This week, I’m going to talk about something you’ve probably seen on Google, but aren’t sure how you can achieve… Sitelinks in your natural (or organic) search results.
Sitelinks have been around for a while now, but there’s a few things you should know about them, such as how you get them, what prevents Sitelinks appearing, the impact they have on your website and their place in search as a whole.
Google’s Vertical Mission
Google’s core mission for their search engine is to improve relevancy and increase the usefulness of the search results returned. And they do a pretty good job of that. But they’re also competing with specialist “search engines”…for example would you go to Google or Monster.co.uk if you were looking for a job?
These specialist search engines don’t have to second guess what you’re looking for (you type in “Project manager” into Monster, they’re pretty sure of your intent. You do the same in Google, are you looking to hire one, train as one, read a book about one – poor you! – or find out what it means?). To get over this, Google has to include a variety of different type of results in the SERPs. If you type in a search query, you’re now going to get some or all of the following returned:
• Search refinements to make sure you weren’t looking for something specific
• Easy access to pictures
• Rich media (videos)
• A page with factual information (Wikipedia)
• Chronological news results
• general Search listings
Google’s integration of their different search verticals is drastically improving the relevance of their universal search.
How do Sitelinks fit into this?
Going along this line of thinking, Google is trying to reduce the amount of clicks from their own search page for the user to find what they are looking for. Sitelinks are a step along the road in helping them achieve this goal.
What Sitelinks do for your website
It is common knowledge that the lion’s share of searchers click go to the top 3 results, so dominating another few inches of premium search real estate would have a good increase in traffic, right? This has been borne out in reality, with some sites experiencing increases of up to 30% in traffic for sitelinks returning for general search queries, and 2-5% for brand specific queries.
This is in stark contrast to “navigational block” Sitelinks. Achieving Sitelinks for a search term that matches your domain name or company name is much easier, but the results are nowhere near as amazing. On average we would notice a 2-5% increase in traffic after achieving a navigational Sitelink block.
This demonstrates the importance of user intent. If a searcher is specifically looking for your website, they’ll likely visit you whether you have Sitelinks or not. Still, an extra 2-5% increase in traffic is worth having.
And the even better news? There’s no site with Sitelinks at the moment for “dating” or “online dating”. So it’s still all to play for (although there’s no denying it’s going to be a tough thing to achieve!) J.
How do you get Sitelinks?
While there is no “secret” to getting Google Sitelinks, there are some guidelines you need to follow to make sure you are eligible. The tips here are for helping your site achieve Sitelinks for your domain as well as for search query results.
Make sure your site has clean, crawlable navigation in a logical hierarchical structure
As this is a pretty basic requirement of any half good website, I’d hope it would be something everyone has. Basic site design and coding rules apply; having clean HTML links to clearly marked pages (good use of titles & header tags), working down from your homepage, to general sections, down to the specific pages.
You must have a good and diverse set of backlinks
When dishing out Sitelinks, Google looks carefully at your internal pages. A healthy link profile will include lots of links to these “deep” pages, not just your homepage. If 99% of your links are pointing at your homepage, it might well suggest to Google that your internal content isn’t that great. If your internal pages have a pathetic amount of links to them, they’re not going to be deemed important enough to warrant Sitelinks.
Incoming anchor text
As you would expect, like with any link building campaign, the anchor text used in links to your website which other webmasters or web users are essentially “tagging” your page with, are important. Anchor text plays a main part in having your site achieve a Sitelinks search query block.
Domain authority & ranking
Needless to say, before you get close to achieving Sitelinks, you are going to have to rank #1 for the term you are targeting. It is not impossible to outrank a site which currently has Sitelinks. I have seen e-commerce sites ranking for a specific product, being outranked by the official product website (which had Sitelinks for their product name) and eventually take the number 1 spot in Google, moving the official site down and removing their Sitelinks.
In summary, any user-friendly and SEO friendly practise is going to help you attain special listings in Google, whether they are Sitelinks, search boxes or whatever Google will bring into their search results next. Following basic SEO and usability standards for your websites will help your users and Google will recognise and reward this behaviour. Sitelinks can provide you with a healthy traffic boost and as with many things SEO, link profiles and link quality play a large part in achieving these listings.
With this under your belt, we wish you the best of luck on your road to Sitelinks!