Does Google's 'Sitelinks' Feature Improve Or Hurt Conversion Rates?

I don't know about you, but I like the 'extended' search results I sometimes see on Google. I mean the ones where Google, instead of just offering a single link for the top search result, provides you with several deep links into a site. It makes navigation faster, and that's a good thing.

Those extra links almost always show up in organic results, so you may not have known that marketers can actually buy this feature in their paid listings as well. Google calls them 'AdWords Ad Sitelinks.' But -- I'm starting to wonder how well these actually work for marketers. I noticed today that in Google's case study about how Nationwide Insurance used Sitelinks [pdf], Google says the clickthrough rate went up 73% but conversions only rose 60%. The case study isn't clear on whether that's conversions per click or overall conversions -- but it certainly sounds like overall conversions. In which case, the clicks Nationwide got from Sitelinks actually converted at a lower rate than the clicks they got from traditional paid listings.

Now, this is just one example -- and as I said, it's based on my reading of the case study. But if Sitelinks really did drive conversion rates down rather than up, surely that'd be a concern.

I'm curious -- have you used Sitelinks? If so, what did you think of the program's performance -- especially the conversion rates? Let us know in the comments below.

Announcing The Forrester International Groundswell Awards

I'm thrilled to announce that this year Forrester will present the first-ever Forrester International Groundswell Awards! The Forrester Groundswell Awards are our effort to recognize not just the best ideas in social media marketing, but the programs that have proven the most effective at generating results for marketers. In the past we've run a single set of awards for all business-to-consumer marketers, no matter where in the world they were based -- and we've always been excited to see and reward great social media programs from outside the US. This year, with companies around the world ramping up their use of social media marketing -- and with many of them doing outstanding work -- we decided it was time to create a special category for non-North American marketers.

If you've run a great consumer-focused social media marketing program in the past year -- and if your program didn't specifically target the US or Canada -- then we'd love to see your entry for the Forrester International Groundswell Awards. The entry deadline is August 27, 2010 (get your entries in early so you can generate audience votes!) and we'll present the awards at our EMEA Marketing and Strategy Forum in London on November 18, 2010. Be sure to check out Josh's post for full details and rules. I'm looking forward to seeing your submissions!

Forrester’s European Online Ad Forecast: Rich Formats Will Push Display Ad Spending Higher While Search Growth Will Slow

One of the first tasks I settled on when I returned to Europe this year was to update our online ad forecast. After months of research, I’ve just published that report, ‘Western European Online Advertising Forecast Through 2014’ – and I’m happy to say that overall, the picture that’s developed is one of an industry returning to health. 2009 wasn’t a great year for the market, but thanks to a strong fourth quarter it wasn’t the terrible year everyone was expecting either – and more importantly, it looks like the weakness was a short-term blip rather than the beginning of a prolonged market slide. Western European online ad spending – which we define as the total of display ad spending and search spending in 17 countries – totalled €9.6 billion in 2009, and will grow to €13.9 billion in 2014.

When you dig a bit deeper, however, it becomes clear that different sectors of the market will have differing fortunes over the next five years. We think the big story between now and 2014 will be online display advertising. After a year of stagnation in 2009 – when it grew by just 1% across Western Europe – we think display is starting to look as healthy as ever. With huge advances in targeting helping response marketers deliver their ads to the right users, and with rich ad formats convincing brand marketers to shift more of their budget online, display will grow by 4% in 2010 and hit double-digit annual growth by 2013.

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How Forrester Defines Western Europe

Because I’ve just published a new Western European forecast – and because I often get asked how we define which geographies we cover – I thought I’d clarify what we mean by "Western Europe." As of May 2010, Forrester defines Western Europe as the following 17 countries (listed here alphabetically):

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

 

Put another way, when we talk about Western Europe, we’re talking about the old EU-15 plus Switzerland and Norway.

We're Hiring In London

I have a great job. My role, essentially, is to uncover the most interesting questions in interactive marketing (things like 'How should we measure our social media programs?' and 'What are the best ways to use online video for marketing?' and 'Can you really build a brand online?') and then talk to as many smart people as I can until I find some answers. I then get to present those answers in research reports, blog posts, speeches, teleconferences, workshops, and consulting projects. 

If that sounds fun to you, and you have a couple years experience in marketing, you may want to consider applying for the Researcher job we have open in London. Our Researchers play a crucial role in all aspects of the research process: they help us find those smart people we talk to, and then help us conduct the interviews; they help us field surveys and analyze the resulting data; they contribute to our written reports -- and eventually write entire reports on their own. Along the way, they learn a remarkable amount about interactive marketing and the research process. And if they're good, like my last researcher was, they get promoted to analyst.

If you'd like to apply -- or you know someone who might -- we're collecting applications now. Check out the full job description, and apply using the online tool. And if you have any questions about the job, feel free to drop me a line: nelliott at forrester dot com.

How Do You Manage Multinational Social Media Programs? We'd Like To Know!

Lately, a lot of our clients have been asking about how to manage their social media programs across more than one country. It's a real challenge: While some sites (like MySpace) have long offered solutions to help marketers direct users from different countries to the correct branded page, the current social media leaders (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) don't seem to do this nearly as well. How, then, do you make sure that the Facebook page on which you post UK-specific content doesn't misinform your European fans? How do make sure the support community designed to help your US customers doesn't confuse your Canadian audience? Do you create multiple pages in each social network to serve all the countries in which you operate? Or do you maintain a single presence in each network, and avoid posting any country-specific material? If you offer different product lines in different countries -- or use radically different marketing strategies market by market -- it only gets more difficult.

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Why in-stream ad frequency is rising -- and why it'll rise further

Earlier this month, Corey Kronengold at Online Video Watch was complaining about the in-stream ad load at MLB.tv. But unfortunately for Corey – and for the other two-thirds of US Internet users who now watch online video – the ad load seems likely to get heavier rather than lighter.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, my team and I spent at least 30 minutes watching video on each of 84 leading sites in the US and Europe to better understand how marketers and sites are deploying online video ads – an exercise I’ve conducted each of the past three years. What did we find? Advertising, and a lot of it. In fact, 85% of US web sites and 64% of European sites now accept in-stream ads. And we saw more advertising per online video hour than ever before. 

85% of US web sites accept in-stream video ads

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Interview on Marketing Voices

I was pleased to have the chance recently to speak with Jennifer Jones of the Marketing Voices podcast.

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Call for participation: Using social media for financial services marketing

I've had the opportunity over the past year to work with a lot of banks and credit unions, insurance providers, and investment management firms. Marketers at financial services companies face a number of challenges other marketers don't -- most importantly, confusing and often ill-defined government regulations -- but yet I've been impressed with the social media efforts I've seen from many companies in this category.

I've decided to research and write a report on how financial services marketers can most effectively use social media. We'll be including lots of our data on how different types of financial customers engage with social media, of course -- but I'd also like to collect more insight from the marketers' perspective.

If you're a financial services marketer, and you're willing to walk us through examples of how you've used social media, talk to us about how you manage risk and work with your legal and compliance departments, and share with us some of the lessons you've learned in social media marketing, then we'd love to talk to you. You can contact me directly at: nelliott at forrester dot com. Thanks!

Guest Post: Tom Cummings on how marketers are using Twitter (and what they can do better)

As a Forrester analyst I get to work with a fantastic team of researchers – including Tom Cummings, who contributes some great work to our research on social media marketing and a wide range of other topics. Below, Tom discusses a piece of research we collaborated on, covering how marketers are using Twitter:

Tom Cummings [Posted by Tom Cummings.]

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