By Loredana Bleiziffer

This blog focuses on how to use sitelinks for your business by giving best practice examples and looking at specific client results.

Back to blog home

1. Introduction

Sitelinks are additional links that can be displayed below your normal text ads. They can be set up at campaign and ad group level. Here is an example of a text ad containing sitelinks:

Example of Text Ad Containing Sitelinks

(Source: Google AdWords Help)

According to Google 'User interaction with sitelinks is so strong that you should consider them a basic part of your ad text.' (Source: AdWords Blog). Google also states that sitelinks can improve the click-through rate (CTR) of your ads by up to 30%. One of my clients has seen an increase in CTR from 3.7% to 8% between March and August this year, which was the result of optimising the text ads and sitelinks (see below) – so make sure to invest some time in setting up and optimising your sitelinks.

Graph 1: Overall CTR vs. Sitelink CTR

(Date range 1st March – 31st August)

If you want to know more about what sitelinks are and how to set them up then read the lovely blogs that my colleagues James and Dan wrote.

A quick reminder of why you should use sitelinks

  • They complement and extend your text ads
  • They make your ads bigger – it's true
  • They can increase the click-through rate & decrease the number of irrelevant clicks

2. Best Practices & Specific Client Results

Note: I used the performance numbers for June and July 2014 for this analysis.

Tip 1: Add Description Text

Here's an example of using sitelink description lines:

Example of Sitelink Description Lines

(Source: AdWords Blogspot)

Adding description text is optional, but remember that sitelinks are an extension of your text ads and can help to provide users with more information, like the T-Shirt store above. Make use of this free advertising space. There are restrictions for the content of your ads and the URLs used, so you might want to read through the Google policies for sitelinks here.

Tip 2: Test Sitelinks Against Each Other

Make sure to test different sitelinks. You could try some of the below best practise examples and see which strategy works best for you. You can do this by choosing the segments 'Click Type' (to compare clicks on the sitelink vs. the headline or other extensions) or 'This Extension vs. Other' (to compare the performance of one sitelink with the main ad and other extensions).

Try not to compare your sitelink performance with your overall ad performance, but rather with your other sitelinks. Also look at device and day of week / hour of day performance (in the 'Dimensions' tab) and optimise your sitelinks accordingly. Have a look at Mylene's blog here if you want to know how to analyse and optimise your sitelink performance.

Best Practice 1: Add URLs To Other Relevant Website Content

The Focus

Only four to six sitelinks are eligible to show below your text ads at a time, but you can build out up to 20 sitelinks per ad group or campaign. Think about other areas of your website that you want to promote, or website content that could be useful/relevant for users.

Let's go back to the example of the T-Shirt store, which has added additional links to their order form, store locator and specific products through their sitelinks.

Example of Sitelinks Leading To Other Website Content

(Source: AdWords Blogspot)

Important note: Have at least four sitelinks for desktop and six sitelinks for mobile, otherwise your sitelinks might not show.

Example

The objective of one of my B2B clients was to maximise the volume of traffic to the website, so we decided to add sitelinks going to different pages on the website in order to increase the click-through rate for our ads. What we saw for the period June to July 2014 was an account-wide average CTR of 2.32%, but a CTR of 3.1% when those sitelinks were shown. See the split-down for June and July here:

Overall CTR vs. Sitelink CTR

(Date range: 1st June – 31st July)

'Segment by click type' helped to see how many impressions and clicks each sitelink received and the 'This Extension vs. Other' segmentation helped to identify the sitelinks that drove the most clicks when shown alongside other sitelinks. I decided to focus my optimisation (hour of day, day of week and device targeting) on the ones that were driving most of the clicks.

Best Practice 2: Advertise Your USPs and/or Specific Product Features

The Focus

It's often tricky to fit company USPs or product features into normal text ads, especially when your products or services are complex. As sitelinks are an extended advertising space they allow you to cover these things. See an example below.

Example of Sitelinks Promoting USPs & Services

Example

One of my clients, a seller of very specific corporate management software, decided to bid on more general management terms in order to get a higher ad exposure and traffic to their new website. We needed to make sure that users knew what the product was before clicking on the ad, in order to minimise the number of irrelevant clicks. We decided to use sitelinks focusing on the product features in order to manage user expectations for the website and in order to make our ads stand out from the competition.

