10 Dos and Don’ts for Sitelink Extensions
Sitelinks are the king of all AdWords ad extensions. They are, by far, the most versatile extensions; they’re useful for accounts of all verticals, they appear on all devices and advertisers can use them to say just about anything.
Even better, I’ve literally never encountered an account that didn’t yield higher CTRs once enabling these bad boys. According to the crew at Google, the mere presence of sitelinks typically lifts ad CTR by 10-20% (+20-50% on branded searches).
I’ve been preaching the wonders of these extensions for years (proof: I covered them in one of my first blogposts EVER). Yet, we’ve never done a true deep dive on sitelink best practices.
Better late than never, right? Without further ado, here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help you make the most of these truly magical extensions.
DO Keep ‘Em Short and Sweet
Google allows advertisers to include up to 25 characters in their sitelink descriptions but, just because you have the extra space doesn’t mean you need to use it. According to Google, more succinct link copy performs better. It recommends aiming for a baseline of 18-20 characters for desktop links and 12-15 for mobile. This ensures that your messaging isn’t truncated on the SERP.
DON’T Set Them and Forget Them
Sitelinks require very little maintenance, but it never hurts to check in on them from time to time. Periodically dive into your ad extensions tab to review performance metrics for each of your sitelinks. Here’re a few metrics to keep an eye on:
- Impressions: If impressions are low for a given sitelink, it’s possible that Google is passing it over for a reason. Try editing the link and giving it another whirl.
- Click-Through Rate: If CTR is high, you’ve nailed your link description text. If it’s low, it’s a sign that your copy isn’t resonating with viewers. Is this page relevant to your campaign/ad group themes? Can you re-craft your copy to make it more appealing?
- Conversion Rate: If your CVRs are high, pat yourself on the back. If they’re low, give some extra consideration to the page you’re sending visitors to. Are you putting your best foot forward? Is it accurately represented by your link text, giving searchers the appropriate expectations?
For even more insight, use the segment dropdown to see “this extension vs. other.” This will show you how much direct interaction that particular sitelink received, versus the other components of the ad.
DO Create Sitelinks for your Bing Ads Campaigns
Did you know that Bing Ads offers nearly all of the same extensions as AdWords, and then some? (It’s true—you can find the whole shebang here.) All of the benefits associated with sitelink extensions in AdWords hold true for Bing too, so why not take a few minutes to port your AdWords extensions over from Bing. You don’t even have to write anything new!
DON’T Apply Account Level-Sitelinks
Just last week, Google released account-level sitelinks, giving advertisers the opportunity to create just a single set of sitelinks to be applied across the board. No doubt, the crew at Google created this new option to reduce the barrier to usage to boost sitelink adoption, since they’re so beneficial to ad CTR.
As with most things, the fastest, easiest route is rarely the best route. You’re far better off investing a little extra time to create your sitelinks on the campaign or ad group level. This allows you to customize the links so they directly reflect the topic that your audience is looking for.
For example, if the Kate Spade ad above featured account-level sitelinks, it’s likely the links would be fairly generic or only feature their best-selling products. Instead, they’ve implemented them in a more strategic manner, giving the user (who is looking specifically for purses) closely related pages to check out.
DO Give Enhanced Sitelinks a Shot
There are two primary benefits of sitelinks. Firstly, they allow you to consume considerably more real estate on the SERP, making your ads more prominent, and secondly, they give you the opportunity to share even more information with your audience.
Now imagine you could make one simple change to score even more real-estate and include even more details with your searchers—tempting? You can actually do this with enhanced sitelinks! These giant, robust sitelinks allow you to include two lines of description text for each link, essentially mini-ads for each one!
Google reports a 30% CTR elevation when advertisers take advantage of this option, making it a definite “do.”
DO Schedule Start and End Dates for Time-Sensitive Sitelinks
Sitelinks are the perfect way to highlight holiday sales, limited-time offers and special deals. However, no one is going to get excited about your 4th of July sale on the 5th, when all of the discounts are no longer valid.
If you create a time-sensitive sitelink, use the scheduling options to specify the dates that it is eligible to show. You can even set up specific time of day (or days of week) to serve a particular link!
DON’T Assume That Your Sitelinks Will Always Be Served
Just because you’ve done your duty and created your sitelink extensions doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll always be served alongside your ads. Extensions are displayed at Google’s discretion. Advertisers have virtually no impact on which are displayed, if any. Instead, Google uses a secret formula which aims to show the “best options” based on the users’ needs and their contexts.
We do know that Google is more likely to display extensions for ads that appear in top positions. We also know that the number of extensions served decreases as your position decreases. So, if your ad rank is poor, chances are high that your sitelinks will never actually see the light of day.
DO Periodically Check Your Links
There’s nothing worse than seeing an ad that offers exactly what you want, clicking on the link for your desired product and then landing on a freaking 404 error page.
Lego’s creative spin on a 404 error page.
Most advertisers diligently update their ads when they update their landing pages (or build a mobile site). Yet, many also neglect to update their sitelinks. Serving a broken link isn’t just a waste of a click and a little cash. It makes a bad impression on the searcher and dissuades them from returning to your site. Don’t let your sitelinks fall by the wayside. Check your sitelink landing pages regularly to ensure they are working links.
DON’T Be Redundant
Nowadays, there are many different ways to enhance your ad copy. Google’s added a whole slew of new extensions (structured snippets, callouts, etc.) and Expanded Text Ads are giving us nearly twice as much space to rave about our products.
Pumping up the word-count in your ads is great, but do it carefully. If all of your extensions and your ad creative tout only one value proposition, you’re missing out on the opportunity to build a compelling case for your product.
Yeah, we get it. Free Shipping.
As you add new components to your ad, consider the bigger picture. Sure, it’s unlikely that all of your extensions will show, but any combination is fair game, so you should prepare accordingly. For more extension-planning guidance, check out Matt Umbro’s post on how to strategically prep your extensions.
DO Adhere to Ad Policy Guidelines
I know this one is obvious, *eye-roll*, but you’d be shocked how many people fail to stick with the guidelines, resulting in disapproved sitelinks. AdWords’ policies on sitelinks are nearly identical to those for ad headlines—no emojis, no exclamation points and no symbols—period. You’re also prohibited from using dynamic keyword insertion. When in doubt, head to the Advertising Policies help section to verify that your sitelinks are kosher.
About the Author
Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.
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