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A Look at Ad Sitelinks

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?

Comments
22 Responses to “A Look at Ad Sitelinks”
  1. Great info, Joy. BigMouthMedia in the UK put out data Nov 2009 showing a 30% CTR increase from Ad Sitelinks:

    http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/live/articles/google-sitelinks-ctr-research-revealed.asp/6563/

    Clicks2Customers is seeing 30-40% CTR increases:

    http://www.clicks2customers.com/c2cblog/measuring-site-link-performance-volume-i-click-through-rate.html

    Given that Google, as well, said Sitelinks could increase CTR by 30-40%, it appears RKG, BigMouthMedia and Clicks2Customers are all on the same & right page on the CTR impact of this move.

  2. Clement says:

    Great to see Google “giving” brand owners something back… An interesting thing happened when I started using ad sitelinks is that it resulted in a 30% drop in CPC. This drop was actually greater than the increase in CTR (~+10/15%), which means we were getting more clicks for less money.

    It seems clear that at least some of the increase in traffic is “taken away” from organic listings, but if the overall spend to hold the ground on paid search is lower, maybe it doesn’t matter too much.

    Plus, in some cases, it is possible to get sitelinks on non-brand queries. It seems like a CTR of at least 20/25% on Google properties is needed to be eligible for sitelinks on a certain query. It won’t happen on many queries, but iy is still well worth the effort of configuring sitelinks for non-brand campaigns as well.

  3. Joy Barberio Joy Barberio says:

    Thank you, Chris and Clement!

    We are also seeing a dip in brand CPCs for some of our clients, which helps further justify using the Sitelinks.

  4. Ed says:

    I think your last point is incredibly important to measure. My experience to date has been similar improvements in PPC CTR as reported however this has largely been at the detriment of SEO volume.

    There is some suggestion in the data of a very slight overall CTR increase however it is marginal. I’d suggest site links are most useful when competitors are on your brand allowing you to own more of the landscape. However if you benefit from a clean brand term with zero amounts of competitor bidding then use site links more tactically.

  5. Jarid says:

    I’ve heard some people comment that using Sitelinks actually is driving up their cost per click. The hypothesis is that sitelinks take up more real estate, so competitors are increasing their CPCs to compensate, thus increasing your CPC. Does your data show anything similar?

  6. Joy Barberio Joy Barberio says:

    Yes, Jarid. We are seeing mixed results as well. Some clients are actually seeing a lift in CPC YOY.

  7. Kelsey says:

    Those last points were great to call out. My only question is, you say the results were encouraging, but for companies where the goal was to drive sales (not brand awareness), was there some kind of conversion action on all pages you set up sitelinks for? Or did you allow the user to go to different, main areas of the site and wander to a page with a conversion action on their own?

  8. Joy Barberio Joy Barberio says:

    Kelsey,
    We set this up to land users on the appropriate category of the site-link. From there, the user can wander the site, pick an item(s), and check-out. We do not see an order event until they hit the ‘thank you’ page, after the order was complete. (So, basically, we allow the user to go to different, main areas of the site and wander to a page with a conversion action on their own.)

  9. Sanjay says:

    ya agreed, CTR is booming with site links, we are getting good conversion too

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