Owning Google Sitelinks Brand Terms Becomes Paid Search Tactic

Google Sitelinks has become a strategy for companies looking to protect brand-related keywords against retailers or competitors attempting to outbid them for online traffic and terms. Target consumers with paid-search sponsored listings allow companies to segment campaigns and direct traffic to landing pages that could drive up sales.

Advertisers in the past had to struggle with trying to determine the one hyperlink to add under the company's name. Sitelinks emerged from beta in November. Now companies have four choices to drive paid-search campaigns.

Some marketers complain that Sitelinks, which only applies to brand search terms. drives up costs by making brands pay more for their own traffic. Advertisers pay per click based on a variety of attributes, including quality score. Sources say branded keywords in campaigns must generate 18% or better click-through rates to use Sitelinks, as well as outrank its nearest competitor by an undetermined margin.

Companies need to have "extremely high" quality scores and serve up results in the top position, which represents the best results for that search query, confirms a Google spokesperson.

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Ice.com ranks among the top brand search terms. So when Adam Muscott, director of marketing at Ice.com, launches the online jeweler's Mother's Day promotion in April, one of the four Sitelinks under the company's sponsored listing will drive traffic to the campaign's landing page.

One Sitelink will take consumers to a guide that provides help on finding mom the perfect gift. The others will provide a direct jump to specific pages in the promotion. Louis-Dominic Parizeau, SEM specialist at Ice.com, says Ice.com's click-through rates double when using Sitelinks brand terms, such as "Ice Jewelry" or "Ice Rings."

Similar to Ice.com, Michael Behrens, vice president of online marketing at WebMetro, San Dimas, Calif., believes the benefits from Sitelinks outweigh the cost. In fact, WebMetro supports a financial advertiser that gets more than 5,000 clicks per month from brand-related search terms. And while the unnamed client experienced a 30% increase in traffic, the cost for the campaign declined.

Others have gained, too. Lexington Law, which drives tens of thousands of searches on its brand name, often struggles with up to three competitors bidding on its branded search terms -- trying to divert traffic to their own site, according to Behrens.

Behrens says the amount of traffic lost due to competition bidding is minimized with Sitelinks by increasing visibility, differentiating the ad, and capturing the branded clicks. "We saw a 24% increase in click-through rates and a 30% drop in cost per click in the first month with four Sitelinks," Behrens says, pointing to Lexington Law. "This advertiser drove more traffic for less total ad dollars."

Above all, the ability to control links and landing pages from those links within a Google ad creates "incredible" value for the brand, according to Josh Aston, director of online marketing at Progrexion Marketing, which supports the Lexington Law Firm account.

"It really allows us to capitalize on trends that may occur within our industry and specific to the brand," Aston says. "Otherwise you have that nasty limit of just one landing page per ad click."

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