Dynamic Sitelinks Gone Wrong

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Back in July, Google launched dynamic sitelinks, which are sitelinks that Google automatically appends to ads.

Google touts dynamic sitelinks as a “(tool) adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” But for many advertisers, it’s yet another example of the dumbing down of PPC. And for B2B advertisers, dynamic sitelinks often spell disaster.

In B2B, it’s common not to use sitelinks, because there’s one specific landing page you want to drive traffic to. In fact, many times sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

With dynamic sitelinks, Google, in their infinite wisdom, is choosing random pages to display as dynamic sitelinks. In fact, even if you are using sitelinks, they may be overridden if “Google thinks it’s best.”

This is disastrous for many B2B advertisers who deliberately aren’t using sitelinks. Often, there is only one relevant landing page for PPC – one that’s been optimized for conversion. Other pages on the website likely are informational in nature and have no way to generate a conversion. So, we deliberately decide not to use sitelinks for these advertisers.

Here’s an example:

dynamic sitelink 1

The destination URL for this ad is a page specifically optimized for conversion. The dynamic sitelink extension goes to neither an e-commerce nor a lead gen page.

Here are a couple more examples:

dynamic sitelink 2

dynamic sitelink 3

The first one is showing the About page. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many About pages that are designed to drive conversions. The home page would be a better choice in this instance.

The second example is for one product with one relevant page. Google has chosen a page featuring a totally different product – freezers instead of milk coolers. While Google may think that’s relevant, it’s not – this client has asked us to focus on milk coolers only, not freezers.

If you’ve ever worked with B2B clients, you’ll know that for many of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get even one optimized landing page created. Now, your hard work is potentially going to waste by Google deciding to pick random pages to show alongside your carefully crafted landing page.

Granted, we all know that few people click on the sitelink itself – most clicks happen on the actual ad, which goes to the landing page. But the problem I have with these random dynamic sitelinks is that they make the ads look weird. Instead of adding to the experience, dynamic sitelinks potentially detract from it – risking CTR and other key metrics for advertisers.

And what about advertisers who’ve tested sitelinks and found they hurt performance? Yes, it does happen – and now those advertisers are stuck with a “feature” that they know doesn’t work for them.

Google does offer an opt out form for those who don’t want dynamic sitelinks added to their campaigns. You’ll have to fill it out for every single advertiser.

And even then, it may not help.

We filled out the form for the advertisers in the examples above. We heard nothing from Google for nearly 2 weeks. When we finally did hear back, Google’s response was to “just wait.” Not “we’re opting these accounts out,” but “wait.”

That’s unacceptable. Guess what, Google? We paused all these campaigns until we can get the situation sorted out. You’re not getting another dime until we know we can serve relevant, high-performing ads for our clients.

I know that for many advertisers, dynamic sitelinks are a great thing. For ecommerce advertisers, they’re undoubtedly a huge timesaver. But they’re not for everyone. All Google needs to do is give us the explicit choice: let us opt in or opt out at the campaign level. Then everyone would be happy.

What’s your take on dynamic sitelinks? Boon or bust? Share in the comments!

Special thanks to my coworkers, Jessi Link and Mark Herman, for providing the background and screen shots for this post.

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  1. This is another step along to road to – give us your budget and we’ll do what we want with it…

    For many advertisers this may work. It’s like Google Express. Or dynamic search. Switch it on and let Google handle everything. This may well work for some people, but it’s not going to be ideal for many (most).

  2. I agree entirely that this is a poor move on Googles behalf and they are taking away the ability for marketers to control their accounts, similarly with enhanced campaigns and the removal of the ability to block variants and misspellings.

    I am confused however why yo disagree with adding sitelinks to B2B account? Their click through rates are absolutely minuscule, so will only redirect a very small percentage of the traffic, however they have a significant impact on increasing your CTR, resulting in more traffic, higher quality scores and subsequently lower cost per conversions

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Fair question. I don’t think they’re universally bad for B2B. However, it’s common in B2B to only have 1 relevant landing page for an ad group – sometimes for an entire campaign. In those cases, sitelinks would go to irrelevant pages that are off-topic and actually detract from the conversion experience. Even if few people click on the sitelinks, the risk is too great.

      • Thank you for your reply, I see your logic, I would however argue that a 20% increase in CTR in some cases may be more valuable than the traffic that is lost to irrelevant pages (though not in all). Studies show that the CTR of sitelinks is around 0.20%. So if you looked at 500 clicks, by including sitelinks you would increase your traffic by 20% so you would receive another 100 clicks and just one irrelevant click.

  3. Very interesting article, I enjoyed reading it, very informative. I just started my new website and your input here could be very helpful. Thanks for sharing Melissa!

  4. I agree on this and Steve Cameron’s comment above.

  5. Good post on a topic that has been on my mind recently. I really don’t like this move by Google. When I first heard about this from a colleague, I thought it sounded interesting; however once you start diving into, it’s not always a good thing. I totally agree with some of the posters here. Thanks for sharing the post anyway.

  6. Once again Google Adwords does what it likes without telling the customer.

    Our company designed each of our ads to drive to a specific landing page and we chose not to have sitelinks. We also have ads targeted to specific device types (e.g. mobiles) as one of our products is a mobile scavenger hunt. Google come along and on a paper treasure hunt ad they then provide a dynamic link to a smartphone product! Not only has this cost us money and screwed up our advertising strategy but it has done nothing for customer perception as the page presented isn’t now relevant to their search.

    Irrespective of what you think of dynamic links, the real issue here is that Google’s default position was to automatically opt customers in and not give them a choice before implementation. Complete disregard for the customer.

    Then even when we discovered what they’d done, the opt out process isn’t immediate either.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Couldn’t agree more, Brian. All Google needs to do is give us an on / off switch. Instead, in their infinite wisdom, they muck up what we’re trying to do.

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