It's something that's easily overlooked: the impact your display URL has on your PPC campaigns.

What display URLs produce the best results? Which can have a negative impact? Thanks to a small study that was recently conducted, we have some data to consider.

The study was conducted by User Centric, Inc., which used eye tracking technology to measure how much time a group of 30 individuals spent gazing at AdWords ads on Google for 12 different search results. RandyP at SEOmoz has a detailed summary and it's well worth a read if you run PPC campaigns.

As they say, the eyes don't lie and User Centric found the following:

  • The top ads get the most attention, with the top ads that appear above organic search results receiving more attention than the top ads appearing to the right of the organic search results.
  • For the ads above the organic search results, the display URL is very important; it receives more gaze time than the ad description and the same amount of gaze time as the title when it comes to the top spot.
  • The best results were achieved when the display URL was limited to a domain name only. Adding a keyword to the end of the domain name (e.g. caused a 5% decrease in CTR and adding a keyword as a subdomain (e.g. caused a whopping 25% decrease in CTR.

As RandyP concludes:

The results of our eye tracking study and the other two tests show that display URLs are an important component of PPC ads. Modifying display URLs as a test poses a danger of reducing the branding value of a PPC ad by cluttering up the display of the domain name. However, the potential long-term benefit of acting upon a successful test can easily outweigh the short-term cost of a failed one.

This is a good suggestion and if the results seen in this study are indicative of user habits, including extraneous text in your display URLs might be hurting your campaign's performance, especially if your ads are in the most costly top positions.

Photo credit: Look Into My Eyes on Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)


Alec Kinnear

Thanks for sharing this. I had always wondered if we should be adding keywords or not to the domain name.

Some of the hard core marketers change domain name for every campaign and find it worthwhile. Google discourages it and it's a bit of a workaround.

over 9 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Thanks for sharing your research Mikhel, but it is mainly about eye tracking and not about what drives the click. You assume time spent forecasts the click which is not necessarily true.

One is looking for a click, even a faster one, rather than enigmatic information which requires the visitor to think more before clicking.

over 9 years ago

Mihkel Jäätma

Mihkel Jäätma, Founding Partner at Realeyes

Alec, you're right. In this study we just wanted to know which elements of a search ad catch most eye attention. No assumptions about clicks or anything else.

over 9 years ago

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