What are Sitelinks? Why do search engines garner Sitelinks to some search results and not others? What determines the ‘important’ pages that are listed?
You may have noticed something like this for your brand:
Or these ‘mini’ Sitelinks:
What’s the story with Sitelinks? As of yet, the true secret has not been unmasked to the prying public. As you know, search engines like to (and need to) keep some things private. Therefore, the determining factor(s) of how search engines choose Sitelinks is not 100% known. But we have a hunch as to what they are looking for…
- Unique, fresh content and SEO friendly website architecture are two of the biggies. Surprised?
- Strong anchor text and interlinking between the inner pages (or guts of the website) will strengthen the value and show search engines what it truly important and relevant to your website theme. Shocked?
- Navigational Patterns: Where do people click, how ‘hot’ are certain landing pages, and how long do visitors stay on-site are some variables that search engines look at when determining what web pages to list.
What this means for You: Even if you are not ranked #1 for a particular search query, your website still has a chance to have Sitelinks listed, which in turn will drive deeper traffic into the guts of your website. See this example below detailing how different domains for a search query have sitelinks. Maybe it’s not all about being ranked #1 after all…
In the below example, Saratoga.com is deemed the authority on the keyword phrase “saratoga“. Google is listing What’s Open, Events, Things To Do and Places To Stay as the top pages for visitors to go to. All of these pages have keywords in the Titles, H1s and throughout the body of the web page itself. Also, any anchor text linking to these pages incorporates top keyword phrases, thus strengthening it.
As Google states, “We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them. At the moment, sitelinks are automated. We’re always working to improve our sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future. There are best practices you can follow, however, to improve the quality of your sitelinks. For example, for your site’s internal links, make sure you use anchor text and alt text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.”
Regarding your website architecture: Stay away from long queries or lengthy sessions IDs. Say “No” to an all flash site (of course!) and always remember that every element of your web page can be optimized: From the URL structure, down to the Site Footer, and everything in between.
Google (and other search engines) still use the bulky ‘authority‘ status (typically 6 Sitelinks) too. The same principle is involved here when choosing the 6 Sitelinks. Make sure that you are using the Google Webmaster Tools console to see what pages Google may pull from to list within the top 3, 6 or mini Sitelinks. These search result pages are dynamic, therefore, they can change from time to time.
For some search queries, I’ve seen the 6 sitelinks listed for the #1 ranked site and mini Sitelinks listed for websites within the top 10! I’ve even seen sub domains and blogs awarded these mini Sitelinks. The options are increasing. Got good content? Do you update it frequently? Have you branded yourself on the web? If not, you best start. If your site already has Sitelinks listed for your domain, consider it like a pat on the back from the search engines. Nice job, kid. We really like your site.
Currently, you also have the ability to block pages that Google has deemed ‘important’ in the Google Webmaster Tools console. If blocked within your account, these pages will not be listed for up to 90 days. Although you have this capability, we do not recommend blocking pages.
Because we are not a Google centric agency here are some examples of Yahoo’s version of Sitelinks (notice the carousel with images) and Bing’s take (also with image carousel).
We will update you as the news trickles down…until then, sign up for Webmaster Tools and start learning about your website. Follow us on Twitter for all the latest, breaking news!