In recent months, we launched Ad Sitelinks for many of our clients. I pulled a cluster of clients’ performance year over year to see if the Sitelinks are helping improve the CTR on the branded keywords. So far, we are seeing pretty encouraging results.
What are Ad Sitelinks?
Sitelinks are the links within a paid search ad that allow users to go to a deeper/category-specific landing page, instead of just the homepage (if clicking on the headline.) Ad Sitelinks are only shown for ads that meet a high-quality threshold, so brand keywords mainly apply here.
Google serves 4 links right now, and we have the option to fill in 10 different links in Google’s campaign settings, though preference is typically given to the first 4 links in the list.
As mentioned, Sitelinks give us the ability to hand-pick links to deeper pages on the site, and so allows clients to push holiday/seasonal products, clearance items that need to move, popular product categories, new product offerings, etc. These links help push the competition down the page (since the ad takes up more space on the SERP) and set the actual searched brand ad apart from the other ads on the SERP.
Results so Far
To take seasonal shifts out of the picture, I looked at the brand performance since the links were launched, and compared this data to the same time period last year. We are seeing a 30+% lift in brand CTR year over year. One client in the mix is enjoying a 99% lift in CTR! There are a few clients that are seeing a CTR dip YOY, but click traffic is up for two of these brands by 24% and 86%! (Impressions are just seeing a bigger lift YOY for these clients.)
On the sales side, some clients are enjoying a 15-40+% lift in brand PPC sales YOY.
The performance we are seeing on the brand keywords take into account many other variables: ad copy changes, timing of catalog drops, changes in brand awareness YOY, site changes, other/off-line marketing efforts. It is tough to weed through these other variables at play. The upward CTR and sales trend since the launch of the Sitelinks program is quite encouraging though.
To further improve the program, we are able to see performance by Sitelink on our side, so can determine which links are performing the best and which should be swapped out for better category links/landing pages. This gives us more control over the program and should help further lift brand sales since the users land on the link of interest, rather than just landing on the homepage.
Important Things to Consider
Be sure to look under the hood to see if you are in fact seeing a lift in brand sales overall, or just a shuffling of traffic and sales from organic/free traffic to paid traffic. This may be happening since the Sitelinks look similar to organic listings. Plus, these ads are taking up more real-estate on the page, therefore pushing the organic listings further down the page.
Having the paid search brand ads simply cannibalize sales from the organic would not be terribly helpful. However, the ability to get users closer to their objective through the deeper links may also improve conversion rates, and the expanded chunk of SERP real estate push competitor's ads down the page and may discourage users from using an organic affiliate coupon link first.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the program. Are you seeing a lift in brand CTR and/or sales since the links were launched? Are overall (PPC + organic) brand sales up YOY or are brand sales just shuffling from one bucket to another?