Boost Your AdWords CTR with Sitelink Descriptions

By , Senior Account Analyst at Hanapin Marketing


Sitelinks have been a staple of best practices since they were introduced. Sitelinks help searchers find topical information beyond the specified landing page of your ad. Last February, enhanced campaigns brought a little spice to sitelinks by including descriptions. Additional lines of text were added from your other ad copy to flesh out the sitelinks. These provided extra detail to what the searcher can expect from each link and further clarified the ad’s additional talking points.

What Changed?

This week Google took it one step further. For those of you who have already made the jump into the enhanced campaign world, you can now define what you want this additional messaging to say. This new format allows you to take control of your ads and drive the messaging further, helping searchers to better understand your offerings and products.

Google’s testing also revealed users clicked the sitelinks with added detail at a significantly higher rate. Beyond being explanatory this rewards those who optimize their accounts to put their ads in the best position possible adding an additional boost to those in the top spots.

If you want to get started, there is no need to opt in to a beta or do anything special. Simply create or edit one of your existing site links. When the window opens you should see two extra text boxes for description lines one and two.

You will see that these are marked as optional so you don’t have to use them. On the other hand, as with anything else in PPC, why not take advantage of that extra control you have in your ads?

There are a few limits to keep in mind and Google’s site link guidelines have not changed. The duplicate sitelink policy is still in effect. Dynamic insertion is not allowed in the description lines. Your description text must not be duplicates of other sitelinks either. This isn’t a major nuisance though as you should already be using specific copy to highlight each individual sitelink.

When the ads appear, they will look like this.

Google will rotate between the standard four sitelinks seen in the ad above as well as a two sitelink variation.

Don’t worry if you check your ads in the search engine results and you don’t see the new sitelinks. These new site links won’t always appear in your ads. There are many factors on Google’s end as to when the extra information is shown. By making sure you specify your description lines you will be poised to take advantage of when you ads fulfill that criteria.

While this isn’t revolutionary by any means, this upgrade gives you one more thing to test when it comes to ad copy. Now you can take those site links to the next level, testing more variations just as you do with the standard ad copy.

Taking Advantage of the New Format

Here at the office we have been talking about how to improve ad copy beyond the best practices. One thing we have noted in our research is that too many advertisers have very bland site links. This can be especially bad in ecommerce where the sitelinks lead to something generic like shirts or electronics. While these are helpful, there is no compelling reason why a user should pay attention to those, many other places sell these items.

This is the chance to get more creative, are there any special deals on these items, is there a unique selection or is there a way this product solves a need better than another? Going back to the shirts examples, there are many shirt variations in both style and quality. As a result, most retailers cater to a certain demographic. Using the description lines, savvy advertisers can tune their messaging to their demographic, both highlighting their product and reducing the cost of gathering too many of the wrong clicks without any conversions.

Another quick example would be a hotel ad. The advertiser found that highlighting deals worked the best in the ad copy. Why not take a chance to test a more emotional angle with the site ink descriptions. The user knows he or she is getting a good deal, now sell them on how much they will enjoy the stay. Of course more deals in the descriptions could perform better but combining messaging is something you should be testing.

As with anything in PPC the results will depend and each situation will be different. This is more reason to test, test, and test some more. I gave two generic examples but I’m sure if you think about your product specifically you can discover a great angle to test.

Whether you use sitelinks to highlight specific products, give extra information on your business, or something experimental and creative, these new features can provide that extra edge to win more clicks and increase conversions. Go ahead and explore the feature and take advantage of this new format to get ahead of the competition.

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13 thoughts on “Boost Your AdWords CTR with Sitelink Descriptions

  1. Matthew Umbro

    Hi Jacob,

    Nice post. I’ve already started implementing sitelink descriptions for branded campaigns. I love the real estate that they take up. Additionally, now we know why Google changed the sitelink length to 25 characters.

    1. Jacob FaircloughJacob Fairclough

      Thanks for reading, Matt!

      Along with the new image extensions, Google is definitely helping the top spots claim a good chunk of real estate.

  2. Matt Gillooly

    The only thing I ask is that Google update Adwords editor to handle Enhanced Sitelink uploads and even then you have to go back and upgrade them. The online UI is slow when you have a ton if campaigns/ad groups broken out for your campaign too.

    Great info/ideas on the sitelink descriptions though. These new adwords adds are really starting to look like organic search results. I wonder how far they will take this towards native advertising.

      1. Matt Gillooly

        I think this is just a case of understanding what the customeris looking for – Google is trying to give you ads that have “utility”. If you can give useful information and a value proposition that speaks to a customers needs it will succeed.

        I especially like this for clients that do not have the best websites, it gives a much better customer experience (easy to lose perspective that this is what its all about and success is a side effect).

  3. Martin Vergeer

    Hello Jacob,

    Very useful piece of information. I reckon that the addition of these extended sitelinks proves to be very effective, and naturally an incorporation of this in the offline editor would be monumental. However, I have started some campaigns with these new desciptions but get the idea they are not showing. Do you hava any indication of the amount of times Google chooses to show them? Plus, what would be factors influencing this? Amount of competitors? Expected CTR? Sitelink QS? Bids? Is there any information on this?

    1. Jacob FaircloughJacob Fairclough

      I haven’t seen many of the descriptions in the wild either. The most evidence I had was while I was writing this post and a co worker popped over to tell me his clients descriptions were now showing.

      For when the show, there aren’t any hard rules I know of. All that is known publicly are the same the factors that figure into the standard site links such as quality score, ad position, relevance, and landing pages.

  4. Santousha Kalk

    Yeah, love this. I’m implementing these into my client-accounts as I type. The only issue I am having is that when my descriptions are rejected I don’t see a reason. Al I get is the text “rejected”. This makes it hard to update them.

    Also since this is very new I haven’t seen a live example yet and they don’t seem to appear in the Adpreview tool. I’m hoping this will be changed soon.

    1. Jacob FaircloughJacob Fairclough

      The review process can be kind of murky sometimes. I’d check to make sure you have your bases covered such as each link directing to a unique page, pages with relevant content, and all that goes along with it.

      There are a few of these mentioned at the bottom of this page. You may have already read it but I had it on hand and a link doesn’t cost anything.

  5. Asaad Dookhy

    Hi Jacob,

    Good post!

    Have a question – I’ve implemented extended sitelinks across most of my campaigns. For a few we’re the only brand bidding i.e.. the only ad but we’re not getting extended sitelinks but just regular ones? Why could this be? The CTR of the campaign isn’t too bad either.



  6. Bankruptcy Clinic

    Has anyone noticed a drop in their sitelink CTR since adding descriptions? I dont know whether this is down to the sitelinks being reset or some other factor

    1. Jacob FaircloughJacob Fairclough

      Thanks for reading, Sorry I don’t have an answer on hand. I’m not sure what it could be, like you mentioned there could be many factors. I can mention it to some other writers who have heavily utilized them. It could make an interesting case study.

      1. Bankruptcy Clinic

        No probs Jacob, i guess sitelink descriptions are still in their infancy and will take a while before people have enough data to make a good assessment of them. Im just a bit dubious about rolling it out to my other accounts having seen it make a negative impression on my main account but it just doesnt make sense to me. You should almost be able to write gibberish in the sitelink descriptions and expect it still to make an impact due to it allowing your ad to take up so much ad space on


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