New Adwords Sitelinks Policy – An Interview with Jeremy Brown

Adwords sitelinks are a great PPC feature that Google introduced a couple of years ago.  I’ve written about the good and bad in previous Search Engine Watch posts.

As is the way with PPC, last week Google made some tweaks to Sitelinks, which of course sparked discussion on Twitter.  This post was inspired by those discussions.

So, with no further ado, here’s my interview with Jeremy Brown on Sitelinks.

Melissa Mackey: First, introduce yourself!  Tell us a little about your business and the type of clients you work with.
Jeremy Brown:  I’ve been working in online marketing since 2000 and in PPC for the past 10 years.  I’ve recently started Metric Theory with a great team of folks to offer PPC management services to ecommerce and B2B companies with budgets ranging from $10k-$500k per month.  Our team previously built an agency that was managing over $60 million in annual PPC spend, and we have wide experience working with large retailers as well as cutting-edge tech companies.  We are growing quickly and we are looking for new clients so we can apply our data-focused strategies to drive results.

MM: Without spilling any trade secrets, how have you used Sitelinks successfully in the past? What best practices have you followed?
JB:  Sitelinks are absolutely great for taking up more space on the page.  That is their number #1 utility.  Second to that, they can be used as additional ad copy.  Google may want you to think of them as navigation (like organic search), but they are ad space and provide opportunities for selling.  They can be used to feature unique selling propositions, special sales, email newsletters, and a whole plethora of detailed information.

It’s important to think about what audience you are reaching with each campaign and model your Sitelinks appropriately.  For example, we often find it quite effective to feature a link to client testimonials as one Sitelink for small retailers on their brand campaign.  This provides additional social proof and a sense of security, and can be just what people need when they are reaching the decision point of the buying cycle.

MM: Google recently updated their Sitelink policy and is about to begin stricter enforcement.  What do you think about this?
JB: I’m definitely not a fan of Google enforcing a unique link for every Sitelink, and I’ve provided feedback to Google through numerous channels that this will result in a worse user experience.  Many, many advertisers do not have 4 relevant pages for a given campaign (much less 6-10).  Also, a good portion of those advertisers do not have the resources to create new pages easily.

What I see happening is that a number of advertisers will stick with current sales-focused Sitelinks and will use whatever pages they have at hand as the actual links.  Non-brand Sitelinks often get a small number of clicks and advertisers won’t fret over taking someone to an unrelated page.  As a Google user, I would much rather have 4 Sitelinks taking me to 1 related page rather than 4 Sitelinks taking me to various, unrelated pages in order to satisfy a Google directive to make paid search look and feel more like organic search.

MM: Google is also recommending that advertisers use 6-10 Sitelinks.  Isn’t it a challenge to come up with 6-10 unique Sitelink landing pages per campaign?
JB: It’s definitely a challenge.  In particular, it’s ridiculous for B2B or B2C advertisers who use dedicated lead forms.  Are they supposed to develop 6 slightly different lead forms so they can use Sitelinks effectively?  That doesn’t make sense.  We’ve worked with some clients who have only a handful of dedicated PPC landing pages and those have been obsessively tested and, in some cases, meticulously combed over by the executive suite.  They want to present a standard brand and image in certain advertising channels.  Having 6+ different landing pages often doesn’t mesh well with certain client goals.

Overall, Google is treating Sitelinks as pure navigation – whereas they should be treating them as part of a paid ad that advertisers can test and use as they see fit.  I don’t see this enforcement change helping advertisers or helping Google users.

MM: There is talk in the PPC community of “Sitelinks 2.0,” with Sitelinks available at the ad group level.  How do you think this will help or hurt advertisers?
JB: As much as I’m criticizing Google for their unique Sitelink policy, I want to heap praise on this move.  Advertisers have long asked for this capability, and it’s good to finally see it happening.  What do advertisers want?  More control so they can better craft their ads to drive strong results.  This definitely provides more control.  Advertisers can now use Sitelinks that are appropriate to each ad group as opposed to being stuck with what’s set at the campaign level.  This is a big improvement, and I do see many advertisers taking advantage of this to tailor more relevant Sitelinks to each high-volume ad group.

Still, this impact could be diminished if Google goes forward with their unique Sitelink policy: it’s much easier to craft relevant Sitelink descriptions for each ad group as opposed to creating different, appropriate landing pages for every ad group.  That’s asking a lot for most advertisers.  Based on Google’s documentation (or lack of) over the years, I’d say even a company of Google’s size has trouble marshaling the resources to quickly generate new pages of website content.

MM: Thanks so much for your insight!  It’s going to be interesting to see how the new sitelinks policy plays out.  How can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more about you and Metric Theory?
I’m easily reachable by email at jeremy@metrictheory.com.  We’ve also been putting up a number of blog posts at the Metric Theory blog.  I’ve been on Twitter for years at @jbguru (seriously, this was supposed to be an ironic name :), and we’ve just started as @MetricTheory on Twitter.  I encourage companies who need help with their PPC to reach out as well as folks in the PPC community.  I’m a big believer in shared knowledge so I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on Sitelinks and similar topics.  Thanks again for hosting, Melissa, and I’ll see you on #PPCchat in the near future!

Wow! Huge thanks to Jeremy for this insightful interview!  So, devoted readers, what do you think about the new sitelink policy? Do you have any questions for Jeremy? Share in the comments?

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Comments

  1. We may not get around this policy enforcement. Jeremy and Mel, what strategies do you think we should use if we are only using one dedicated landing page?

    • Melissa Mackey says:

      Good question, Luke. One thought would be to stick with just one sitelink, even though Google says you need to use 6-10. Another would be to use sitelinks for complementary products or services, although I’m not big on that idea because it distracts the searcher from their original purpose. Curious what others think!

  2. Hi Luke,

    I’d still use multiple Sitelinks and try taking them to the same page. Once Google starts flagging that, then honestly I would recommend using whatever descriptive text you want and taking them to whatever pages you can scrounge up. Non-brand Sitelinks don’t tend to get that many clicks so if the pages aren’t the most relevant, it shouldn’t affect too many searchers.

    On brand terms, it’s a tougher issue. You might just want to use text that actually discourages a click if you don’t want people straying from the dedicated LP in the headline.

    Frustrating that Google won’t let advertisers use Sitelinks as they see fit.

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