October 31, 2014

Google Dynamic Sitelinks: Giving Advertisers Free Clicks

Publisher Channel Content by
Wordstream

Dynamic Sitelinks - Google AdWords

Google has given AdWords advertisers a pretty awesome gift: new dynamic sitelinks.  These are links to other pages in the advertiser’s site, and they are added free of charge, for the top three ad positions. That means Google will automatically generate sitelinks for certain ads. The best news: clicks on those dynamic sitelinks won’t cost you anything as the advertiser.

In their announcement, Google said, “This is another example, like selling ratings, of AdWords tools adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” As with Enhanced Campaigns, Google is basically catering to smaller businesses lacking the time or expertise to set this stuff up themselves.

When Adoption Is Low, Google Forces Adoption

The big idea behind Enhanced Campaigns was to increase adoption of mobile advertising, since so many AdWords advertisers weren’t doing it on their own. The move to Enhanced Campaigns made all campaigns “mobile-friendly” by default.

This is a similar move.  Google already updated the Ad Rank formula, one of the biggest AdWords changes in the past decade, to include expected performance of ad extensions in addition to Quality Score and max bid. Apparently, that wasn’t enough to get advertisers using site extensions in every campaign.

So Google is taking matters into its own hands.  It is making sure your ads have sitelinks if they rank at the top of the page. This ensures that they’ll benefit from the improved CTR (click-through rate) of sitelinks, even if advertisers are too lazy to implement sitelinks on their own.

The Loss Leader Effect: How Google Dynamic Sitelinks Improve CTR

Here’s the interesting thing about how Google dynamic sitelinks work: people aren’t actually clicking very often on the sitelinks themselves. The typical CTR on a sitelink is just 0.1%.

However, the uplift in headline CTR for an ad with sitelinks is around 10%. For example, an ad in the top spot with an expected CTR of 6% would see a boost to 6.6% CTR with sitelinks enabled, simple because the ad takes up more space and is more noticeable.

That’s why Google is able to offer you dynamic sitelinks at no cost per click: Google isn’t really losing anything by offering these free, as hardly anyone clicks on them. What they are doing is increasing the expected CTR of the top 3 ads across the board, which means more revenue for Google (and luckily, more clicks for you as well).

We know the use of ad extensions is important for that very reason – the improvement in expected CTR. That’s why they’re now part of the AdRank formula.

We’re also finding that the higher CTR from using the sitelinks ad extension raises Quality Score by 10%, on average.

It’s a smart move on their part, to make this automatic for all advertisers. We estimate that only 30% of small business advertisers (companies spending less than $5,000 permonth on AdWords) use sitelinks. It takes more work to set them up and a lot of advertisers still simply don’t understand how or why to do it. With dynamic sitelinks, they don’t need to understand it.

More Details On Dynamic Sitelinks

Google dynamic sitelinks in AdWords can appear to searchers on desktop, tablets and mobile with full internet browsers and look like the image above (see pink arrow).

Your ads will be eligible for dynamic sitelinks so long as you have your AdWords campaign type set to “Search Network with Display” or “Search Network Only.”

Google adds: “If you’ve already set up your own sitelinks, those will always show, except for the few instances when the dynamic sitelink can perform better.” (That “always” seems like a hedge, since it’s unclear how they’d determine whether your own sitelinks or their dynamic sitelinks perform better without running tests.)

The new Google dynamic sitelinks rolled out globally recently and are available to all advertisers.

If you decide to opt out of dynamic sitelinks on your ads, you can do so using this form (it also allows you to reinstate them later).

We think chasing low CTRs is silly, though. If you’re worried about getting more unqualified clicks, change your messaging and targeting.

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Larry Kim


Larry Kim Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. He serves as company CTO and is the author of 4 Award-Winning Books on Software Development. Larry also blogs at the WordStream Blog and practices photography in his spare time.

2 Reactions

  1. Larry nails the major point here. Sitelinks don’t actually get clicked much, so Google isn’t really giving away much. However, by increasing the CTR of your ads they’ll get more of your dollars. Google is very good at getting your marketing dollars and this is another smart move by them. Just don’t forget that you’re responsible for converting those clicks so that your dollars work for you.

  2. Larry, really informative article on adwords sitelinks. I think it is a nice move from Google to give away few free clicks on adwords ads which businesses can utilize. No matter how many sitelink clicks an ad get but surely it is always great to have few at free and sitelink clicks may vary with the dynamic link quality and relevancy.
    Ultimately the clicks or CTR may not matter that much to businesses if they fail to convert those clicks into real-time sales. So conversion is very important and crucial for businesses who are running paid ads on search engines or social media sites.

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