Sitelinks have been around for years and are avidly used by PPC advertisers to enhance their ads. If you don’t know what sitelinks are, here’s a picture that represents where they sit within a paid ad:
As you can see, they are the little blue, hyperlinked pieces of text that link through to specific pages on a website. They’re great for the user experience because they can display deeper levels of a website to a user and take them directly to a relevant landing page.
But despite advertisers’ familiarity with sitelinks, at Receptional we often come across paid search accounts where these useful links are under-utilised or not used at all! I think this may be due to the sheer number of ad extension options now available within AdWords. Gone are the days of just having sitelinks to optimise! We now have five different extensions to take advantage of:
If you would like to learn more about these extensions you can download our free guide to Adwords Ad Extensions.
These ad extensions will not be relevant to all advertisers, however few advertisers can ignore sitelinks, and in light of Google’s recent announcement confirming that ad extensions now impact ad position, it’s well worth spending some time getting the most from your sitelinks!
Most of you probably know exactly what sitelinks are, how to set them up and what kind of links you should be using, so instead of teaching you to suck eggs, this article will look in more depth at how you can identify, monitor and optimise your existing sitelinks for better ROI.
Why you should monitor sitelink performance
Google claim that having sitelinks on your ads can increase click through rate (CTR) by up to 20% and with brand related terms CTR can often be 50% higher. By improving your CTR, you can positively impact your overall quality scores and benefit from lower cost per clicks (CPC) and cost per acquisition (CPA). Sitelinks are therefore an easy way to boost your PPC account performance.
Despite the benefits, many advertisers fail to monitor the performance of their sitelinks and instead set them up and leave them to run without any analysis for months, if not years! You should be regularly monitoring your sitelinks, analysing the CTR and comparing performance between different links. If you find that a particular sitelink has a low CTR in comparison with other links, it can be seen as a sign that the link isn’t relevant to users and should prompt you to try a new link and/or different messaging. This is something you would usually do regularly with your ads to improve CTR, so you should be doing it with your Sitelinks too!
How to monitor your sitelink performance
From the ‘Ad extensions’ tab within the Adwords interface, you can review the performance of your sitelinks for a date range of your choice. There are two ways to review your sitelink data:
1. Top level data
Before Google introduced enhanced campaigns, it was quite difficult to gauge how your sitelinks were performing on an individual basis. The screenshot below from our Receptional PPC Brand campaign shows the level of data we previously had access to:
To view the full size image, click here.
The way Google presents this data is a bit misleading as the data corresponding with each listed sitelink actually relates to clicks on the associated ad (more than likely the ads title text) not the individual sitelink. So, in this example, the Receptional brand ad was clicked on 86 times and of these 86 times the first sitelink was displayed with the ad 85 times, whereas the last sitelink was only displayed with the ad five times. Likewise, we can conclude the following about impressions, CTR, CPC and conversions:
[list_item]Of the 421 times the brand ad received impressions, the first sitelink was displayed with it 417 times[/list_item]
[list_item]The overall average CTR for the brand ads was 20.43% but on the 10 occasions that the last sitelink appeared with the ads, the CTR was 50%[/list_item]
[list_item]Average CPC for the brand ads was £0.43, however when the last sitelink was showing CPC was much lower at £0.32[/list_item]
[list_item]A total of six conversions were generated from the Brand ad group, the first four sitelinks were present each time the associated ad was clicked on[/list_item]
This is all useful information, however as the data relates to the ad and not the individual sitelink, it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions from it. We can easily tell which sitelinks are getting more exposure for example and how each sitelink may be impacting overall CTR, however in terms of analysing each sitelinks’ individual performance against one another, we are left wanting more. This issue was addressed when Google upgraded to enhanced campaigns and they allowed us to segment data.
2. Segmented data
The ability to view sitelink data at a more granular level by segmenting is fairly new to AdWords and is often overlooked by many advertisers purely because they are unaware it is possible. The segmentation type that I find particularly useful is ‘This Extension VS Other’, you can find this within the ‘Ad extensions’ tab when you click on ‘Segmentation’:
When you are in this view it is clearer to see exactly how each of your sitelinks is performing. It is then easy to compare key metrics like CTR, CPC and conversions between each sitelink at a much more granular way than the previously discussed top level data will give you.
An example of this segmentation for one of our eCommerce clients is shown below. When looking at the rows highlighted in green we can see the exact data that corresponds with each sitelink. This gives us a very clear insight into the CTR of each sitelink in comparison with others. In this example we can see from the data that the first and last sitelink have received the highest CTR and although this CTR is low, it is 166% higher than sitelink 3. This demonstrates the importance of identifying individual sitelink performance and highlights the need for ongoing analysis and routine testing.
