One Google Sitelink Optimization That Boosted Paid Search CTR By 50%

. 3 min read

By Kris Hutchinson | VP, Google

Search marketers know that ad extensions increase the size of their search ads, provide additional context to searchers, and hopefully help them scoop up some incremental conversions.

When setting up a new account or launching a new campaign, most marketers write 4-6 generic sitelinks and optimize them very rarely. And many marketers point all or most of those sitelinks all to the same landing page.

Maybe they don’t have other pages and can’t design new ones easily. (This is not an excuse.) Some have strict rules about where traffic can be sent on their site. (This is not a defensible excuse.) And a good chunk are just lazy or don’t otherwise see the benefit of being creative here.

We began working on a new account with a mix of those problems and found that every campaign had copies of the same four generic sitelinks that all pointed to the same landing page.

We dug into the data and found that sitelinks only served about one-third of the time:

(Sitelink impressions as a percent of total search ad impressions were 33% for the week prior to our optimizations, 3/3/19 – 3/9/19, with a sample size of more than 1.2M impressions.)

We dug even deeper and found that some days, no sitelinks served at all! (Hack alert: this is not something you can easily see in any basic reports. We had to build a custom report, filtered only for sitelinks and segmented by date in order to view this level of detail.)

Our hypothesis was that Google limited our sitelink impressions because we weren’t providing any new content (aka different landing pages for each sitelink). After all, the whole point of sitelinks is to supplement the ad’s primary landing page with additional deep link content.

So we structured a test where we wrote four new sitelinks, each pointing to a unique landing page. Doing so lead to an immediate bump in sitelink impressions:

As a quick expansion to the test, we wrote eight more sitelinks, each pointing to a unique landing page. Once again, Google rewarded us with a huge bump in sitelink impressions:

In just the first three full days of the test, our search ads are now getting sitelinks served 69% of the time (up from just 33% previously).

On top of that, getting sitelinks serving more consistently improved our impression share by 13% and rocketed our total paid search click-through-rate (CTR) from under 4% to over 6%, a 50% increase literally overnight! And when your search campaigns serve hundreds of thousands of impressions every day, that translates to a very meaningful increase in clicks and conversions.

But possibly best of all, CPC dropped 4% for the same days, week-over-week, thanks to the improvement in Quality Score this optimization drove. 4% may not sound like a lot, but that would have totaled over $22,000 in cost savings in just one month that could have then been reinvested into testing new campaigns or offers.

We wait to see the full impacts on conversion rate and CPA, but the initial results are promising and we’re confident this will translate to more conversions at a higher profit margin for our client. Our next steps are to test more sitelinks and optimized sitelink copy to keep driving the Impression Share and CTR up. Then, we’ll clone our winners over to Bing.