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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Beyond the Paid Best Of, Summer 2012 Edition

Here in the US, Labor Day weekend is upon us already – the holiday that marks the end of the summer.  It’s always a bittersweet time – while we all love summer vacation, it’s also nice to get a break from the heat and get back to a more “normal” routine.

As you look ahead into September, it’s a good time to review your PPC strategy as well.  Here are a couple of links to posts from this blog that readers found helpful.

Using Keyword Level URLs in PPC

This post was inspired by a PPCchat conversation.  Posts like this are some of my favorite posts to write, because it’s not just my opinion – the whole PPC community gets involved. Give this one a read to learn more about why you should consider using keyword level URLs in PPC.

12 Links Every PPC Pro Should Bookmark

I find it interesting to see which posts get the most pickup on Twitter and around the blogosphere – it’s usually not the ones I would have guessed.  This post was one I wrote in about 10 minutes, because that’s all the time I had – and it was hugely popular.  It just goes to show that you don’t need to spend hours slaving over a blog post every week!

So as you head into your holiday weekend, give these popular posts another read.  Did you read any other great PPC articles over the summer?  Share them in the comments!

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PPC: Still Alive and Kicking

There seems to be a bit of a fad going around lately.  Apparently it’s all the rage to go around saying that PPC is dead.

A few months ago, some fool who isn’t even a PPC pro came out saying that PPC is dead, and we should all be doing social media.  I put that rumor to bed with a post of my own: PPC Is Alive and Well, Thank You.

Well, clueless marketers just can’t get enough of proclaiming the demise of PPC.  Just yesterday, another idiot decided to use the “dead PPC” rallying cry as a thinly-veiled sales pitch for – get this – PPC management services.

Yes, someone actually thought it would be a good idea to announce the time of death of one of the services they’re peddling.  Wow.

And this came on the heels of Google announcing billion-dollar earnings for Q2.

All this talk of death and destruction reminds me of this post, and the awesome aftermath.

We’re not dead yet, folks.

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12 Links Every PPC Pro Should Bookmark

Every day, there is a plethora of great PPC info shared across the web:  on blogs, in social media, and in forums.  Most of it falls into the “that’s interesting” category, but nothing more.

Periodically, though, a post or tool is so good that I bookmark it and refer back to it often.  Here is my list of the 12 links every PPC pro should bookmark.

Modified Broad Match Tool from Acquisio: This tool enables you to paste a list of keywords, tell it which ones you want to add the broad match modifier, and spits them out with a keystroke. It’s a huge time saver and I use it at least weekly.

SplitTester: A tool to quickly get statistical significance & confidence levels. Great for PPC ad testing.

WebShare’s split testing tool: This tool combines CTR and conversion rate to tell you the overall winner of an ad test.

145 PPC Must Do’s for 2012 from PPC Hero: This was a New Year’s post that was actually very useful.  I’ve been working my way through the list for the past 6 months.  Not every tip will apply to every PPC account, but if you’re looking for new optimization ideas, this is the place.

Excel Hints for PPC from SEOptimise: PPC’ers live in Excel, so we’re always hungry for more Excel tips. This is a good bunch of hints.

Excel Formatting Tips from Search Engine Journal: If your reports look like they were done by a 5th grader, this post will help you fix that.

Excel Tips & Tricks from PPC Associates: Yet more awesome Excel tips for PPC’ers.


Ion Interactive’s Landing Page Checklist: I refer to this often when advising clients on landing page best practices.

PPC Task Checklist from PPC Hero: A great list of PPC tasks that will help all PPC pros, from novice to expert.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments Shares from Jill Whalen: A neat list of advanced segments that you can copy and use in your own Google Analytics accounts.

Google Analytics URL Builder: A good way to make sure your custom URLs for Google Analytics are formatted properly.

Auditing PPC Accounts Without Account Access from Fathom: A recent blog post to help PPC’ers over a common stumbling block: auditing a PPC account when you don’t have access to the account itself.

And there you have it – 12 must-have PPC bookmarks! I know there are more out there, so share your favorites in the comments!  I’ll compile them into a future blog post.

Editor’s Note:  The link to the Ion Interactive Landing Page checklist was incorrect and has now been corrected. Thanks to commenter Max Miller for pointing out the error!

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Two PPC Wins and a Fail

This week brought a flurry of PPC announcements from Google.  Of course, this isn’t unusual – PPC is known for being fast-moving and constantly innovating, with Google leading the way.  Like many of the PPC advances of the past, this week’s list brings both good and bad to the industry.

Win #1:  Adwords Account Labels

On Tuesday, Google rolled out a neat feature called Account Labels.  With Labels, you can organize account elements into custom groupings to facilitating the slicing and dicing of data.

This is basically pivot tables on steroids.  The example Google gives in their blog post is grouping products across geo-targeted campaigns.  Say you sell Nike sneakers, and you replicate campaigns across geographies.  Labels will enable you to group and summarize stats on Nike sneakers across your account so you can evaluate results on a larger set of data.

Labels are a pretty neat feature, and I’m already planning to implement them in one of our international client’s campaigns.

Win #2:  Quality Score Transparency

Ever since it was introduced in 2007, PPC managers have lived and died by quality score.  Countless hours and thousands of blog posts have been devoted to optimizing quality score.

