Hey Google, You Don’t Know Better Than Me

I’m back with another post about our friends at Google and AdWords…

This week’s post will tackle their announcement of Dynamic Site Links. No hint that this was coming, at least not that I had read and I follow this stuff pretty closely. Ginny Marvin has a great write up over at SearchEngineLand outlining the whole announcement. So if you want the skinny on what you need to know, check our her post here.

This is the latest in a set of features that AdWords has rolled out over which advertisers have zero control. Now, I can see why  Google would do this (and Ginny points this out as well). It has been documented that CTRs increase (on the actual ad itself, not the sitelinks generally) when sitelinks are used. PPC pros know this and that is why we love our sitelinks so! Even a single site link will do the trick, so you don’t have to go nuts with tons of irrelevant links just to get the benefit of the extra CTR and screen real estate. Awesomeness.

Less awesome? Google creating links for me.

whaaaaaa

Listen, it is hard enough in a lot of cases to come up with relevant site links that don’t either dilute your message or at a minimum put visitors on a path besides the one you have so carefully crafted in your landing page. You do use well thought out and conversion encouraging landing pages, right? So let’s consider this scenario:

You advertise for a trade school. The goal of the campaign is to get prospective students to fill out the Get More Information form so that an admissions rep can contact them. Straight forward conversion goal. Easily trackable too. Remarketing is also a breeze if you set it up to exclude visitors who complete the form. So what other information might a student want to know before they would fill out the form? Tuition cost? Pre-requisites? Is financial aid available? Can they schedule a tour? Can they call an admissions rep directly? You can answer all of these questions right on your landing page. You really don’t need sitelinks to provide this information.

But, we end up using them to get the above-stated benefits of increased screen real estate and bumped up CTRs. We will often use a link to the Contact Us Now as a sitelink because it is less distracting than other content, and if a contact (call or form fill) are the conversion goals, it is taking a person fairly directly closer to completing that task.

But what if you use a separate version of the form (with its own corresponding thank you page) just for PPC (and if you’re totally anal like we are, a different form per platform!). What if you use a different telephone number on your PPC landing pages than you do on the rest of your site? If you create your own site links, you can make sure that the pages you link to match the form version and the phone numbers so that you can track the sitelink clickers the same way you track the regular ad clickers in your Analytics, AdWords and most importantly, the client’s internal reporting.

But Julie you’re thinking, if I have already set up sitelinks, this does not apply to me? Well, not so fast. I was first alerted to this little hidden gem in Larry Kim’s post on the topic:

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.)

[Emphasis mine.]

Here is the Inside AdWords post with the announcement, including a link to this Google Answers on the Topic:

sitelinks_insideAW

If I read this right, and it is totally possible I am not right about this, BUT… the post implies that your regular site links will be used most of the time, but if Google sees behavior over a search session and thinks a different sitelink would be better, it will go ahead and create and post it for you.

dynamic_example

[Emphasis mine.]

What will this be based on? I hope to God they have some better technology up their sleeve than what they use for session-based matching for broad and modified broad match search terms. Don’t know what I mean by this? Take a moment and review your search query reports (SQRs) and see what ends up in the session based category. Not relevant stuff very often, at least in our experience!

Who knows, this may end up to be one of those things that has very little impact and is quickly changed to be opt-in rather than opt-out. If you want to opt out, you can do so by using this form.

What do you think about this development? Are the for now free clicks worth it? Will you be opting out? Love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

 

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