In Defense of the Display URL

Table of Contents

You want a higher click through rate?

You want to raise your quality score and lower your cost per acquisition?
Then you need to take advantage of every opportunity to make your ad great (again).
Make your ads great again
The most common ways to make your ads great are to focus on the headline and the copy of your ads.
Yet, if you only look at the headline and ad copy then you are forgetting about one of easiest and most overlooked ways to improve your ad….

The Forgotten Display URL

I see it time and again, internet marketers forget about the display URL.
It is understandable, we have to remember a lot.
It can be easy to overlook some of the small wins.
But, small wins are sometimes the very thing that your account needs.
When small wins (such as the display URL influencing user clicks) add up over and over they compound.
This compounding of small wins is known in marketing as the aggregation of marginal gains – and it is a powerful principal.
Aggregation of marginal gains
Optimizing the display URL is an example of one of those small wins that compounds over time. 
An optimized display URL compounds because:
  • It provides an additional marketing message
  • Which means your ad gets clicked more
  • Which improves the click through rate
  • Which improves the quality score
  • Which lowers the cost per click
  • Which lowers the cost per acquisition
  • Which makes for a more profitable campaign
Take advantage of the display URL and you get more clicks, cheaper than your competitors and receive a lower cost per acquisition.
Now that you understand the value of optimizing the display URL, it is time to dig deeper.
After reading this article you will:
  1. Understand what the display URL is
  2.  Have four display URL techniques to test (with examples)
  3. Learn step-by-step (with screenshots) how to optimize the display URL in your account. 
 Let’s begin…

Understand The Display URL

First a definition. Google defines the display URL as:

                 “The webpage address that appears with your ad, typically shown in green text.”

Here are some examples of display URLs  from a screenshot I took:

Display URL

The screenshot above shows results for a user search of Divorce Law Attorney.

The display URL’s that appear for that user search are: 




It should be pretty obvious that 
  •  and
provide a much better result than the display URL as a display URL provides no signal to the searcher that the site is specifically about divorce law.

The Display URL is Not Real (kind of)

Display URL is not real

The one thing that trips marketers up is that the display URL does not have to be a real website.

– The display URL is NOT where you send visitors when they click on your ad – that is called the destination URL. 

– The display URL IS only what the user sees when they view your ad.

In the divorce law example:

– The display url: actually takes users to:

-The display url: actually takes users to:

Two Rules About the Display URL

While the display URL doesn’t need to be a real website URL – it does have two rules:

Rule #1: The display URL domain needs to be the same as the destination URL domain 

For example, when Nerds Do It Better advertises, our destination URL is

For this reason all display URL’s must have destination URL in it. 

This can include display URL’s such as 

  • or

However, our display URL can not be something like since that domain is different than the destination url.

Rule #2: The display URL can only be 30 characters

As long as you follow those two rules, you are free to use your imagination and skills to optimize. 

I included 4 examples below just in case you need some inspiration.

4 Techniques To Optimize The Display URL for A Better Campaign

Here are 4 techniques to test for your display URL to improve your campaign.

With each technique I include an example from a live search engine results page to demonstrate how this looks and works in real life.

Technique #1: Use A Keyword In Your Display URL To Increase The Relevancy

Use a keyword in your Display URL

One of the best ways to increase the relevancy of your ads is to include words from the search query in your ads.

Google bolds this text when it matches the searchers query in the display URL.

In the example above you can see when the user searched for FDCPA Harassment Attorney that Google bolded those words in the display URL’s which contained them.

In the split second it takes for the user to make their choice of what ad to click the bolded text makes a difference.
In fact, one study found that bolded text increases click through rates on ads by 11.3%!

Technique #2: Use A Call To Action In Your Display URL to Increase Conversions

Use a call to action in your Display URL

A call to action is an advertising technique where you explicitly tell the user what you would like them to do.

This can increase the amount of users who perform the desired action (like make a call or fill out a form).

If your display URL includes a call to action, make sure that it matches the call to action on the landing page.

Check out the example above to see how they use the call to action “Book now” in their display URL.

Technique #3: Use Camel Case And Dashes To Make Your Display URL More Readable

Use Camel case and Dashes in your Display URL

Since your display URL has to look like a functioning URL it can not use spaces.

This can lead to all of the words mashing together and make it nearly impossible for the user to understand your marketing message (whataretheytryingtosay?)

The best way to make it as easy for the user to read is to “unmash” your words.
There are two ways to do this with the display URL
1. Use camel case. Camel case is when you use a capital letter for the beginning of each word (WordsLookLikeThis). In the example above chepOAir uses camel case in their display URL (
2. Use dashes. Use dashes between the words in the display URL (words-look-like-this). In the above example smart fare uses dashes in their display URL (

Technique #4: Put Text In The Subdomain Of The Display URL To Draw The Eye

Use text in the subdomain of your Display URL

In addition to utilizing the path name (the part after the slash) you can also utilize the subdomain. The subdomain is the part before domain the domain which (usually www).

Since almost every other ad on the search engine results page either has no subdomain or the subdomain of www, putting text in the subdomain differentiates your ad.

For an example see the above Autosite ad where they utilize the subdomain car-clearence-sale as a call to action. 

How To Change Your Display URL

One of the best things about changing the display URL is how simple it is.

Here are the four steps to accomplish this.

1. Create Your Strategy

Take a moment to look at the above examples and think about how you plan to optimize your display URL. Like any other aspect of AdWords this is not set it and forget it. You want to test your new display URL against your current ads to see which performs better based on real data.

2. Select Ad "Text Ad"

From the “Ads” tab, select the “+”

Select Ad

And then from the dropdown select  “Text Ad”

Select Text Ad

3. Enter The New Display URL

A new screen will appear – create an ad with a new display URL to test vs. the currently rotating ad.

Enter new display URL

4. Split Test Your Ads

Split test your ad with new display URL against the ad currently running, and see if it improves your key performance indicators.

What are the best uses of the display URL that you have seen?

Image credit:

Adam Lundquist
Adam Lundquist

is the founder of Nerds Do It Better, an Internet advertising agency that delivers business results. He is (reformed) radio morning show host and has been featured in The Harvard Gazette, Search Engine Journal, PPC Hero, Certified Knowledge, KISSmetrics, Mtv, Vh1, Sports Illustrated, and Moz. He is highly active on social media and loves to talk business

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