Maximize Holiday SEM Revenue with Optimized Ad Extensions

As part of my Q4 blog series (read: the holiday blitz), I’ve decided to compile a holiday checklist of AdWords must-dos for digital marketers. Let’s kick it off with ad extensions.

Why Focus on Ad Extensions First?

The recent Ad Rank algorithm update changes how Google determines ad positioning and costs per click (CPC) on search engine results pages (SERPs). Prior to the update, Google calculated Ad Rank using two factors: max CPC bid and Quality Score. Now, Ad Rank is comprised of max CPC bid, Quality Score, and “expected impact from ad extensions and formats”. According to Google, the expected impact is derived from your expected ad performance, which is based on factors such as ad copy relevance, clickthrough rate (CTR), and other advertisers’ use of ad extensions on the SERP. Now more than ever, it is imperative that your campaigns and ad groups use at least one type of ad extension.

Neglecting ad extensions risks increased CPCs and declining ad position – especially if the SERP becomes highly competitive during the holidays. As if you need another concern nipping at your heels, Quality Score and CTR now play even greater roles in triggering ad extensions with your ads.

What Type of Ad Extensions Should I Use?

To date, AdWords has 13 available ad extension formats (at the time of this writing, six are in beta and require an industry-specific Google rep’s assistance). In an ideal world, all 13 would be used in all of your campaigns, leading to stellar CTRs and Quality Scores that go up to 11. In reality, Spinal Tap did not create AdWords, so Quality Scores cap at 10 and you have to choose the extensions that work best for your business goals.

Here’s a breakdown of the unique benefits of each ad extension format:

All Businesses Must Use Sitelinks and Social Annotations.

Sitelinks Extensions

This type is arguably one of the most commonly used extensions, partly because it’s the easiest extension to set up. To get started, find relevant pages of your website that potential customers would be looking for, e.g. a printable coupon or price quote request form, and create enticing ad copy to bolster the corresponding sitelinks.

Sitelinks not only allow you to appeal directly to searchers looking for a specific part of your website, but they also allow your ad to take up more space within the search results. In certain instances when your ad is in the top position and your ad’s Quality Score is high enough, your ad essentially transforms into five-ads-in-one, a combination that helps you stand out against your competitors (see screenshot below).


Social Annotations

Social annotations not only help increase CTR, but also convey the popularity of your business to searchers. With Google’s constant algorithmic changes, social signals and endorsements are now an especially integral component of any well-rounded digital marketing plan. If you haven’t started already, integrating Google+ pages into your paid search strategy is a must.

To become eligible for the social annotations extension, your business must have a Google+ page that regularly posts high quality content and has at least 100 followers. After linking the qualified Google+ page to AdWords, social endorsement data will display in ads similar to the example below.


If Your Business has a Brick and Mortar Storefront, then Use Location Extensions

Locations Extensions

Incorporate your business address and telephone number into your ad with location extensions. These extensions drive impressions to nearby customers who are searching for your services and products – this is especially important if your company operates multiple brick and mortar stores.


Call Extensions

Call extensions allow you to feature your phone number in text ads so customers searching for your services on their mobile phones can easily call you by clicking on the “Call” button. This extension drives telesales by ensuring your phone number is visible to searchers on desktop, tablets, and mobile devices.


Boost eCommerce Sales with Sellers Ratings, Review, and Offer Extensions.

Seller Ratings

Seller ratings are another form of social endorsements that help signal your business’s credibility, quality of service, and consumer experience to potential customers. The ratings are aggregated from both numerous customer reviews and verified, trusted sources like StellaService and Google Shopping.

This ad extension requires your business to have at least 30 unique reviews from the past 12 months and an aggregate rating of at least 3.5 stars out of 5.


Review Extensions

Similar to Seller Ratings, Review Extensions serve as another way for your business to toot its own figurative horn and benefit from higher CTR. Review extensions allow you to showcase either an exact positive quote or a paraphrased quote from a trustworthy third-party source (see screenshot below). These quotes in turn act as another form of endorsement that shows potential customers that your business is worth checking out. You can create these extensions within AdWords, but you will need a dedicated, vertical-specific Google representative to enable them in your AdWords account.


Offer Extensions

You can’t create these extensions within AdWords, but AdWords will automatically scan your ad copy and landing page to see if there is any text associated with a deal or offer you may be promoting, e.g. “Free $200 Credit”. This extension will be triggered so long as you have a deal or offer in both the ad copy and the landing pages tied to said copy.


Show Off Your Mobile App with App Extensions.

App Extensions

If your business has a mobile app, then this extension is for you. The app extension sends users to two different pages depending on where they click on your ad. If someone clickson the ad headline, then they will be directed to your website. If someone clicks the extension link, e.g. “Download Android App Here”, then he or she is directed to the app store where he or she can download the app.


Increase Lead Gen Capabilities with the Email and Contact Form Extensions

Email Extensions

When searching for products or services on Google, you may have stumbled across an ad similar to the one below. These extensions present an excellent opportunity to help your business generate qualified leads and build up email lists full of people who are already interested in your products and or services. Unfortunately, this extension type is still in beta and requires assistance from a Google representative.


Contact Form Extensions

These extensions have been in beta since 2010 and like all betas, require Google’s assistance in enabling the extension for your account. The beauty of this particular extension is that you can directly collect potential customers’ contact information without them having to click through your ad to your dedicated landing page. Once searchers have clicked on the plus icon that is located below your ad text, a drop-down menu will appear (see below) and they may enter their contact information in the form fields you’ve specified.


Finally, Consider Image, Drop-down Navigation, and Site Search Extensions.

These three are the latest ad extensions that were introduced in live search results in the past six months. However, don’t be surprised if you see new ad extensions that were not covered here.

Image Extensions

Image extensions were released in June and allow you to showcase your business’s products via images attached to your ads. In Google’s example, a hotel owner can show pictures of their hotel rooms and the views from the rooms in order to provide more info to searchers (see screenshot below).


Drop-down Navigation Extensions

Google hasn’t officially named this extension, nor spoken much about it, but this extension was first spotted in the wild in August. What makes this extension especially unique is the fact that it allows searchers to navigate to a specific section of your website with ease.


Site Search Extensions

You may have seen these extensions appear when shopping for Christmas gifts. According to Google, this extension is related to the drop-down extensions because site search extensions help make it easier for searchers to find specific products on your website. Searchers are taken directly to the product page they searched for via the extension.


Adding Ad Extensions is a No-Brainer

Given the ad extension types at your disposal, you certainly have no excuse to not implement at least one of them in your campaigns and ad groups. Ad extensions require minimal set up time and improve CTR (the largest component of Quality Score) at no additional cost. Best of all, you only pay for the cost of a click on either your ad or the extensions associated with your ad.

With Black Friday being only a week away, and Christmas around the corner, you don’t have time to dawdle and wait for revenue to magically appear. Run through your AdWords checklist to ensure that the end of 2013 lays the foundation for a successful 2014.