Utilizing Google AdWords Sitelinks My Way

I’ve previously written about my affinity for Google AdWords Sitelinks.  By offering users up to 4 potential landing pages grouped below the ad, you are allowing them to click the most relevant link and make the conversion process easier.  This extension is especially great for branded searches because they can be vague.  For example, if I type in “Nike shoes,” Google doesn’t know whether I am looking for men’s shoes or women’s shoes and will serve the generic branded ad.  Sitelinks gives the user the choice to visit the most appropriate page.

The Conundrum

After using Sitelinks for about a month, I realized that this extension would offer greater utility at the ad group rather than campaign level.  For example, say I have a campaign around men’s outerwear with 3 ad groups:

Ideally, I want Sitelinks for each ad group.  So if users type in “men’s sweatshirts,” they would see links specific to that term:

Men’s Hooded Sweatshirts
Men’s Fleece Sweatshirts
Men’s V Neck Sweatshirts
Men’s Embroidered Sweatshirts

Unfortunately, with Sitelinks only available at the campaign level I can’t guarantee the particular sitelink will match the query.  A user typing in “men’s winter gloves” has the potential to see one of the sweatshirt Sitelinks, which could do more harm than good because the link has nothing to do with the query.  If I want to use Sitelinks for this campaign I would have to make the links applicable to each ad group.

The Solution

I have emailed my Google rep about this matter and have received the stock answer “We’re looking into it,” thus; I have taken matters into my own hands.  Over the last couple of weeks I have been creating several new campaigns in order to utilize Sitelinks appropriately.  Taking the example from above, instead of 1 campaign solely around men’s outwear, I would create 4 campaigns:

Men’s Outerwear
Men’s Jackets
Men’s Sweatshirts
Men’s Gloves

Each of these campaigns would only have 1 – 2 ad groups, while providing users with highly relevant Sitelinks to complement their search queries.  In the early going I have seen some good results with click-thru-rates (CTRs) increasing and some cost-per-acquisitions (CPAs) decreasing.  However, I do not have enough data to make an accurate claim that this technique is working.

Yes, it takes more work to create individual campaigns for each keyword theme.  Not only do you have to set up Sitelinks for each campaign, but you must make sure your settings are configured correctly (geo targeting, day parting, etc).  With 20 campaigns vs. only 4 there is a greater chance of missing something due to the added volume of work — with Google’s authorization, you can have up to 100 campaigns in your account.  For the time being, however, I find this tactic worthwhile in order to provide users with the most relevant ads.

How are you utilizing Sitelinks?

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19 Responses to Utilizing Google AdWords Sitelinks My Way

  1. Robert Brady says:

    Hopefully Google sees you hacking the system to get what you want and rolls out the improvement. I can think of a lot of companies that would benefit from watching how customers use their products in unintended ways.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Robert.

    Just to clarify, I’m not actually hacking the system. I’m playing within the rules, but taking a different approach in order to use Sitelinks the way I desire. Instead of 4 campaigns with 5 ad groups each I have created 20 campaigns with 1 ad group each. This way I know the right Sitelinks will show for specific queries.

  3. Jessica says:

    This is the strategy I have taken as well. Rather than continue with high level sitelinks for my campaigns, I’ve decided to break down the campaigns by brand, allowing for more relevant sitelinks for each brand’s sub set of products. The downside is I go will likely more than double the campaigns in my account.

  4. John Lee says:

    My question would be this: is the return on time investment worth the effort involved? In most cases I would probably argue (on your side) that it is, but in some instances it could end up being a waste of time.

    And as a side note, a few months back there was a rumor spreading that Google was working on applying Sitelinks to the ad group level. Never saw anything definitive on that, but it is certainly on my AdWords wish list!

  5. Martin says:

    I also use this strategy as far as possible. But is has some downsides. In complex accounts with hundreds of different adgroups it’s impossible to make campaigns with anything but very generic sitelinks. I also don’t like the idea of moving adgroups into new campaigns, as it means a fresh start without historical data for those adgroups. Makes it hard to keep track if you want to view performance over time. And for a bid management system those moved adgroups would appear as new ones, so no historical data will be taken into account when calculating bids.

    Another downside of sitelinks is that you cannot manage them easily. The interface isn’t good and you cannot use the offline editor. Sitelinks on an adgroup level would be great, but without a proper way to manage them, I guess I’m glad I don’t have to 🙂

  6. @Jessica @John Lee In this case I believe the time is worth the effort because the ads are that much more targeted. Depending on the conversion goals, though, this tactic doesn’t make sense.