And yet, quality score has been somewhat of a black box.  We all know that click-through rate is the most heavily-weighted factor in quality score, but there were also the ubiquitous “other factors” that Google didn’t specify. 

And furthermore, Google didn’t tell us a lot about what was wrong when we earned poor quality scores.  We were just told keyword relevance is “poor.”

Now, Google’s giving us more transparency into quality score factors.  They’re supplying more detail on what elements need improvement:  CTR, ad relevance, and/or landing page.

Pretty cool – more info is always better!

Fail:  Near Match

For years now, PPC’ers have complained about broad match gone wild.  Just yesterday I was reviewing some search queries for VoIP keywords, and apparently Google thinks that’s the same thing as “voice recognition apps” and “cheap prison telephone voice”. 

But, at least we have phrase and exact match to counteract the silly broad matching.  Right?

Wrong.

From Google’s Inside Adwords blog, “Starting in mid-May, phrase and exact match keywords will match close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations. Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers.”

Are they kidding?!?  What research are they doing?  Maybe they’re looking at their own search query reports and deciding the matches are close enough?

This move hasn’t exactly been popular with PPC pros.  An informal and unscientific poll of the PPC Chat group on LinkedIn reveals that 68% of PPC’ers are against the change (registration required).

While I do see the benefit of this change in certain situations, to me it’s yet another money grab by Google.  Like many other default settings in Adwords, this one will slip by the novice PPC managers and mom & pop folks trying to manage their own accounts, and they’ll wonder why they’re not getting the ROI they expected.

The good news is, there’s still time to opt out.  You’ll find the option under campaign settings in the Adwords UI.  The bad news is, there’s no bulk edit, so each campaign has to be opted out manually, one by one.  And there’s no option for this in Adwords Editor yet either.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

What do you think of the recent Adwords announcements?

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Using Twitter to Keep Up with PPC News

It’s no secret: I love Twitter. When used strategically, Twitter is a great way to network, meet new people in your field, and get breaking news. It can also be an overwhelming firehose of random content. With a little forethought, though, you can dial down the firehose. Here are my tips on using Twitter to keep up with PPC news & innovations.

Include “PPC” in your Twitter bio.

Part of making good use of Twitter is getting followed. When people follow you, they’ll see your tweets and, hopefully, interact with you. People who are new to Twitter often use the “people search” function to find other people to follow – and they’re searching on keywords like “PPC.” Including “PPC” in your Twitter bio will help you get found by other PPC pros, with whom you can then interact and share info.

Follow other PPC pros.

A lot of celebrities have thousands of followers, but are only following 12 people. This isn’t really interacting – it’s broadcasting. While that’s fine for celebs, Twitter is much more useful for you and me if it’s a two-way conversation.

Make an effort to find other PPC pros and follow them. You can use the people search feature I mentioned above to start. Another great way to find people is to do a hashtag search. Hashtags are used on Twitter to sort conversation around a certain topic or catch phrase. Search for hashtags like #PPC, #SEM, and #Adwords. I’ve found a lot of great new PPC’ers to follow in #PPCchat (by the way, if you’re doing PPC and are not not currently participating in this chat, you’re missing a ton of great info!).

Set up a list or column for PPC pros.

Finding great PPC pros to follow is cool, but they’ll get lost in your Twitter stream quickly (unless you ONLY follow PPC people, which most of us don’t). If you’re using the Twitter web interface, create a list for PPC pros and then add your new friends to it. If you’re using a desktop client like Tweetdeck, create a column for PPC pros, and add your friends there.

I personally love Tweetdeck: it’s much easier to sort conversations there than in the web interface, in my opinion. I have a column for PPC Tweeps, another for #PPCChat, and yet another for conferences I attend, such as #SESCHI (SES Chicago) and #SMX (SMX Advanced).

Lists or columns are awesome when you’re really busy. I almost never read my entire Twitter feed during the work day; I just don’t have time. But I do make sure to read my PPC Tweeps column – that way I can keep up with what’s going on in my industry, and even interact a bit, without it sucking up hours of my day.

Learn who always shares worthwhile & trustworthy content.

Let’s face it: we’re all guilty of sharing the occasional off-topic, personal, or silly remarks and links on Twitter. That’s fine – in fact, it personalizes the experience and lets us all get to know one another as people instead of just PPC’ers.

That said, you’ll find that some people’s Twitter stream is 10% personal and 90% good & useful PPC info; while other people’s streams are just the opposite. Unfortunately, some people also use Twitter for sales pitches disguised as good info. They’ll tweet a link with a comment like “New techniques for PPC keyword research!” but then the link goes to a page to buy their company’s expensive tool.

If you’re in the market for a keyword research tool, that’ll be helpful to you. If not, though, you probably don’t care – and neither do your followers. Retweeting is a big part of interacting on Twitter – it’s a great way to share useful info with your followers. But you need to know what you’re retweeting; your followers may not appreciate being baited into clicking a link that turns out to be a sales pitch.

The bottom line is this: Twitter, like any social media, is a conversation. Treat it as such. People don’t want to hang out with blatant shills in real life; nor do they want to be barraged with personal details. People do want to learn things that will help make their jobs easier, though. With a little forethought, and a little more practice, you’ll find Twitter to be an invaluable resource.

What are your favorite ways to get PPC info on Twitter?

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