This is a guest post by Chad Summerhill, Author of the blog PPC Prospector, provider of free PPC tools & PPC tutorials, and AdWords Specialist at Moving Solutions, Inc. (UPack.com and MoveBuilder.com).
Earlier this month, I was auditing data in our web analytics data warehouse when I came across some AdWords keywords that were being tracked improperly.
At first, I thought that AdWords was using my ad’s destination url instead of my keyword’s destination url. After some investigation, it turns out I was wrong.
The issue was originating with clicks from AdWords sitelinks that have their own destination urls. In my case, they just happen to look like the urls on my ads which caused my initial confusion.
While I was under the hood, I noticed that Google had disapproved my brand campaign sitelinks (without telling me). Apparently, you can’t have your sitelinks all pointing at the same url (which is what I had done when I first got access to the sitelink beta). If someone rats you out (a competitor I guess) then AdWords can disapprove them after a manual review process.
The truth is I just added the sitelinks without much thought. Seemed like a no-brainer at the time—my brand ads would take up more SERP real estate. Yes! Sign me up.
After learning that the sitelinks had been turned off, I needed to understand the impact and determine if I needed to turn them back on.
Sitelink reporting in AdWords
There two places in your AdWords account for retrieving sitelink data: ‘Segment> Click type’, and ‘Ad extensions> Sitelinks Extensions’
By Click type Segment
When looking at your ‘Click type’ segment you can see the number of impressions, clicks, etc. on your actual sitelinks. This view of how many searchers clicked on your ‘Headline’ vs. ‘Sitelink’ isn’t all that helpful when trying to understand the overall impact of having my sitelinks turned off.
Under the ‘Ad extensions’ Tab
When I turned to the ‘Ad extensions’ tab, I started to see a better picture of the performance boost of using sitelinks. This view, reports all the ad performance metrics of ads clicked when sitelinks were displayed regardless of where the searcher clicked the headline or the sitelink. So, you can see the difference in CTR, etc. when sitelinks are present. But it still didn’t really help me understand the overall impact of losing the sitelinks.
Trend your data to understand the impact of sitelinks
The best way I found to understand the impact of using sitelinks was to turn them back on and do a time comparison (pre-sitelinks & post-sitelinks). This easily accomplished by pulling a campaign report segmented by day and analyzing it in Excel with a pivot table. Of course, you can see your important metrics trended over time inside the AdWords interface as well.
In the image above the blue line is CTR and green is Conversions, so it looks like sitelinks made a big impact just as I had suspected. In my case, turning on sitelinks improved my overall campaigns CTR by 40% while having no affect on my Conversion Rate. Consequently, my overall daily-spend was up by 54%, so I decided to dig a little deeper.
Evaluating the impact of sitelinks on your organic traffic
Adding sitelinks makes your paid ad look more like an organic listing (at least I think it does) and it also takes up more real estate on the SERP, so I decided to look at what adding sitelinks did to my overall branded search traffic (both PPC & SEO).
This was easily accomplished using Google Analytics.
1. Go to: Traffic Sources> Keywords (if you want you could also create an Advanced segment for just Google search)
2. I filtered for keywords that contained my brand using a regular expression.
3. I then downloaded both the paid and the non-paid report and analyzed them in Excel.
What I found was very interesting. Overall year-over-year branded visit growth didn’t change at all. Growth just switched from organic to paid after I turned sitelinks on.
Now I need to decide whether or not to keep sitelinks running. I’m almost certain that I will; the traffic is cheap and it seems like the right defensive move to protect my brand.
Now imagine what sitelinks could do for your non-branded, competitive ads (Google reports and average increase in CTR of 30%). Sitelinks could help you take marketshare from your competitors when you don’t own the SERP like you probably do with your branded keywords.
My next analysis will involve a non-brand, competitive, high-CPC keyword that I rank well for, in both PPC and SEO to see how much I cannibalize from SEO. Maybe that’s a topic for a future post.
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