    @Martin I understand the negatives of creating many campaigns in order to utilize Sitelinks and you make a good point about losing historical data. When I first segmented these ad groups into their own campaigns quality scores were poor and I had to bid higher. However, after a day the quality scores were back to where they were and I decreased the bids. You are right in that you can’t manage Sitelinks in Editor, but you also can’t manage many of the new extensions in this program (Google we need an update!)

  7. Martin says:

    Yeah, we agree on the need for an update. You mentioned on twitter you were going to ask your rep about it. Have you heard back from Google?

    Managing Sitelinks without the editor really is a pain. For some clients we promote special offers via sitelinks, so they have to be updated on a regular basis. I always get an error because I copy URL’s with “http://” into the interface *sigh*

  8. Hey Martin,

    I did ask my rep and she told me that an update to Editor is being planned, but she didn’t know the timeline. My guess is we won’t see anything until at least the end of the year.

  9. Martin says:

    Too bad, especially with enhanced CPC and the editor being mutually exclusive…
    Anyway, thanks for the info!

  10. We use sitelinks for multiple AdWords projects with strong clickthrough rate (CTR) results, but we regret that the current reporting is very limited — we cannot measure what link people clicked the most. We solved this issue by adding a Google Analytics (GA) parameter for each sitelink.

  11. Hi Pieter,

    This is a good idea as you will be able to tell which of the Sitelinks are providing the most value. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Justin S says:

    Hello Matt, I came across your blog and I have two questions…

    1. Say I have 4 sitelinks, and 3 have the same URL going to the same page. Will Google still show all of my sitelinks or does it negate the sitelinks that have the same URL?

    2. Have you been successful in trying to generate your own sitelinks in the ad preview tool? I’ve tried to use it to see how my site links are showing but I’ve been unsuccessful.

  13. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for reading the blog. Regarding question #1, using multiple sitelinks with the same URL should be fine. Of course, no matter how many sitelinks you decide to use, Google will display at its discretion (sometimes 2 may show up and sometimes 4 will). If you are going to use the same URLs for multiple sitelinks I would recommend testing different messaging. For example, if 3 sitelinks go to a URL selling running shoes I would test messaging such as:

    Performance Running Shoes
    Men’s & Women’s Running Shoes
    Elite Running Shoes

    As to your second question, I have been successful in generating my own sitelinks in the ad preview tool. Directly below the “Ads Diagnostics Results: {keyword} headline you should see 2 options: “Try another keyword” and “Preview search results for {keyword}” If you click this second link you will see a preview of your ad within the search results. Once again, your sitelinks may not show up all the time, but when I have tested they do.

    Hope these answers help.

  14. Justin S says:

    In order to get as many impressions as I can through site links, do I need to title my site links exactly how my site map/navigation is laid out? In other words, has Google released a formula or any information as to when they decide to show your site links, and which ones? I’m sure relevancy is the main factor, but does how I word my site links make a difference?

  15. Hi Justin,

    To the best of my knowledge, Google has not released any information as to which sitelinks will show at what times.

    I would test different messaging in your sitelinks and see which resonates best.

  16. Ram Balasubramania says:

    Hi Matt,

    Is there a workaround to calculate the costs incurred by the sitelinks? We have tagged the URLs to see the revenue they are bringing in through GA, but that is useless unless we know how much we are spending on these sitelinks. Would the difference between the actual number of clicks shown in the ad groups tab and the number of clicks in the Ad Extensions tab be the number of clicks on the sitelinks? Can the same logic be applied to the costs as well?

  17. Hi Ram,

    I would segment by click type for each individual keyword. You will see metrics (clicks, costs, conversions, etc) by headline and sitelink (and product if you are using this extension). Combined, these numbers should total the overall data you are seeing for each keyword. Since you have tagged the sitelink URLs to see revenue you should be able to see sitelink revenue by keyword. This philosophy can also be applied at the ad group and campaign levels.

    Let me know if this method works for you.

  18. Lisa Sanner says:

    7 months later and sitelinks are finally in Adwords Editor in May 2011 with the AWE v 9.0.1 release. Yippee! This step had to be taken before moving them to the ad group level. Hopefully it won’t take another 6 months to have them available at ad group level. But Google does have a way of launching this type of thing right in the middle of holiday shopping season….

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