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August 13, 2014

What Google’s New Dynamic Sitelinks Can Do For You

Talk about Christmas in July.

On July 24, Google gave its AdWords users an incredible gift: dynamic sitelinks. These automatically generated sitelinks will be incorporated into Google’s ad program, appearing at the bottom of the ad. They are separate from the regular sitelinks, which the advertiser generates.

Google says the clicks on these dynamic sitelinks will be free, though it cautions that impressions for them will be low. Advertisers should continue to set up their own sitelinks, because those will show up in every instance of the ad; they will only be added to the top three ads on a page.

So what’s behind this move, how can it benefit advertisers, and are there any potential downsides? Let’s take a closer look at Google’s new dynamic sitelinks.

What Are Dynamic Sitelinks?

Dynamic sitelinks are links that are automatically generated by Google and placed into your ad without you having to do anything. It’s essentially a little bonus link. While you may regularly include a sitelink to your hours or specials in your AdWords ad, the dynamic sitelink would appear underneath and link to a more specific part of your site.

Let’s use an example. Say someone looks up “used Mustang parts from 1967.” The ad that pops up would have a link in the main headline to the advertiser’s landing page, and perhaps one or two beneath it to “Mustang parts” or “used cars.” But Google could dynamically insert a link that goes straight to the 1967 parts page, making it easier for the searcher to find exactly what he or she wants. In this way, says the search engine giant, dynamic links will help boost the ad’s performance.

Google is not promising to do this for every AdWords purchase. It says it will only occur on a limited number of ads, including the top three on a page of search results. Google will offer advertisers the option to disable dynamic links too. For your ad to get the sitelinks, you need to set up your campaign to “Search Network with Display” or “Search Network Only.”

What’s Behind This Program?

The consensus online seems to be that Google introduced dynamic sitelinks in a bid to help small business advertisers who have very limited knowledge of search engine optimization and need some assistance in making their ads more effective. According to estimates, only 30 percent of small businesses, including those budgeting under $5,000 per month for AdWords, are using sitelinks in their ads.

Of course, Google could reach out to each one individually and offer some sort of premium program to help their ads perform better, but that would be incredibly tedious. Plus, many of these small businesses have very limited budgets and probably wouldn’t be interested in help offered for a premium.

So instead we get dynamic sitelinks. Some are comparing this change to the AdWords Enhanced Campaign features it rolled out last year. That was essentially a way to get advertisers caught up on mobile search advertising, since so many small businesses don’t have the time, money or expertise to improve their own mobile marketing.

How It Can Help

At this point you may be thinking, “Christmas in July, really? This doesn’t seem like such a gift. Click-through rates on a sitelink are miniscule.” And that’s true. It’s just 0.1 percent, which is a tiny number no matter how many clicks you get on your ad.

However, the lift for headline click-through for ads with sitelinks is impressive. Studies have found that it goes up by 10 percent. Why is that? Well, online gurus think it’s because of a pretty simple reason: The ad gets bigger when you add more sitelinks, which makes it more noticeable on the page, drawing more eyeballs and leading to more clicks.

So anything that is done to elongate ads will improve the click-through rate on an AdWords promotion. And that’s how Google wins. The more click-throughs, the more advertisers will pay, driving up the site’s revenue. Of course, advertisers are happy to gain the extra leads, so adding the extra sitelinks isn’t going to bother them at all. What seems like Google doing something out of goodwill, helping small businesses and driving up clickthrough rates, is actually pretty self-serving but Google is a business. That’s what businesses do.

The Potential Downsides

Whenever Google starts a new program, it’s hard not to be cynical. This one looks like a win for advertisers as well as the search giant upon first glance, though, and it’s hard to find a real downside to it. Google is a clever company. It generally has solid reasoning behind any tweaks it introduces, even though as a virtual monopoly, it can get away with whatever it wants, such as recent controversial changes to SERP displays and Google Authorship.

But in this case, a win for Google also looks to be a win for advertisers. Anything that brings more potential business to your site is good, even if you wind up paying Google more money. Perhaps you could argue that the extra sitelinks will cost advertisers money, because they end up paying for irrelevant or mistaken clicks. Yet that can happen no matter what. If that’s really a problem for your business, then you need to shore up your overall marketing program, not blame Google for the way it displays ads.

Google is allowing advertisers to opt out of the program, too, if they have serious reservations. For those who don’t really understand AdWords or are worried about higher CTR, then perhaps that’s the right choice.

But don’t forget that when your CTR rises, so does your ad ranking. Google likes it when people click on your ad and will then serve it up to more people.

The Bottom Line

This looks like a win for Google and for advertisers, which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen that often. Even when Google is motivated by increasing its bottom line, it’s possible to find a balance in between where it doesn’t hurt customers. Trying out dynamic sitelinks won’t hurt you and should help you in the long run.


Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like 12 Keys Drug Addiction Center succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.