In Defense Of The Lowly Display URL

By Adam Lundquist | @adamlundquist | CEO of Nerds Do It Better

Image of hero screenshot


You want a higher click through rate?


You want a lower cost per click as a result of your higher quality score?


Then you should take advantage of every single avenue that is available to optimize your campaign. This includes crafting relevant and compelling ad extensions, headlines that match the search query as closely as possible and description lines that include a strong call to action.


PPC is a zero sum game and if your competitor gets the click, that means you didn’t.


You know this, and if you perform PPC you are in a constant fight with your competitors like Zoolander vs. Hansel in a walk off.


The Lowly Overlooked Display URL


I see it time and again as internet marketers overlook the display URL. It is understandable – while we are creating search lists for remarketing ads, PPC campaigns across networks, and trying to figure out why Facebook once again disapproved our ads it can be easy to overlook some of the small wins.


But, small wins are sometimes the very thing that your account needs. This article will help you understand what the display URL is, give you 4 techniques to test and teach you step-by-step how to change the display URL in your account.


Understand The Display URL


The one thing that trips marketers up is that the display URL is not a real website. It is NOT where you send visitors when they click on your ad. It IS only what the user sees when they view your ad.


While it doesn’t need to be a real website – it does have two rules:


  1. The display URL domain needs to be the same as the destination URL domain. For example, my company Nerds Do It Better, uses in our PPC campaigns as a destination URL So all display URL’s must have in it. This can include display URL’s such as, and but could not be something like since that is a different domain
  2. It can only be at the most 35 characters


As long as you follow those two rules, you are free to use your imagination and skills to optimize, but I have included 4 examples below just in case you need some inspiration.


4 Techniques To Optimize The Display URL


Here are 4 techniques to test for your display URL. With each one I have included an example from a live search engine results page.


1. Use A Keyword In Your Display URL To Increase The Relevancy


One of the best ways to increase the relevancy of your ads is to include words from the search query in your ads. Google bolds this text when it matches in the display URL.


See the example below to see how took advantage of this technique to increase their relevance in the search engine results page for the search query FDCPA Harassment.


Image of keyword in Display URL


2. Use A Call To Action In Your Display URL


A strong call to action drives users to perform the conversion action by explicitly telling the user what you would like them to do after clicking the ad. If your display URL includes a call to action, make sure that it matches the call to action on the landing page.


Check out the Hyatt example below how they use the call to action “Book now” in their display URL.


Image of Display URL call to action


3. Use Camel Case And Dashes To Make Your Display URL More Readable


Since your display URL has to look like a functioning URL it can not use spaces. This can lead to all of the words mashing together and make it nearly impossible for the user to decipher what you are trying to communicate.


The best way to draw the eye and make it as easy as possible for the user to easily understand your marketing message is to use camel case (which is when WordsLookLikeThis by using a capital letter for the beginning of each word) or by utilizing dashes between the words.


See below for the example of camel case in the Smart Fares ad and dashes in the Cheapo Air ad to see how they are instantly readable.


Image of camel case Display URL


4. Put Text In The Subdomain Of The Display URL To Draw The Eye


In addition to utilizing the path name (the part after the slash) you can also utilize the subdomain (the part before domain usually www.). Since almost every other ad on the search engine results page either has no subdomain or the subdomain of www, putting text in the subdomain differentiates your ad.


For an example see the below Autosite ad where they utilize the subdomain as a call to action as well as where they utilize their subdomain to reinforce their current promotion.


Image of subdomain Display URL


How To Change Your Display URL


One of the best things about changing the display URL is how simple it is. Here is how to accomplish.


1. Decide How Your Plan To Optimize Your Display URL


Take a moment to look at the above examples and think about how you plan to optimize your display URL. Like any other aspect of AdWords this is not set it and forget it as you want to test your new display URL against your current ads to see which performs better based on real data.


2. Click +AD And Select Text Ad


Image of adding a text ad


3. Enter The New Display URL


A new screen will appear – create an ad with a new display URL to test vs. the currently rotating ad.


Image of ad text


4. Split Test Your Ads


Split test your ad with new display URL against the ad currently running, and see if it improves your key performance indicators.


What are the best uses of the display URL that you have seen?