AdWords Site Links Testing: Words of Encouragement & Caution

Google is now testing site links for AdWords ads. This feature is now offered to select advertisers and being served on ads meeting high quality standards. Site links in the organic results have been around for years and are a staple of setting dominant listings above all the rest. Is your site is in the position to be dominant in the PPC space by using site links?

ppc site links

Requirements:

Google requires ads to meet various requirements before they’ll serve your ad with the site links. First, Google only provides this option to advertisers whose accounts meet a ‘high’ quality standard. Google doesn’t provide anyway to quantify that quality level. Either you’re in or not. Second, Google requires the ad to be in position #1. The ad doesn’t have to average position #1, but when the ad serves in positions below #1 the site links will not be included. Lastly since this feature is in beta status, Google isn’t obligated to serve site links with your ads even if you meet the quality, position and editorial requirements.

Words of Encouragement:

Benefits For The Advertiser: There are several reasons why testing this new ad format may benefit you the advertiser. The most obvious is that your ad will be the only one of its kind on the page, effectively making it stick out. If competition is high for a particular keyword and increasing CTR is a challenge, site links may be the one way to do so. Site links should be used to highlight a particular competitive advantage. This could be a free shipping promotion or a brand new line of products. Either way, make sure the link text is compelling and unique to the SERP. This will give you the best chance to be rewarded with extra visitors and sales.

Benefits For Google: There has got to be something in it for Google to test this new ad format. Their goal always will be providing the searcher with the best experience possible. Equal to the experience is Google’s ability to earn revenue from advertising. The site links ad format is designed to do both. If more searchers click on the #1 PPC listing than before, then Google earns more revenue per click and most likely provided the searcher with a good experience. It makes sense that Google would prefer the user to click on the ad in positions #1 over the ad in position #2, and it also makes sense that Google would want a searcher to click on a PPC ad rather than an organic listing.  Giving PPC ads top page position while making them as attractive as the organic listings is likely to divert more clicks away from top ranking organic results. Increasing CTR on PPC ads compared to organic listings is definitely in Google best interest. If you do not rank well organically but your competition does, this may be your opportunity to take some of their business away.

Competition for the top position is bound to increase CPC due to the exclusivity of the site link ad format. Because the #1 spot is required, bidding competition is also likely to become much fiercer for advertisers who desire this type of serving.

Words of Caution:

If you decide to start testing site link ads make sure you pay close attention to trending on your average cost per click. Also, measure your results objectively. Set benchmarks before the site link testing begins. By doing so you’ll have a way to compare before and after performance and be confident that the new initiative is worth the effort. There is rarely a good reason to bid to position #1 if the return on investment doesn’t directly support that bidding strategy.

If your website already ranks well organically and displays site links make sure you do not overlap. Think about your overall search strategy. Take advantage of the unique opportunity that PPC ads offer and promote a part of your business that you couldn’t as a part of your organic site links.

I’m interested to see how strategies evolve and whether Google sticks with this format in the long term. To all who are able to use the new site link ads, I wish you the best of luck.