A display URL is a web address that search engine users see in pay-per-click ads. The display URL is different than the destination URL, which is not visible in a PPC ad, but links to a designated web page when the headline of an ad is clicked. In fact, a display URL is not an active link at all, and serves instead to give search engine users a general idea of where they will be directed after they click on the ad. For advertisers, optimizing display URLs within specified guidelines provides a significant opportunity because, generally speaking, increasing the number of relevant details in PPC ads correlates directly with higher quality click-throughs and more conversions.
Guidelines for Display URLs
The number of characters is limited in display URLs. Google allows 35 characters in display URLs, but reduces that number to 20 characters for WAP mobile ads. Display URLs that are longer than these limitations will show only the first 35 characters, or the first 20 characters in the case of WAP ads.
The root domain name must be the same for both the display and destination URLS. For example, in an ad being run by ABC Widgets with a destination URL of www.abcwidgets.com/redwidgetswithfourwheels, the display URL would be required to contain the abcwidgets.com root domain. As long as the root domain is the same in the display and destination URLs, the rest of the information can be quite different between the two URLs. For example, destination URLs can go up to 2048 characters versus the standard 35 character limitation on display URLs.
Display URLs can show folders. As long as the display URL stays under the limit for the number of characters, folders can be added to the root domain name. Using the example above, ABC Widgets could add a folder to its root domain so the display URL would read www.abcwidgets.com/redwidgets.
Prefixes can be included. A sub-domain that precedes the root domain can be included in a display URL. For example, if ABC Widgets has a “tools” sub domain, the display ad could read as www.tools.abcwidgets.com.
Tips for Optimizing Display URLs
Use the display URL to reinforce the keywords being used in your campaigns. As long as the root domain is included in the display URL, you can add a prefix or a file with the keywords being used in the campaign. Keep in mind that the display URL is not an active link, meaning that you can add filenames to pages that don’t actually exist. Including keywords that were used in the preceding inquiry provides additional evidence that the ad is relevant to the search and that the landing page will be relevant to the ad.
Capitalize keywords that are included in files. Domain names and prefixes are always displayed in small caps, but the first letter in each word of a file can be capitalized. The caps make the keywords included in a file more visible to search engine users. Google enhances visibility even further by bolding keywords in ads that match search terms.
If you’re advertising a specific product, include as many details in the folder as possible up to the limit on characters. For example, www.abcwidgets.com is 18 characters long, leaving 17 characters for a file name. A display URL that reads www.abcwidgets.com/36InchRedWidgets would let searchers looking for 36 inch red widgets know that the ad is going to direct them to a landing page that has exactly what they’re looking for. In addition to driving highly targeted traffic because visitors know exactly what to expect of the landing page, being specific delivers a second key benefit; it will reduce wasted ad clicks because others will see what is not being offered on your landing pages.
Test your display URLs – To make sure your ads are generating the highest amount of qualified traffic possible, get in the habit of testing new and different versions of your display URLs. These tests can define URL versions that are underperforming and enable you to reallocate funds to the ads that have the highest click-through and conversion rates.
Why Optimize Display URLs?
While optimizing display URLs is an essential element of online advertising success for all businesses, it becomes a necessity either when a business is not a recognized brand name and/or its website address does not contain keywords that describe what the business does. For example, www.xyzcorp.com could be in virtually any type of business imaginable. If this company was to place an ad without optimizing the display URL, the click-through rate would likely be disappointing because search engine users would have no idea where clicking the ad would take them. In this case, even a minimal effort at optimization, such as changing the display URL to www.xyzcorp.com/accountants, would improve the ad’s performance by providing a general idea of what the company does.
However, investing the time to fully optimize display URLs, as well as the rest of the content in your PPC ads, can make a dramatic and positive impact on the cost and performance of your campaigns. It starts with presenting PPC ads that present information directly related to search inquiries. Next, conveying detailed information on what can be expected upon arriving on designated landing pages will drive click-throughs from people who are motivated to convert as long as they find what they are looking for. From Google’s point of view, PPC campaigns that flow naturally and provide optimal user experiences are typically rewarded with increasing Quality Scores. The result of higher scores is lower campaign costs, better ad placement and more visibility.
Who would have thought that 35 characters could do all that?