The Effect of Activating Google AdWords Sitelinks

Posted by Petter El Fakiri

Around one year ago Google announced that sitelinks could be added to Google AdWords ads. What’s the effect of this feature on users’ click patterns?

A company I have been working with activated sitelinks in their AdWords ads on search for CompanyName. They also ranked #1 organically on this search phrase. From experience it is smart to advertise with the company name as long as the paid clicks are cheap and give the AdWords campaign high quality. But was it right to activate sitelinks as well?

Having activated sitelinks, the company soon experienced a substantial change to their click profile for users coming from Google. Sitelinks were disabled for the company name after 11 days, it was time to dig in and investigate the effects.

The two following graphs show the traffic from Google where the search keyword is CompanyName. The first graph shows traffic from Google AdWords and the second traffic from organic Google. The effect on traffic from Google is obvious.

Visits from Google AdWords - search phrase "CompanyName"

Visits from Google Organic - search phrase CompanyName

During the period with sitelinks enabled, traffic from Google AdWords dramatically increases, while the organic traffic decreases.

Below is a comparison of the traffic before AdWords sitelinks where enabled and the traffic during activation. Both graphs show traffic from Google on CompanyName search. As you can see; between the periods the total traffic from Google on search phrase "CompanyName" is up less than 1%. The periods have comparable traffic quantities.

Comparison - period with and without Google AdWords Sitelinks    

In the period when AdWords Sitelinks was active there was a 91% increase in traffic from Google AdWords, shown by the next graph. This translates to about 2700 hits per day for this single search term.

  Change in traffic from Google AdWords in the two periods  

Finally the following graph illustrates what happened to organic traffic during the same two periods. The traffic is down almost 25% on searches for CompanyName, where the last period is the one where sitelinks was enabled in AdWords.

Change in traffic from Google Organic  

Pretty pictures are one thing, but often the numbers can be more persuasive:    

The statistics show that the number of visits from organic search is down by roughly the same amount that the traffic from paid search is up.
Assuming a CPC of 0,30NOK (about 5 cents) on CompanyName in AdWords, means 300.000 NOK ($ 50 000) per year in extra Google AdWords cost if our client activates Google AdWords Sitelinks. With no traffic increase to show for it!

Considering Google allowed purchasing of competitors names in our corner of the world about two months ago, this will probably drive the CPC for company names up significantly.

Increased cost for the company aside, the changed click pattern is also noteworthy from a SEO perspective. During the period without AdWords Sitelinks the ratio between organic and paid results was 78/22, which is close to what SEO’s consider a normal distribution. When AdWords Sitelinks where active the ratio changed to 59/42. Google has drastically changed the click pattern by allowing Sitelinks in AdWords ads, at least in this case.

Are Sitelinks something to avoid? Of course not! There are many solid and valid arguments for ads using the company name with Sitelinks enabled. The clicks are often cheap, they always have high CTR and ranking. This is the foundation for a well managed AdWords account of high quality, good ranking and nice click prices once the whole account is considered.

Please let us know if anyone else has similar experiences with Google AdWords Sitelinks.

 

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December 8, 2010  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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