The Feature Spotlight blog series highlights and discusses the use cases for new and popular features within the Marin platform. Today we’ll be taking a look at the new sitelinks URL Builder, a time-saving feature released earlier this month.
We Love Sitelinks
Users anticipate a relevant and engaging search experience, where the messaging and landing pages align with their needs. Unfortunately, organic links often deprioritize high-value landing pages or leverage ineffective language. As a result of these shortcomings, sitelinks have become one of the most popular ad extensions for advertisers. These additional links that lead to specific, relevant content deep within a website, create a richer and more relevant ad experience for users. In fact, many advertisers experience a dramatic improvement in their ad performance for keywords that trigger sitelinks, with some advertisers seeing a 30% increase in click-through rate.
The Sitelinks Challenge
In order to optimize keyword bids, advertisers need the ability to attribute the conversions and revenue resulting from sitelink clicks back to the keyword that triggered the sitelink. In the past, search marketers had to manually append tracking parameters to individually assigned sitelink URLs in order to effectively track and gain complete visibility into keyword performance. With some advertisers leveraging sitelinks across hundreds of campaigns, this tagging process is not only time consuming, but it’s also prone to errors.
Marin’s sitelinks URL Builder tool enables search marketers to automatically build out custom tracking parameters for sitelinks based on their existing URL structure. This not only eliminates user error, but also allows marketers to spend less time managing sitelinks’ tracking and more time executing high-value optimization strategies. Furthermore, having a complete picture of keyword conversion and revenue data enables search marketers to calculate optimal bids that truly maximize keyword performance.
If you are a Marin user looking for more information on the sitelinks URL Builder, check out the Help article on this topic.
Before writing this post, I performed a few web searches to scout out my competition. Based on that research, there appears to be one thing that everyone agrees upon about increasing paid search click-through-rate (CTR), the benefits:
However, given the title of this post, I figured just about everyone has their quick ways for increasing CTR—and I was right. There’s about 20 “quick” ways to increase your CTR, but not all of them are quick. Create granular keyword groupings? Restructuring campaigns and resetting Quality Score is a long term strategy. Give something away for free? Let’s choose to ignore that one. Look for assisted conversions? I personally don’t enjoy swimming in an ocean of data. Include pricing? And if prices change, it’ll be a fun week. Though all of these tactics and more do plenty to increase CTR, my goal today is to present five ways search marketers can increase CTR without breaking a sweat.
1. Implement Ad Sitelinks
This is unanimously the number one way to quickly increase CTR. Sitelinks provides up to six additional deep links to specific and highly relevant content on your site. These links not only expand your search engine results page (SERP) real estate, but they also enable search marketers to point users towards high-value landing pages, such as form fills and store locators. Keep in mind that up to six links can be added per campaign, which was increased from four in 2011. So if you haven’t touched your sitelinks in a while, it’s time to go back and ensure you have six updated links available.
For more information on sitelinks and how to enable them, click here.
2. Pause Poor Performing Creative
Remember that creative test you were running way back when? Well it’s still running, and one or more of those creative is hurting the entire ad group. As you prioritize ad groups for CTR optimization, be sure to evaluate the performance of existing creative. Though some poor performing creative will be easier to spot than others, be sure to reach some level of statistical significance before cutting ties and pausing those creative. It’s important to remember that poor performing creative represent an opportunity cost. By weeding them out of your account, you can drive more traffic through more relevant and engaging creative.
For additional best practices on creative testing and optimization, click here.
3. Leverage Differentiating Text
There are so many elements search marketers can test when it comes to differentiating their creative from their competitors. Let’s use a short list with simple explanations:
4. Mine for Negative Keywords
Most search marketers know how to mine for negative keywords, but the tune changes when discussing how often. Generating a search query report is simple; with some enterprise class solutions generating them automatically. Identify keywords that have received impressions, but very few clicks. But also take note of irrelevant tokens that appear often in queries. For example, tokens like “free”, “reviews”, and “used” often appear alongside relevant keywords. Add these and those irrelevant keywords to eliminate unwanted impressions and clicks.
For more information on developing an effective negative keyword strategy, click here.
5. Use High Volume Tokens
Keyword tokens within creative will appear in bold whenever they match or closely match a user’s search query. To improve the relevancy of your creative to the keywords within an ad group, include tokens with high impression share within creative text. For example, if users are more likely to include “clothing” in their query, rather than “apparel”, generate creative that includes the token “clothing”, even if both tokens appear in multiple keywords within the same ad group. Using the most relevant tokens within your creative will increase the relevance for a larger share of impressions and help increase CTR.
Incrementally increasing CTR takes testing and continuous optimization of keywords and creative. This involves using both short term and long term strategies. Hopefully, with the tactics I’ve imparted, you can begin increasing your CTR today…quickly and sweatband-free.
Last week, Bing Ads announced the release of their extensively piloted Sitelink Extensions. Seemingly identical in functionality to Google’s Sitelink Extensions, this feature is available today via the Bing Ads user interface, Desktop Editor and API. For more information about enabling and managing Bing Ads Sitelink Extensions, click here.
During the pilot phase, advertisers leveraging Bing Ads Sitelink Extensions experienced an average increase in click-through rate (CTR) by 20%, compared to Google’s reported average increase of 30%. In comparing Bing and Google search results, the disparity between reported increases in CTR might be due to the frequency of Google displaying a more favorable sitelinks layout.
The most notable difference in sitelinks layout on the above search for “kay” was Google’s use of a two-column format, as opposed to Bing’s single-line format. Though Bing does display sitelinks in a two-column format, it didn’t occur very often in the searches I performed. Also, because of the single-line format, the Bing ad was forced to truncate the sitelinks, leaving out the link for “The Leo Diamond” landing page, which the Google ad does display.
Conducting another search, this time for “macys”, shows an even greater disparity in layout. Again, the Bing ad is delivered with sitelinks in the single-line format, but this time with four links. However, this Google ad maintains the two-column format, but expands to show five sitelinks. It’s interesting to note that Google highlights the keyword “Macy’s” in their ad, but Bing does not. Also, Google opts to include an icon along with the “Sale & Clearance” sitelink, most likely drawing more attention and generating more engagement.
What stands out the most between the two sitelink layouts is the amount of real estate Google ads command in the search engine results page (SERP). In both of my examples, the Google ad takes up nearly twice as much space as the Bing ad. It’s my guess that the difference in reported CTR increases has something to do with this; with higher reported CTRs for ads that more frequently command more real estate. Though this is obviously a very small sample size based on my initial observations, I’m interested in seeing if Bing will continue to make tweaks to their sitelinks algorithm to encourage more paid clicks. If you’ve recently implemented Bing Ads Sitelink Extensions, please share your thoughts or findings in the comments section below.
Not to be confused with Sitelinks for natural search, when enabled in an AdWords campaign, Google Adwords Sitelinks will display additional links underneath a standard text ad, and are used to drive clicks to deep content on your website. Typically Ad Sitelinks will only be served below text ads with higher-than-average CTR, position and quality score such as a creative served when a user searches one of your trademarked brand terms or a domain name that you own. Sitelinks are useful for messaging new promotions, driving traffic to high-converting content, and creating exposure for areas of your site that do not rank high in natural search.