Ad extensions have been around in Google AdWords for a while now, but if our clients are any measure,  most companies with existing AdWords campaigns have no idea they exist. That's unfortunate because ad extensions encourage your potential customers to click on your ad by accomplishing two goals:

  1. Ad extensions increase your ad size, the amount of information your ad contains, and generally turn it into an overall badass.
  2. Ad extensions include additional business information in the ad, such as your address, phone number, links to interior web pages, product information, etc, making your ad much more useful to potential customers.
  3. [Update] Since writing this Google has started using ad extensions in quality score calculations. Chances are, if you don't use ad extensions you'll be handicapping your campaigns.

Unfortunately, while ad extensions are well-known by AdWords "pros," most companies with existing campaigns have no idea they exist or how to implement them. If you're not using ad extensions, you're losing clicks to your competitors who are.

Why you should be using ad extensions

So let's have a quick look at what ad extensions for the uninitiated. I did a quick search for "dentist" and this is the first ad that showed up:

Sample AdWords Ad with Location and Sitelink Ad Extensions

Sample AdWords Ad with Location and Sitelink Ad Extensions

And here's the second ad:

Sample AdWords ad without ad extensions

Basic ad without ad extensions

Notice the difference? The first ad has an address and phone number with "Directions" link, as well as links to interior pages on the site. Overall it's much bigger, taking up just about double the space. Whether AdWords, print, TV, whatever, the "louder" you can make your ad the more likely it will grab someone's attention.

Now have a look at this ad:

AdWords ad with star ratings

AdWords ad with star ratings

In addition to a location, this ad includes a star rating from the company's Google+ page. Obviously ads #1 and #3 are significantly larger and more attention-grabbing than ad #2.

And the point of all this, of course, is higher click-through-rates lead to higher quality scores, which lead to lower costs per click.

To keep things simple, I'm just going to cover how to interpret statistics for sitelink, location, and call extensions, but this should give you enough information to interpret the other extensions' stats as well.

Why ad extension stats are confusing

I've found that the confusion arises from the expectation that, when on the Ad extensions tab, Google is showing stats for ad extensions…makes sense right? Well that's not exactly how it works. What actually happens is Google is showing overall stats for ads that were displayed with ad extensions…not just the stats for ad extensions themselves.

Interpreting Ad Extension Stats

By default, your location extension stats will look something like this (FYI we're not using AdWords for conversion tracking on this campaign):

Location extension stats

Default location extension stats (click to enlarge)

These are not the stats for your location extension itself, rather, these are the cumulative stats for all of your ads that were shown with a location extension. This view does not segment clicks (or any other metric) on the "Directions" link vs clicks on the headline of the ad itself; that's were the confusion usually lies in part.

In order to break those stats down we need to segment them by click type. To do that, click the "Segment" dropdown and select "Click type."

Now you'll see something like this:

Location extension stats segmented by click type

Location extension stats segmented by click type (click to enlarge)

You can see we've added 3 rows of data.

  1. Headline – Stats for the ad headline
  2. Sitelink – Stats for the sitelinks shown with the ad. Important note: Since we're viewing stats for our location extension, the sitelink row is showing stats for sitelinks that were displayed along with our location extension.
  3. Get direction – Stats for the "Directions" link.

I mentioned something above that's really important so I'll say it again. Since we're viewing stats for our location extension in the image above, the sitelink row is showing stats ONLY for sitelinks that were displayed along with our location extension.

If you want to get stats for all sitelink impressions, whether they were shown along with a location, phone, etc extension, you'll need to click the "View" dropdown and select "Sitelinks Extensions." Then the Sitelink row will show stats for all sitelink impressions. This is an important distinction you should be aware of and it's why you'll see each rows' stats change when you change the extension view.

Learn by example

To drive this point home, let's illustrate this with an example from our Sitelinks extension for this campaign. Here are the stats, segmented by click type:

Sitelink Extensions with Segmented Statistics

Sitelink Extensions with Segmented Statistics (click to enlarge)

And here's what the numbered callouts mean:

  1. This is our overall CTR for all impressions of our ads that were shown along with our Sitelinks extension.
  2. This is the overall CTR for clicks on the headline of all ads that were shown along with our Sitelinks extension.
  3. This is the overall CTR for clicks on the Sitelinks themselves. In other words, this is the percentage of people who clicked on a Sitelink after seeing an ad with Sitelinks.
  4. This is the overall CTR for clicks on the "Directions" link of all ads that were shown along with our Sitelinks extension. Since the "Directions" link only shows up with a location extension, this can also be thought of as the CTR for clicks on the "Directions" link for ads that were shown with both Sitelinks and Location extensions together.

Call Extensions

Call extensions deserve some extra attention. When creating a call extension, Google asks if you want to use a "call forwarding number from Google to get enhanced reporting." If you select this option, the phone number shown with your ad will be a forwarding number rather than your actual phone number. The benefit of this is that Google provides a report that gives you a lot of insight into calls resulting from your ads. You can view the report shown below by clicking the "Dimensions" tab and selecting "Call details" in the view dropdown.

Call extensions call details report

Call extensions call details report (click to enlarge)

Now this report is cool…it shows you exactly when a call was made, how long it lasted, whether it was missed or connected, the caller's area code (blurred here), whether the call was manually dialed or click-to-call from a mobile phone, and the cost of the call. As you can see, Google deson't charge you for mobile clicks-to-call (those are billed as a normal click) or missed calls. It appears Google doesn't charge for shorter calls (short enough that they couldn't have been productive), however, I've seen manually dialed calls over 150 seconds not be billed so if anyone has any insight on that I'd love to hear it. Based on the numbers, I suspect the limit for billing is 30 seconds and any longer calls that aren't charged are deemed call fraud or something like that.

Ad extensions can dramatically improve your click-through rate and lead to lower costs per click and conversion, but it isn't immediately obvious how to read the stats correctly. Once you understand how to read the numbers, you can get a much clearer understanding of the performance of your ad extensions and act accordingly.