You Think You Know Display URL’s?

Posted on September 26, 2014 in

Display URL’s as Your CTR Power Tool.

The Display URL is the second most important element in determining whether your ad is clicked on or passed over. Therefore, it’s one of the most important Quality Score factors determining how much you pay for your ad traffic. Despite its importance, I see it disregarded by advertisers time and again as if the advertiser’s used up all their creative juices on their ad copy. That’s 35 characters of potential golden profits, so let’s hop on down the rabbit hole.

A Note about Capitalization:

Until a few years ago, capitalization was allowed in the domain; encouraged even by Google. Google would preach about how the right variation of capital letters was helpful to the human eyes in helping distinguish words. Click-through-rates went up with the proper usage. As you already know, Google ended this abruptly. They explained that when all advertisers were forced to use lower case letters in their domain, the overall clicks to ads in-general increased. Plenty of advertisers groaned and complained. The best example I saw against the move was vs The mind’s eye sees what it wants to see, which varies from moment-to-moment and viewer-to-viewer.

Google stuck to their guns though. My theory has always been that it made ads appear more like organic listings, and users place less trust in a listing that is paid for vs what are perceived as natural means. Many of Google’s other changes since then have really bore that theory out.


The Rabbit Hole



– Capitalization still works after the domain, such as

– The capitalization of domains still works fine on Display Ads

– Capitalization is only ignored on search, not banned. You can upload capitalized letters all you want. However, there are times that Google chooses to show the domain in alongside the ad separately from the Display URL. A friend of mine, Nathan Herron, discovered that the capitalization for this feature is drawn from how it is capitalized in the account.


– Display URL’s cannot be longer than 35 characters. If you have uploaded an ad longer than 35 characters, it will be automatically shortened.

– If the domain and suffix (.com, .net) are longer than 35 character, it is okay to shorten it as long as it stays true to the original wording concept. could be shortened to

– If a URL does not use a subdomain, such as or, and the URL is shorter than 31 characters, Google will automatically add a ‘www.’ to it. If the URL ends with the suffix only and has no more than 34 characters, Google will also add the ‘/’ at the end for you. Thus, typing in will result in a Display URL that looks like

– Dynamic Keyword Insertion can be used except in the domain itself.{KeyWord:Chicago} is acceptable. Note that spaces between the words will be filled in by Google with a ‘+’. That means that the keyword “chicago plumbers” would show on{KeyWord:Chicago} as

– Display URL’s on smartphones exceeding 31 characters will be cut-off with a ‘…’ in most cases. There are times, such as when having six sitelinks showing, in which 31 characters will be cut-off as well, but 31 characters is usually a safe number. Note that the addition of ‘www.’ and ‘/’ from below still applies.



– The domain of the landing page after redirects and Display URL must match.

– If many other entities are hosted on the same website, a differentiation must be made. For example, if you’re wanting to advertise your YouTube video on Google Search, it would need to be listed like or

– Except in rare cases, the IP address of your website is not allowed as the Display URL

– No more than one domain is allowed per ad group



– Google relies on the historical performance of any particular Display URL throughout your account, regardless of where. If you’re going to test a new Display URL, layer it in with an existing ad until Google acclimates to it.

– As mentioned earlier, the Display URL has the second highest impact on the click-through-rate, right behind the Headline.

– Just like the rest of the ad copy, words in the Display URL that are also in the query will be made, as well as their close variants.



– I like to think of the Display URL as a form of navigation. It shows to the user that the page they are entering is the correct page. Sometimes, it is important to call out the specialty, sometimes the geography. However, it is ultimately another portion of the ad copy and should be used as such. There are times to use it to call out something that you couldn’t fit into the main ad copy. Thus, keywords are almost always a good idea.

– Capitalize important words. It’s all about attracting attention to the most important words and phrases.

– I like to add the ‘www.’ when possible. However, there are times when I believe a word is more important than the space. An example is a long city name when I’m creating a geographically targeted campaign. I have found that the ‘www.’ often performs better when it appears above the organic listings, but it only sometimes matters on the side. For mobile ads, I’ve had varying results. Frequently, the ‘www.’, domain, and then ‘/whatever’ leaves the ‘/whatever’ pushed far enough to the right on my phone that the ‘whatever’ doesn’t help as much.

– Some users prefer ‘_’ between words, like ‘’. It is something to test for along with the ‘-‘. I remove the spacing a lot of times, but that can leave the occasional problem with capitalization ‘www.blah/USATeams’. Google’s DKI uses the ‘+’, so figure out what works for you.

– No matter what you think works, never hesitate to a search or a preview. Sometimes, what you think it will look, and what it actually looks like, are two totally different things.


Optimize Better

I’m sure I left out some more tidbits, but hopefully that’s enough to get you thinking about your Display URL’s more. Go have more success!

By Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams has been doing PPC since 2004. He has managed many accounts from local service companies to large mortgage companies. His primary proficiencies are Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and Bing Ads. He continually stays up-to-date on the latest tricks, tools and trends provided by the search engines. If there is one thing that Kevin excels at most is making his clients money with Pay-per-Click advertising.