How online course providers can use ad extensions to increase return on investment (ROI) in Google Ads.
According to Google data, ad extensions increase click-through rates (CTRs) by an average of 10-15% but that’s not the only reason to use them. Ad extensions also incentivise users to take action, which means higher conversion rates, purchases and ROI – especially if you take the time to create and optimise manual ad extensions in Google Ads.
In this article, we look at how online course providers can use ad extensions to increase their PPC return on investment and choose which ad extensions to use for different marketing goals.
In Google Ads, there are ten ad extensions available that you can manually create and apply to campaigns or ad groups:
Chances are, you’re not going to use all of these – for example, affiliate location extensions aren’t much use to an online course provider unless you’re also selling educational products in retail stores.
You’ve also got seven automated ad extensions available, most of which are automated versions of the first six ad extensions listed above. The seventh automated extension is seller rating extensions and there’s no manual equivalent for this.
Ad extensions provide more information in your ads and encourage users to click through to your website or complete actions by interacting directly with your ad – eg: downloading an app or filling out a lead generation form.
The primary goal of ad extensions is to increase click-through rates but campaigns and ad groups using ad extensions generally achieve higher conversion rates and increased ROI, too.
There are a number of reasons for this:
With manual ad extensions, your aim is to pinpoint the key interests of your target audiences and provide relevant information to match or actions they can take to satisfy their needs faster: visiting specific pages, taking up special offers or calling your business directly.
By satisfying these needs and encouraging prospects to take actions sooner, clicks become more meaningful and the likelihood of conversions and purchases increases – all of which means more revenue, less budget wasted on clicks that don’t convert and a higher return on investment.
You can track the performance of ad extensions in Google Ads by navigating to Ads & extensions > Extensions but the most reliable way to see how they impact ROI is to run duplicate ad groups with and without ad extensions to exclude any other variables.
The most important for online course providers is getting people to convert on your website. In Google Ads, there are five ad extensions designed to help you do this:
So we’re going to start by looking at these and we’re also going to talk about one particular automated extension that can help with this marketing goal: seller rating extensions.
Sitelink extensions add clickable links to your ad, which users can use to navigate to specific pages on your website. So the headline directs users to your landing page, as normal, but users who are interested in a more specific course, for example, can click right through to the relevant page.
Here are the key benefits of using sitelink extensions:
So let’s say someone types “online university courses” into Google and sees the following ad:
Here, Arden uses sitelink extensions for its most important lead generation pages. The whole ad promotes value and this message is consistent through its choice of links with one directing to a page for free master’s degrees and another on flexible payment options.
Sitelink extensions allow you to pinpoint specific interests and direct users to the most relevant page, cutting out unnecessary steps and delivering a more targeted message from the very first click – both of which are good news for conversion rates.
Up to six sitelinks can show in ads for desktop queries while as many as eight can show in mobile ads. For more information on how to add sitelinks to your ads, you can visit the official Google Ads documentation.
With callout extensions, you can add important details about your offer that can help your ad stand out from the pack. This is a great extension to use if you’ve got unique selling points that you want to promote. Let’s say you provide tutor support with all your courses, provide free materials and allow students to pay their fees monthly – these are all characteristics you might want to put across in callout extensions.
Structured snippets allow you to highlight some of the courses you provide in your ad. When you create a structured snippet extension in Google Ads, you start by selecting a Header, which specifies the type of information you’re providing.
Here, you can select either Courses or Degree programs, depending on which is more relevant to your ad. Then, you can add the courses you want to highlight in the Values fields – eg: creative writing, journalism and literature studies.
You can add structured snippet extensions at the account, campaign and ad group levels and you may find these are most effective at the ad group level, as this allows you to highlight related courses. For example, if someone types in “study science online,” you might want to include physics, chemistry, and molecular biology in your structured snippet extensions to show that you provide courses across the discipline.
Quite simply, price extensions allow you to show the prices of certain courses in your ads. Each course links to the relevant page and you can also add a description to provide more information about your pricing – for example, the £9.99 deposit-only offer shown below.