To view the full size image, click here.
Optimising your sitelink performance
We’ve discussed why you should monitor your sitelink performance and identified where you can access detailed data about individual sitelink performance. The next, and most important step, is to now optimise these sitelinks to improve the performance of your PPC account. Our top tips to do this are summarised below:
1. Gather enough data
It’s important to have sufficient data before making any decisions regarding your sitelink performance. I would recommend waiting until all of your sitelinks have at least 10 clicks each or a minimum of 10,000 impressions before judging their performance. This may take a few months depending on how much exposure your ads get, but without having enough data it will be difficult to draw any solid conclusions to act upon.
2. Identify trends
Once you have gathered enough data, you need to analyse the performance of each sitelink. As with the example above you may notice one particular sitelink that has a significantly lower CTR. I would recommend noting the ad copy and link associated with this sitelink and then analysing sitelinks in your other campaigns/ad groups to determine if you can find a trend whereby sitelinks that direct users to a particular page or section of your website are underperforming. Likewise you may identify that certain wording in sitelink descriptions is proving unappealing to your target audience.
3. Make changes
Having identified the sitelinks that are delivering below average CTRs or conversion rates for example, you should now consider pausing these sitelinks and creating something new to test. It’s important to look at the sitelinks that are performing well when you do this as it will give you useful insight into what your customers are attracted to. For example if a sitelink to your sales offer page is receiving a high CTR, you could try other sitelinks that focus on price, savings or promotions you have running. If you have a sitelink directing users to a product category perhaps you could use this information to create a new sitelink that uses a price led title instead, for example, ‘Bow Ties From £9.99’ instead of just ‘Bow Ties’.
4. Monitor and analyse
Using the methods discussed in this article, you now need to monitor your new sitelinks performance regularly against the existing sitelinks. Ideally, you will start to see improved metrics from your new sitelinks as data is accrued. Try to keep record of performance by exporting the data on a weekly/monthly basis so you can understand better how your changes have affected the account.
Sitelink testing should never stop; it should be an ongoing process and part of your routine maintenance and optimisation when it comes to account management. Whilst it may take longer to gather enough sitelink data, particularly for non-brand activity, it is an area that you have control of and can influence to reap rewards and we would therefore strongly recommend you spend a few hours every month monitoring, analysing and testing new sitelinks.
More sitelink tips
As we’re so giving at Receptional, we’d like to share with you a few more tips to get your sitelinks shipshape! These tips are more general and hopefully cover activities you are already doing:
1. Mobile sitelinks
Searches on mobile are expected to exceed desktop for the first time this year so it’s vitally important that your sitelinks appeal to mobile users. When creating a new sitelink you can tick a box to state that it is a mobile-preferred sitelink; this means it will be given preference to show to mobile users. When writing your mobile sitelinks it’s important to keep character length to 12-15 instead of the full 25 so that your sitelinks are not cut off. Also, try to make your sitelinks appealing to mobile users, consider that they are likely to be on the move, in a rush and more inclined to complete certain actions on your website. Give them the sitelinks they are likely to want, avoid directing them to the pages you don’t want them to go to.
2. Descriptive sitelinks
For those of you who may have missed Google announcement about descriptive sitelinks, you now have the ability to add a short description to your sitelinks. This is a great way to give your customers more detail before they click on the link and helps to dominate more of the search engine results page with your ad as it is greatly increased in size!
3. Ad group level sitelinks
As part of the change to enhanced campaigns, Google introduced the ability to set sitelinks at ad group level. I found this one of the most beneficial changes associated with enhanced campaigns as it allows us to create sitelinks that are extremely granular and targeted. Instead of using the Campaign level sitelinks across all ad groups, you can now set individual sitelinks for each ad group. Although this is time consuming, it can generate great results as it improves relevance and experience for your customers.
4. Put customer experience first
Quite often advertisers are inclined to create sitelinks that direct users to particular sections of their website where they want more traffic; these may be areas where sales are low or profit margins are high. The advertiser may believe this is a good way to drive traffic, however, if the user has searched for ‘Cheap Holidays’ for example and they are met with a sitelink for ‘Luxury Caribbean Cruises’ the relevance is going to be poor and the advertiser may end up completely losing any potential click. It’s important to consider the sitelinks associated keywords and the likely customer type they are going to attract; the aim is to make your sitelinks appealing and relevant to these customers.
Hopefully this article will help you take your sitelink performance to the next level and boost your PPC performance. If you have any questions about sitelinks or PPC in general please contact the Receptional team and we’ll be happy to help!