Sitelinks are an important part of successful ads.  They show value to potential customers before a click occurs, while also being (along with other extensions) a factor of ad rank.  User interaction with sitelinks is so strong that you should consider them a basic part of your ad text - title, description, display URL and sitelinks.  Optimize the messaging in this space routinely, just as you do with ad text.

Many advertisers aren’t taking advantage of this excellent feature just yet, so before we start optimizing you may need to implement them.  Adding sitelinks boosts the average CTR on an ad by 10-20% (+20-50% when the search is one of your branded terms), so that implementation should be time well spent.

Make sure to have at least six active sitelinks for desktop and four active sitelinks for mobile, but remember that you can go all the way up to twenty total per ad group or campaign.  Sitelinks allow 25 characters for the link itself, and that space allows for testing.  We’ve found that somewhat shorter sitelinks are the most effective, though, so try to keep them closer to 18-20 characters for desktop and 12-15 characters for mobile.

We think sitelinks are a great proven feature, and we also think that they can be made better.

Reporting on Sitelinks

Start by knowing how you’re doing.

When reviewing these statistics, remember to compare sitelinks to one another and not to overall ad performance (as CTR on sitelinks is almost universally lower than a click on an ad, even though an ad with sitelinks will perform better than an ad without sitelinks).  You can also look at a sitelink’s contribution to the entire creative.  If you segment by “This Extension vs. Other” you can see if that extension is encouraging clicks on the headline or other links.

Identify your strong performers in terms of CTR (on the link itself or the surrounding ad), conversion rate, and conversion volume to establish a baseline of what target you can shoot for with low performers.  If certain sitelinks aren’t receiving a lot of impressions they’ve been passed over by the system, which means that you could probably work on improving those first.

(Quick aside - Beyond normal reporting, it’s also a good idea to do a simple sense check.  Are those the six {or twenty} pages that would be the most useful for your customers?  Even if CTR or impressions are low, is there a minority of your users that will find that sitelink very useful?  You may want to keep that link in place for them.)

Once you’ve found what’s not working, try out new text to improve performance.  If CTR is fine but your conversion rate is lagging, you could be sending traffic to the wrong page or setting user expectations incorrectly with a misleading link.  As with your ads, even top performers could potentially be improved upon.  Think about something new you may want to try.

When viewing your sitelink data, the info is available at the ad, ad group, campaign, and account level.  Add or remove these columns on the Ad Extensions tab to determine just how specific you want your info to be.

Testing Your Sitelinks

Pure A/B testing isn’t possible because each sitelink must point to different content.  When you’re identifying what’s lagging behind, recognize that other variables can muddle your results (things like ad tests, bid changes or seasonality).  You can try out variations of sitelinks in different campaigns or sets of ad groups to see what works better, but it’s still not going to be a perfect solution.  Recognize the imperfection of this whenever reviewing your results.

Sitelink testing shouldn’t be as frequent as your ad testing (due to the lack of A/B testing).  Monthly or quarterly reviews might make sense for you, depending on your volume.

Apply ad copy testing principles to your new sitelinks.  Think of distinct calls to action and benefits that relate to a user’s search and the page you’re directing them to.  You can also take lessons from previous ad tests and apply them.  For example, you can use losing (but still strong) ad copy as your sitelinks or their descriptions.

Sitelinks with Additional Detail
You also have the option to add additional detail to your sitelinks, which is great opportunity to prove value to customers before they click.  At present, sitelinks automatically serve descriptions where appropriate.  That feature is going away in the near future, though, so add in descriptions yourself sooner rather than later.

Mobile Sitelinks

Try to speak to mobile users.  Think about mobile intent and how it differs from desktop, and then reflect that way of thinking in your sitelinks.  You’ll also want to keep mobile sitelinks shorter (to around 12-15 characters) to ensure they aren’t cut off.


You can show users valuable information about your site right in your ads via sitelinks.  It’s imperative that they’re present, and once they’re there you should focus on making them as good as they can be (just as you do with the ads themselves).  Sitelinks not only increase the relevance of your ads, they increase the relevance of the user experience you deliver after the click.

Posted by Matt Lawson, Director, Performance Ads Marketing