. The beauty of sitelinks is that you can turn them on and off with minimal effort in just a few minutes time.
If you sell out of the product you are discounting, you can turn it off. If the sale ends at midnight on a specific day, you can set the sitelink to run out shortly before its over.
4. Specific Offerings by Day of the Week
Similar to the functionality of ending sale sitelinks, you can set a sitelink to appear only on certain dates, days of the week, or at specific times. If you offer free consultations to clients during April, you can set a sitelink to only show during that time frame.
5. Locator – For Stores or Agents
If your business has more than one office, it it probably wise to include a sitelink that takes users to a page with the list of stores, or a store locator. Many people will be looking for a way to come in and visit you, don’t make it difficult for them to do so.
to improve the user experience, many looking for pricing for products or services; especially SAAS companies who have monthly costs; lessens the amount of searching they have to do on your website, could keep them there longer.
Searcher Intent by Device
In a time when mobile searches have now eclipsed desktop searches, it’s important to think about both as separate experiences for the user. These two could have wildly different intentions, yet many advertiser’s institute the same sitelinks for both types of searches.
A mobile visitor might be looking for more location based options – such as a way to get to your store – so including directions and a contact page might be helpful. While a desktop visitor might be doing more detailed research about your products and services.
This isn’t to say that mobile visitors won’t be looking for some similar information, but it’s worthwhile to test which sitelinks are getting clicks on which device.
You also want to keep in mind that the maximum number of sitelinks that will be shown on a mobile device is four, versus the six possible on a desktop. Make sure you are including only the most relevant options for mobile sitelinks to maximize the effectiveness of the limited space you’ll receive.
If you’re stuck trying to figure out what to include for mobile vs desktop, take a look at which pages in your analytics are most popular by device. Segment your traffic by device in your analytics platform and see which pages are receiving the most sessions.
Mobile sitelinks are different from desktop by the number of characters that will display as well. Remember that a mobile device has a much smaller screen than a desktop/laptop computer will. This means your ad copy will be shortened to around 12-15 characters for your main CTA, vs the 25 characters you are given on desktop. This is recommended to avoid an ellipsis from showing in your ad – it will also put your copywriting skills to the test as you’ll have a much smaller space to get your message across.
How to Setup Sitelinks
Sitelinks can be set up at both the campaign and ad group levels. The campaign sitelinks will only show if sitelinks are not set for a specific ad group.
You click the Ad Extensions tab, and then from the “View” drop-down menu, you’ll want to select Sitelinks Extensions. Click the red +Extension button, and then the gray + New Sitelink button. You will get a pop-up that looks something like this:
The minimum required to set this up is the link text, and final URL.
Although optional, it is a good idea to include description text explaining where visitors will be taken if they click on that link. If you’re taking the time to include this page on your ad, it would be a missed opportunity to leave this section blank. You’re trying to increase engagement and CTR’s on this sitelink, AND you have a general idea of what mindset people are in when they see your ad. Take an extra few minutes and come up with a compelling description of this page that will entice people to click through.
Here are two examples of ads with sitelinks, one that is displaying the description text, and one without.
Google will not always include this description text, but often times it will consistently appear on branded searches (those including your company name).
If you have some analytics background and understand how to set them up, including tracking parameters is a good idea to help you test conversions by sitelink.
Using sitelinks in your AdWords campaign can have a tremendous effect on your campaign performance, and only take about an hour to implement.
Have you seen a boost in performance from using AdWords ad extensions?