Google Expands Sitelinks

Google has this week updated the way it presents search results when it’s certain it’s showing the right website based on the search term.

The new results include what it considers to be important or helpful sub-sections under the main result. These are called Sitelinks, and you can see these in action by visiting Google, and searching for google for example.

Below you can see an example of this in action for a search for Premium Marquees, where I’ve highlighted the new sitelinks in the blue area. (Click the image for a bigger view.)

 

New Google Sitelinks, showing results for the website for Premium Marquees in Hampshire

 

Pros and Cons

This is on the whole a very good thing. It will help searchers to quickly get to the most relevant information within a site without navigating through the homepage

There are perhaps equally some disadvantages.

For example, as a site owner you will need to consider if  your visitors will receive your key messages,  when they arrive directly at a sub-page rather than navigating  to your content through your homepage.

Equally, the sitelinks can be titled using the physical links pointing to them and not necessarily the page title. This means, you cannot always rely on the page title to dictate the sitelink title, which in turn means we are all going to have to pay even greater attention to meta descriptions (which provide the snippet info), and link titles.

These sitelinks do change based on the search terms specified however, and occasionally I’ve seen them change when the search results page is merely refreshed.

Importantly, you’ll notice from from time to time that Google will pick up odd pages that you or I probably wouldn’t count as a top-level links.  I’ve even seen examples of xml feeds, and assorted framed content that you wouldn’t use as standalone pages being referenced as sitelinks.

 

What can we do to influence these results?

Webmasters or SEO agents cannot tell Google directly which sitelinks to use, however we can tell Google if we think it’s picked a sitelink that’s not correct or relevant using their Webmaster tools.

So, if your site has been added and verified using Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can use the Sitelinks settings to demote up to 100 URLs. Demotions are effective for 90 days from your most recent visit to the page.

Also, review your search results and pay attention to different variations of your search term as they produce different sitelink results, for example.

Note: If you struggle to find your sitelink results, it’s probably because Google isn’t certain that your site is the right result. You’ll need to use trial and error to narrow it down to find a search term that actually produces the correct result. Try the following suggestions for a .co.uk website in the UK:

  • business name
  • business name county
  • business name uk
  • businesssnameuk
  • yourdomain.co.uk
  • www.yourdomain.co.uk
  • http://www.yourdomain.co.uk

 

(Once you’ve found all the variations, don’t forget to refresh a couple of times too).

Finally, check all your meta descriptions and site’s internal links.  Make sure you use anchor text and alt text that’s informative and compact, and make sure you avoid repetition.

For more information, read Google’s advice on the New Google Sitelinks.

 

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