By changing the sitelinks to promote product features instead of website pages we were able to increase the clicks on the sitelinks from 7 (April to May 2014) to 37 (June to July 2014) and double the sitelink CTR.

Best Practice 3: Use Sitelinks for Promotions

The Focus

It's often time consuming to change your ad copy whenever you have promotions, especially if they happen on a regular basis. Sitelinks are an easy fix! They can easily be set up and allocated to the relevant ad groups or whole campaigns. When you delete them they will be deleted from all the text ads that they were associated with.

See an example for promotion-focused sitelinks below:

Example of Promotional Sitelinks

(Source: RKG Blogs)

Best practise is to add a start and end date when setting up sitelinks for promotions, so they get paused automatically when the promotion is over.

Example

One of my eCommerce clients had promotions on a weekly basis, and as their product list was very long and their account very extensive we decided to use sitelinks for promotions.

We've seen a 6-7% contribution to clicks on average for most promotions, and a 13-22% contribution to clicks for the sale promotions. By looking at conversion data in the 'This Extension vs. other' segment we were also able to filter out the extensions, which showed for ads with the highest conversion number. I used this information to decide where to use the sitelink ad copy in the main text ad next time the same or a similar promotion came up, as it had contributed to the most conversions when it was used as a sitelink.

Best Practice 4: Ask Users To Take Certain Actions

The Focus

You might want users to take different actions on your website, but it's hard to include several different calls to action in one text ad. Sitelinks can help you there.

Your main focus might be to get enquiries, so you decide to include the call to action 'Enquire Now' in your normal text ad. If you see PDF downloads and video views as valuable as well then you might want to add sitelinks for these.

Example of Sitelinks Asking For Certain Actions

(Source: AdWords Blogspot)

Going back to the T-Shirt store example, we can see that they have added sitelinks for specific products on their site and their store locator, but also an 'Order Online Now' link to make people purchase.

Example

One of my clients is a provider of student accommodation. Their objective was to measure general enquiries, flat viewing enquiries, blog visits and accommodation bookings. We decided to add different sitelinks in order to get users to take these actions on the website.

We didn't see a high number of clicks on the sitelinks themselves, but a much higher number of unique visitors on the specific website pages through paid search. The number of conversions has also increased by 16 to 140% during that time period (see table below).

Client Results for Sitelinks Asking for Certain Actions

(Date range: 21st July – 31st July)

3. Some Limitations of Sitelinks

Before thinking of sitelinks as a magic cure for your text ads (which you probably do by now!) here are a few limitations that you should be aware of:

  • Require high quality scores and ad position

Sitelinks are most likely to show for ads with a high quality score and ad position (read more here), so if your ads are usually in lower ad positions and/or have a low quality score then they might not show

  • Description lines don't always show

Google will decide whether it shows your text ads with the sitelinks, and also whether they show the description lines or not, so make sure that sitelinks make sense if the headlines are shown without the description lines.

  • Hidden in the AdWords interface

Sitelinks are easy to set up and maintain, but they should also be checked and updated regularly. This is often forgotten as they can't be found in the Ads tab in AdWords but are hidden in the Ad Extensions tab. Make sure to add a reminder in your calendar to check they are still relevant and correct, and to check their performance on a regular basis.

  • Must comply with Google Advertising Policy

Sitelinks are part of your text ad, so they need to comply with the same guidelines. Read about the AdWords Advertising policy for sitelinks here.

  • Limited CTR

Sitelinks often have a much lower CTR compared to the ad headline of your text ads, because users still tend to click on the big bold headline. So don't feel discouraged if you see a much lower CTR for sitelinks. Keep in mind that sitelinks help to make your text ads more relevant as a whole and might lead to more clicks on the headline.

  • Limited control

You can't control how many and which sitelinks show, or which sitelinks are shown together. Make your most important sitelinks top of the list when adding them, as these are more likely to show.

So what are you waiting for? Set up your sitelinks now!

You might also want to think about setting up callout extensions, a fairly new Google ad extension which allows you to add additional information about your products, services and company, through short non-clickable text below your normal text ads. Read more about them here. This us what they look like:

Example of Callout Extensions

(Source: AdWords Support)

If you need any help, get in touch with one of us lovely Periscopix people.

Share this article