Price extensions are ideal if you’re competitive or have a pricing policy that makes it easier for students to pay their fees. They’re also great for ad messages that focus on price and affordability or any relevant policies you have, such as price matching.
With promotion extensions, you can show searchers that you’re running special deals and other incentives that encourage them to book a course now rather than miss out.
When you create promotion extensions in Google Ads, you can choose from four types of deal: monetary discount, percent discount, up to monetary discount or up to percentage discount. You can also add conditions so that deals apply to orders over a certain value or offer promo codes in your ad.
Promotion extensions are designed to run for a certain period and there are dozens of seasonal occasions you can choose to run your offer for – eg: back to school, Black Friday, etc. Alternatively, you can set your promotion for a custom time period by defining start and end dates or run it indefinitely by keeping the default “None” settings selected.
Seller rating extensions show a score out of five stars, based on reviews left by customers who have previously bought from you. Unlike product review scores, seller ratings tell potential customers what it’s like to buy from you as a business and the aim is to increase confidence in new buyers that their money is well spent with you.
If you only sell online courses through your website, then the ad extensions we’ve looked at so far are the most important ones for turning PPC clicks into purchases. However, depending on the nature of your business, it’s possible to have other marketing goals. For example, you might also provide on-premise courses at a business location or have a mobile app for students to download and access course material.
So, while many of the ad extensions available in Google Ads may not sound particularly relevant to online course providers, there are specific use cases where they can have value.
If you have a mobile app, getting users to download and create an account establishes a direct channel for nurturing leads and keeping them engaged. For a company like Udemy, app downloads is a key marketing goal and app extensions allow mobile users to download your mobile app by clicking the install button in your ad.
Lead form extensions allow you to capture leads from your ads by placing a call-to-action tab at the bottom of your ad where you can encourage prospects to sign up without even clicking through to your website.
When a user clicks on the CTA in your lead form extension, a web form pops up in the browser with their contact details automatically inserted in the relevant fields (if they’re signed into Google). All they need to do is verify the information is correct and click the submit button.
Location extensions show the address of your business with the aim of encouraging users to visit you. Of course, if you’re strictly an online course provider this might not be of much use to you but if you provide any on-premise services in any capacity or run campaigns designed to get people through the door, location extensions can help.
Affiliate location extensions direct users to retail stores where they can buy your products so you’re only going to use these if you’ve got educational products for sale in high street locations.
Call extensions place a phone number on your ads, which users can click from their mobile devices to call you directly. If you take online bookings or queries from potential students, this can be a useful extension for mobile campaigns so you can speak to leads directly.
By default, campaigns in Google Ads are eligible for automated extensions, which means you (and users) may see any of the following in your ads, whether you like it or not:
Google determines when these extensions should be used, based on the search query in question and your campaign goal. It generates the content for you automatically by using the information on your landing page, ad copy, domain information, Google My Business profile and several other sources (eg: third-party review sites for seller rating extensions).
If you’re not interested in manually creating ad extensions, automated extensions can help increase your click-through rates and have a positive impact on ROI.
However, the automated nature and lack of control inherent with automated extensions often result in less relevant, compelling ad copy than you should be able to achieve manually – and this is what tends to make the real difference with turning clicks into conversions, revenue and ROI.
You can turn off automated extensions in Google ads by heading to Ads & extensions > Extensions in the main navigation menu and then clicking on Automated Extensions at the bottom of the page.
On the automated extensions page, you’ll see a set of icons at the top-right of the interface where you want to click on the More icon.
Click on Advanced options and, on the next page, you can select Turn off specific automated extensions to select which extensions you want to disable.
So, for example, you could turn off all automated extensions except for Seller ratings, which will allow Google to show these on relevant ads.
If you need help with getting better performance from ad extensions, you can speak to our PPC experts by calling 02392 830 281 or filling out the form on our contact page.
Callum is a PPC Specialist and joined Vertical Leap in early 2019 with core specialisms in eCommerce and Google Shopping campaigns. When he’s not working, he enjoys long distance running, reading and craft brewing.
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