In October 2013, Google announced that it would be using ad extensions to calculate ad rank in addition to CPC bid and quality score. They claim that extensions help provide potential customers with more relevant and useful information. I buy that. But, extensions also = more ways to respond (click). More clicks = more Google revenue . Google obviously always has their bottom line in mind, but in my experience ad extensions really do provide a boost to overall ad performance, (CTR and Conv. Rate) and take up more real estate in SERPs. Sitelinks have become a core component of any good search campaign; location, call, app and newer review and image extensions (not yet universally available) are an added boost for a lot of advertisers where appropriate. I’m going to focus on the newest of these and fairly recent changes to sitelinks and address a few related tidbits around questions we frequently get asked by clients. First, there are a few extensions that show automatically once you take a few simple steps (BONUS!).
Extensions That Show Automatically
1. Seller Ratings: Aggregated service and product star ratings
a. 30 or more ratings from one of the approved third party sources (listed here)
b. Average rating of 3.5 stars or higher
2. Social Annotations: Google+ followers
a. Link Google+ account to AdWords account (EASY!)
b. Have 100 or more followers
3. Previous Visit Annotations: Logged in users will see a notification if they’ve visited your site before
These aren’t anything new, so I won’t spend a lot of time here, but as I said in my intro, at this point they are really a best practice and should be included at launch with any new campaign. Google used to let you use the same destination url for multiple links and the ad itself, meaning you could still drive all the traffic to your primary landing page (likely with the strongest CTA or most direct path to conversion) and just use the sitelinks as extra characters of text to promote product/service features. Google got smart to that trick and now requires that each link have a unique destination. The cool thing they added in June 2013 though are enhanced sitelinks with additional lines of text.
Review extensions give you the ability to include positive press or awards your product/service has (recently) received below text ads. These are great in theory and are pretty sexy (as far as ad extensions go!) but there are a lot of policy guidelines, a lot of grey areas and I’ve seen more of them get disapproved than not without Google being able to tell us why. You get to choose the actual section of the review/article you’d like to show in the ad (up to 67 characters) and even paraphrase the content, which is where I think the door really opens up for vagueness in the approval process. My advice is to put in as many as you can and usually a few will get approved. Also, bother Google until they give you an answer. Since this is a fairly new extension, I’d imagine they are still working on the approval process and it will get clearer soon enough.
Image extensions allow you to show pictures from your website above your text ad in the SERPs. Some products benefit from being able to visually show potential customers some of their best assets. Clicks on the images take users to the same landing page you are using for the main ad. These are not directly available in most accounts yet, but can be added through your account team. They seem even sexier to me than review extensions, but again really require the right product. Something would feel a little off seeing pictures of grieving family members cashing in alongside an ad for life insurance.
Here’s where each extension has the potential to appear, though you’re not guaranteed your extensions will be displayed just for having an ad appear in a given position.
Finally, this excerpt from the Inside Adwords Blog pretty much sums up the questions we are most frequently asked by clients regarding ad extensions.
Things to Remember
We try to show as many relevant formats as possible in the available space. Since there are so many moving pieces, there’s no way to prioritize which extensions you want to show. Enable whatever makes sense for your customers and let the AdWords system decide within those options. The specific extensions that are displayed are a function of your previous performance, user context and available space on the page.
Clicks on extensions are typically charged the same price you would be charged for a click on your ad. There are a few exceptions, though. The below types of interactions are all free:
- Phone calls from your forwarding number on call extensions that show on desktops/tablets
- Links to reviews from seller ratings extensions
- Clicks to the review site on your review extensions
- Clicks on +1 button or a link to your Google+ page
In many cases there isn’t a lot to optimize for extensions. Implementation is the only step to take for a practitioner, but that doesn’t mean you can enable them and never think of them again. Be aware of what’s going on in your account so that you know you’re saying the things your customers want to hear.