Do Display URLs Matter in Paid Search?

In ad copy, we know that content can affect your ad performance. Headlines, keywords, or even the CTA can impact the ad performance. It is well known that the right landing page can affect conversion rates. Does the URL displayed in your ad make a difference in performance? In this article, we are going to show you that it can make a difference.

Display URL Examples

Using PPC landing pages is not an uncommon practice in helping to measure performance. In this screenshot, we see ads from Gap and Shein that are using a sub-domain in their ads.

clothing for women search query

Here is another example from Dell. Oftentimes, advertisers will use subdomains like Deals, Shop, or Coupons. In this screenshot, we see Dell is using deals.dell.com in their final URL.

new computer search query display url

A Display URL Test With Subdomains

For one brand, we had many challenges with tracking due to the large volume of phone numbers displayed on their website. We were able to set up Google website call tracking, but this only worked for their primary toll-free number and not for the local phone numbers. Analytics was able to track the click-to-call activity for all phone numbers, but this was not ideal because it was unable to measure the duration of the call. The best option may have been using a third party call tracking service, but this was not an option for this brand.

So, one recommendation we had was to set up a PPC landing page that would display one primary phone number which would allow full visibility into call quality. One challenge was the brand was unable to set up a page on their primary domain, so we created a separate domain. All ads were redirected to this domain and nothing else was changed in the ad copy. Another thing to note is this client has several Brand campaigns targeting different regions of the country.

branded campaign results for test display url

As you can see in the Branded campaign, the costs were 12% lower, impressions increased by 18%, and CPCs increased by 16%. The conversions decreased by 25% and the CPL increased by 16%. Updating the ads can reset the ad quality score and this could have contributed to the higher CPCs we saw here. However, the metric that stood out the most for me was the impact it had on our CTR. Less searchers were clicking on our ad with the subdomain as the display URL, compared to the original ads. 

The Non-Brand campaign performance was not impacted to the same degree as the Branded campaign. The CTR decreased by 7%, CPCs were 2% lower, conversions increased by 21%, and the CPL was only 5% higher. 

One theory was that customers may have trust issues with the domain displayed. That perhaps they could see the organic listing below and were clicking on that instead. In the Non-Brand campaigns, their organic listing was less likely to show in the #1 organic spot due to the competition. The CTR did improve the next month, but only to 5.99%. In Analytics, we do see Organic traffic did have a 17% lift. However, the campaign lost less than 1,000 clicks, and so this traffic increase may or may not have been related. – Read more