Today’s post is by Account Manager Shawn Casey, a Detroit-area native and avid beach volleyballer (naturally) who will happily grow facial hair for a philanthropic bribe.

sitelinks exampleBy now, Google AdWords Sitelinks have been around long enough that we can generally agree:  they are, for the most part, beneficial to our PPC campaigns. Amongst many other benefits, they:

– Typically lead to higher CTR (and thus, better Quality Scores)

– Provide additional space for ad messaging and/or calls to action

– Allow us to use unique URLs for different products or messages

– Take up valuable real estate at the top of the “premium” search results

So yes, Sitelinks are good. They have proven to do good things for our campaigns. Most account managers have implemented Sitelinks in some or another for a majority of their accounts. Sitelinks are established and here to stay.

But all too often, Sitelinks have become a “set it and forget it” type tool. Beyond the initial implementation, Sitelinks are often left untouched for months at a time, sometimes longer. Account managers are using them but typically not optimizing them.

This is a mistake.

By conservative estimates, Sitelinks traffic can account for anywhere between 2-10% of overall traffic (based on agency account averages). For larger accounts, this could potentially be quite a large number of visitors. If you were to tell your client that you were going to ignore 10% of their overall traffic for months at a time, how happy do you think they would be?  (And how much longer do you think they’d be your client?)

Luckily for us, Sitelinks are extremely accessible and easy to manage. There are a number of things that you can do to optimize your Sitelinks for better performance.

I’ll highlight three of them:

1. Use Tagging & Tracking. Every other aspect of internet marketing is tagged, tracked and analyzed… and then analyzed some more. How many of you are doing this for your Sitelinks? Unfortunately, AdWords only tracks Sitelink data on an aggregate level, which really isn’t good enough. Why wouldn’t you want to track your Sitelinks individually, optimizing on specific keywords, messaging and/or landing pages?

In order to better track our Sitelinks, we need to turn to Google Analytics. But first, we need to to add tracking parameters to our Sitelinks URLs. You can add as many or as few parameters as you like, depending on how granular you want to go, but I generally like to keep track of Sitelinks text, campaign, keyword, and match type.   Here are what my URLs typically look like:

www.companyname.com/landingpage?origin=sitelink&campaign=campaign-name&sitelink=sitelink-text&keyword={keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

(If you are unfamiliar with adding tracking parameters, check out this article to learn more.)

Once your Sitelinks URLs are tagged (and assuming your Google Analytics account is setup correctly), you should now be able to access your individual Sitelink performance in the Traffic Sources section of Analytics:

GA traffic sources

(If you are unfamiliar with using Google Analytics to filter traffic sources, check out this article to learn more.)

2. Get Creative with Unique Messaging & URLs. It used to be that you could could send all of your Sitelinks traffic to the same high-converting URL and be done with it. Recently, however, Google updated their policy and mandated that all Sitelinks use unique URLs.

When a lot of account managers found out about this, I’m guessing they sighed angrily and set about to make this change in the quickest way possible. For most, that meant looking at their client’s homepage and changing the Sitelink URLs to the “About Us,” “Product X,” “Product Y,” and “Customer Testimonials” pages.

You know what? That’s great! Now you can see what everyone else is doing and use that to your advantage. Do some competitive research to see what others in your space are using for their Sitelinks text and landing pages.  What can you do differently to stand out? Which pages on your site contribute to the most conversions? Pair those with some compelling text instead of just going with what’s quickest and easiest. Here’s an example of someone getting creative with URLs:

sitelinks urls

Your Sitelinks are additional free real estate for your ads. Why not use this area to be unique, highlighting sales and promotions or pointing to cool and interesting things your client is doing?

3. Test, Test, & Test Some More. Now that we’ve got the tracking in place, and we’re using unique messaging, paired with high-performing landing pages, we need to see what works best! Set up a testing schedule for your Sitelinks, just like you would for your ads. If your client has a schedule of sales and promotions they are running, be sure to update your Sitelinks (and the tracking parameters!) accordingly. While implementing these new changes is great, if you never circle back around to track the results, you’re pretty much back where you started.

When it comes to Sitelinks, the status quo isn’t good enough. Learn to track, test, and optimize them like you would any other part of your accounts, and you’ll be surprised at the performance you’ll gain!

– Shawn CaseyAccount Manager

1 Comment

  1. PPC Associates December 14th, 2012

    3 Things You’re Aren’t Doing with Sitelinks (but Should Be): http://www.ppcassociates.com/blog/featured/3-things-you-arent-doing-with-sitelinks-but-should-be/ @shawncey

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Shawn Casey
Shawn Casey joined 3Q Digital in October 2012 after three years of ninja-style internet marketing experience. In a previous life, Shawn was an English teacher in South Korea, teaching elementary school children to say naughty things in their second language, while traveling throughout SE Asia in his free time. He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in International Studies & Economics (we're not sure what that actually means either) and completed his MBA in Marketing from San Diego State University in 2010. In his free time, Shawn enjoys playing volleyball, anything to do with Detroit and/or MSU sports, compulsively buying and selling things on eBay and craigslist, and experimenting with his facial hair arrangements.