Last fall Google made it easy for brands to make their paid search ads around their own branded terms stand out with its SiteLinks program. The idea being that these brands should have some advantage since they are, well, the brand.
Seems like a great idea except when some of these brands have been getting their search bills. The program works so well in some cases that the search spend because of these special ads have gone up dramatically for some.
A typical search ad contains one link, or sometimes two — one to the advertiser’s home page and sometimes one geographic link. Ad Sitelinks allows advertisers as many as five links in three lines of text. Macy’s, for example includes links to “free shipping deals,” “shop online,” “find a store,” and “account login,” in addition to a link to its home page. Toys “R” Us includes a link that says, “Buy one get one free little tikes!”
An SiteLink ad for Toys R Us looks like the one below.
The trouble is that often times a searcher will click on the paid ad instead of organic ad that they would have clicked on in the past. Google meanwhile gets to sit back and say that their program is a success because the brands are getting their clicks. Of course, they are also pretty excited about the extra search revenue being wrung out of some of these advertisers.
These deeper links bypass the advertiser’s home page but are giving them a huge increase in click-throughs; Google estimates a 30% to 40% increase over standard search ads. That click-through success has caused trouble for some marketers: Consumers searching for a brand using Google will click on the sponsored ad and not on the organic result. And all those clicks on the Sitelinks ad are also driving marketers’ search ad bills up 30% to 40%.
Not everyone is all that upset though because the extra cost, while sometimes capturing their existing customers, are allowing for a brand to take up considerable real estate in the SERP’s. One such brand, Nationwide Insurance, sees the program as a winner because it allows for greater flexibility in their search messaging.
For a company already spending 50% of their digital marketing budget on search, Nationwide is happy to reach existing customers and sell them additional products and services.
“In contrast to the organic results, I control the experience there,” said Chris Cotton, director of interactive marketing for the insurer. For existing customers, he said, “it allows me to demonstrate other products they may or may not have.”
So as with most things Google somehow manages to have its cake, eat it and then do a “burp and blow” over everyone and come away with accolades for innovation and more cash in the coffers. Time and again what looks like a scheme to extract more money from advertisers to some can be a complete advertising blessing to others. Good work if you can get it, right?
How do you view these ads? Are they a good thing or a bad thing for the overall market? We know they can work for the brand itself but what about others?