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04 Mar 2011

Lowercase Display URLs Got You Down?

March 04, 2011PPC Advertising
It was only a few weeks ago that Google automatically began changing the display URLs to lower-case after testing had proven that it increases paid ad clickthrough rates.

It you’ve split tested your display URLs in your ads, you know from experience if capitalizing your domain name results in higher CTRs or not. In most cases it does, especially if the words in your domain name are difficult to distinguish from one another. Unfortunately, Google has taken that power away from you, but here’s a tactic you can use to fight back, gain more control, and distinguish yourself better from your competitors in your display URLs.

Let’s pretend your domain name is www.BuyErasures.com. This was great until Google began displaying your URL as www.buyerasures.com and your main keyword became lost in lowercase and your domain name ambiguous. One solution may be to change your display URLs to www.buyeasures.com/Erasures. This will help to highlight your keyword, but a better solution may be to use a hyphenated URL such as www.buy-erasures.com.

Problem solved! But before you go out to buy your new hyphenated domain name we have another small issue to deal with. Google will not allow you to use your hyphenated domain name and point to the original page. Read more about Google’s display URL policy.

So, a workaround for this issue is to forward and mask the new URL with your domain registrar. This is how it would work. Your new, hyphenated domain name is setup to be forwarded to the old with masking. Google, and any visitor that types in your hyphenated URL, will always see the forwarding URL in their browser even though they are on your original page, hence the masking. For example, your new ad points to www.buy-erasures.com. The user is forwarded to www.buyerasures.com but sees www.buy-erasures.com in their browser. Simple. Done.

Some things to consider: forwarding domains can sometimes result in duplicate content penalties. Include a robots nofollow tag just to be safe. Also, when a forwarding URL is masked it will mask every page with the top-level domain. For example, www.buyerasures.com/store/product1.html will also display as www.buy-erasures.com. This doesn’t pose any problems if the user stays on one page but will start looking weird and unprofessional when they navigate the site. Lastly, you still want to test your new hyphenated domain name to be sure you are not negatively impacting your results.