Tor Crockatt - MSFT
Posted on 02/03/14

We’ve suspected for a while that the bigger the better when it comes to ads – and our most recent analysis of ad extensions on Bing Ads in the UK seems to point that way too. Extensions draw the eye to the ad, and give opportunities to share more specific information with users, and differentiate your business versus the competition.

It has been almost a year since we launched sitelink extensions in the UK and the response has been incredible, with sitelink extensions flying off the virtual ‘shelves’! Now one out of every three mainline ads in the UK is a sitelink extension. So, we thought we’d check in and see how they’re doing. This blog post covers sitelink extensions average click-through rate (CTR) uplift analysis, as well as the results of a study looking at the CTR of advertisers combining sitelink extensions with location extensions. Enjoy!

Advertisers adopting Sitelink Extensions in the UK are seeing an average 16% CTR increase

First a reminder of what Sitelink Extensions are. These extensions allow you to load up to ten additional deep links below your ad of which six show, doubling the size of the ad. This helps drives engagement, and allows marketers to pre-qualify intent by presenting users with quick links to different parts of their site depending on the user’s interest. Find out about how to load sitelink extension here.

We get asked a lot what sitelink extensions does to improve click-through rates. For your benefit, we first looked at the impact of taking a plain-old text ad and adding a sitelink. To do this we identified advertisers who had adopted sitelink extensions, and looked at what uplifts we can observe from their performance. Specifically, we compared their performance on a sample of traffic with sitelink extensions enabled vs. a sample of traffic with sitelink extensions capability disabled. We then broke it down by industry, to see where we observe it to be working best for advertisers.

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On average, we see that advertisers in the UK who adopt sitelink extensions have a 16% increase in ad click-through rates, achieved by adding a richer set of links, and expanding the real estate dedicated to the ad. Sitelink extension seems to perform well across industries, with average CTR uplifts range between 16% and 25%. However, the industries showing the biggest uplifts were Finance with an uplift of 25%, Travel with 22%, and then Entertainment with 21%.

Sitelink Extensions ad CTR Uplift by vertical (source: Yahoo Bing Network)

Five Formidable Sitelink Application Best Practices

Given these strong uplifts, we had a look at some live ads to see how our advertisers have gone after the sitelink opportunity. Here are my observations on where it works and popular tactics for leveraging the format:

1. Refining intent and showcasing: sitelink extensions are great for showcasing distinct offerings or sections of your site. For example, many insurance brands split their sitelink extensions across their main insurance products such as home, travel or car insurance when users search on brand or generic queries. This acts as a qualifier, effectively tempting browsers to navigate to more specific, tailored landing pages.

2. Targeting using specific offers, discounts and claims: across many industries, sitelink extensions lends the space to attract users based on pricing or offers*, for example:

  • Credit cards: ‘0% balance transfer’, ‘you could save over £800’
  • Insurance: ‘travel insurance from £2 a day’, ‘multi-policy discounts’

3. Addressing personal circumstance: the most popular approach seems to be having one link dedicated to addressing users by their financial position or status, such as:

  • Finance: ’Bad credit credit cards’, ‘stop lenders demands’, ‘free interest rate charges’, ‘100% mortgages’, ‘first time buyers’
  • Travel: ‘luxury short breaks’, ‘low cost holidays’, ‘first time buyers’, ‘kids go free’

4. Get the researcher: these tactics pique the interest of those who like to investigate fully before taking action – such as:

  • Finance: check your credit rating’ and ‘compare balance transfer credit cards’
  • Travel: top ‘100 holiday destinations’, ‘Best reviewed hotels’

5. Get the doer: attract those who like to get things done with

  • ‘Apply today’, ‘call our specialists’, ‘Request a call-back’
  • ‘Book Las Vegas 4* hotels’, ‘Reserve your Paris city break’

NOTE: it is your responsibility to ensure that claims endorsement and offers are accurate, not misleading, and comply with editorial guidelines. For more information please check the editorial guidelines.

Testing the impact of using ad extensions and location extensions together

But what happens if you use more than one extension? Ad extensions are landing thick and fast in international markets, sitelink extensions and location extensions are available globally and call extensions were recently introduced in the UK. Now seemed a great time to look at the impact of the use of as extensions and call extensions together.

To determine the impact of the extensions combined, we looked at absolute CTR performance rather than average CTR uplifts. We identified advertisers using the following criteria, and observed the average CTRs of each group.

1. Those using no extensions

2. Those adopting sitelink extensions

3. Those who had adopted both sitelink extensions and location extensions in the same ad

What are location extensions again?

Location extensions allow you to add phone numbers and addresses to your ads. Location information will show for ads when the user is within a 50-mile radius from your business location, which means users can easily find their way to you. In addition, there’s a click to direction feature – which provides the user with a link, which when clicked, directs the user through to Bing or Yahoo Maps (depending on the search provider they use) and pre-populates the destination in the directions functionality of the map. If the user is on their smartphone, and have opted in for their location to be used, it will also pre-populate the location, giving a live directions view. This functionality means the user is engaged from seeing the ad right through to walking in the door.

The test results: overall CTR higher when ad extensions are combined

What we learned by observing these groups mentioned above is that average CTR is overall higher when advertisers leverage a combination of ad extensions. This makes sense as each extension adds a new dimension of relevant information for the user to engage with, and expands the ad size.

imageSimilar to the other analysis, we broke the performance data down by vertical. It’s worth noting that to take both extension types, you’d have to be a national business with a website and also have a local network of physical locations where you’d like to drive footfall. The business to consumer services (B2C), which includes real estate, utilities, storage and local services such as locksmiths, printers and dry cleaners and retail, came therefore out top with average CTRs of 24% (B2C) and 23% (Retail).

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When using two extension types, advertisers have the option to use the different extensions to split intent between those looking for an online experience (navigating to the website) versus those with local intent, who may be interested in visiting a branch near them. As you can track by extension type, you can clearly distinguish and break out the performance by extension.

We look forward to bringing you further insights into ad extensions performance. In the meantime if you have ideas or suggestions of ways we can continue to improve Bing Ads?  Stop by the Bing Ads Feature Suggestion Forum and see if someone else had the same idea.  If they have, you can cast your vote for it, and if they haven’t, you can add it for others to vote on.

Tags: Best Practices, Bing Ads, extensions, sitelinks, UK
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