The Ongoing Display URL Experiment


MarketingExperiments has always maintained that the display URL is a very important part of creating an effective ad. Our research over the years indicated that simply adding a www to the beginning of the display URL or capitalizing the words within the domain could increase click-through significantly. This brings up the question of “What is the optimal configuration for a display URL?”—especially when the domain name itself has no direct relevance to the search term.

Over the last month, we have been conducting an experiment to determine the answer to that question. We launched a test utilizing a couple of our research partners that contained three URL variations:

Our results thus far have been very interesting. One of our researchers contended that “” is what people expect to see. Any variation from that is unexpected and raises a small question in people’s minds,” and with one of our research partners, he appears to be spot on.

With that particular partner, utilizing a sub-domain resulted in an 18% decrease in click-through rate. Using an extension appeared to have marginal effect, resulting in a very similar—though slightly lower—CTR as the original display URL of “”

Question answered, right? Wrong. Checking the results of our other test subjects produced the opposite results! The regular domain performed slightly worse than the extension while the sub-domain outperformed it by 15%!

We are now in the process of expanding the test and trying to determine why these results varied. Was it the subject matter? Why did the tests create or reduce friction and is it something inherent in the format or did we make an unfortunate choice in keywords? Hopefully we’ll have enough data to give you the answers in the next couple of months.

As an aside, displays URLs are just one part of PPC. It’s important that you gain a full understanding of the various elements of PPC ad copy writing. If you are planning on attending Search Engine Strategies in San Jose this year will have several sessions showing you how best to tackle the puzzle of effective ad copy head on. MEC subscribers can save an additional 10% when with our exclusive priority code, 10MEC.

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* SES conferences usually focus on all search-related promotions, revealing all the innovative marketing approaches and tactics used to reach your customers. Listen to “success stories” and the best practices from SEM/SEO industry leaders, experts, and the search engines themselves.

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