By James Carswell

This week, Google will add the ability to show breadcrumb trails within the display URL of PPC ads. Find out what these are, why they are useful and how to get them.

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What are breadcrumbs?

No, this has nothing to do with fish fingers. In the world of websites a breadcrumb trail is a navigation feature for illustrating the location of a page within a website's hierarchy. On our website for instance, my profile page, would have the following breadcrumb trail:

Home > About > The Team > James Carswell

My profile page is contained with The Team subcategory which itself is within the About category.

Likewise, our PPC management page would be:

Home > PPC > PPC Management

How will these be displayed in PPC ads?

Breadcrumbs will automatically start to show in the display URL of AdWords ads assuming certain criteria is met:

  1. The ad must appear in the banner position (top 1-3 ads above the organic listings)
  2. The ad must be displayed on desktop search (the feature will not be available in mobile searches, initially at least)
  3. The ad must only have the top level domain set as its display URL (an ad with the display URL would not be eligible to show breadcrumbs)
  4. The landing page must have markup from which Google can extract breadcrumb information

The last point is key. Google need to know what breadcrumb links to display. This means marking up your website correctly with rich snippets for breadcrumbs. Google has plenty of information on this on their Rich Snippets help page.

Here is an example of how breadcrumbs will be displayed in ads:

AdWords Breadcrumbs Example

Each link in the breadcrumb trail can be clicked to take people to a different point within the site's hierarchy.

A click on a breadcrumb link will be charged at the same CPC as a click on the ad headline.

The advantages of breadcrumbs

One big advantage of showing breadcrumbs in ads is that the display URL will take up more space and help your ad to stand out from competitors who are not displaying breadcrumb trails.

Another advantage is that it will help direct users to the most relevant page on your site for them. People don't always search in a very obvious way - so giving them the to option to view a wider range of products or services may help to increase clickthrough rate.

Note that if you are about to set up rich snippets on your site to take advantage of this, you will also benefit from the fact that the rich snippets can also be used by Google when showing your site in the organic listings. Breadcrumb trails have been showing in organic snippets for some time now and have obviously proved useful to searchers.

Here's an example of a non-paid search results snippet showing breadcrumbs:

Google Organic Listing Breadcrumbs

Viewing performance and reporting on breadcrumb clicks

It will be possible to view the overall total number of clicks on breadcrumb links with a newsegmenting option in AdWords. To see this, go to the Ads tab, and segment data by Click Type. In addition to the current "Headline" and "Sitelink" stats, you will be able to see performance stats for "Breadcrumbs".

It will be interesting to review performance of Breadcrumb clicks, especially in terms of conversion rate. If you see a higher conversion rate for Breadcrumbs than you do for Headline clicks, this may indicate that for this set of keywords you are not sending people to the best landing page. Maybe the page you are sending searchers to is too specific and causing them to miss out on the wider range of products that you offer.

Google has information about the enhanced display URLs here. Start preparing your website and ads for this change now and make sure to keep an eye on your account over the next week or so for the changes to start taking effect.

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