Google Sitelinks Just Got a Little More Interesting

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Aug 26, 2009
More Articles by Kaitlyn

As you can imagine, whether your company’s listing contains sitelinks- and the content of those sitelinks- might have an effect on the organic traffic you get to your site.  Not only is it important to know what sitelinks are and how to manage them, but there are some new developments in how sitelinks appear that may even raise the stakes in terms of direct ROI.

Sitelinks are links to interior pages of a site, displayed below the main listing information on a Google organic search result listing.  In the example below, the search result listing for Search Mojo displays three sitelinks: Careers, Staff, and Board of Advisors.

Google Sitelinks

How are Sitelink Values Determined?

They are determined automatically by Google, and they are not displayed for all sites- only for listings which are particularly “relevant” for a search query.  Often, sitelinks appear for a company listing after a search qery on the company’s brand name.  Google explains its method for applying sitelinks in the Webmaster Tools Help Center as follows:

“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.”

This explanation has, for quite some time, prompted SEOs and site owners to focus on search engine-friendly navigation menus and site structure as really the only known way to try to affect sitelink content.

What if I don’t like my listing’s sitelinks?

And often-cited example of a listing with poor sitelinks is Coca Cola.  Take a look at what their listing looks like in Google search results today:

Coca Cola sitelinks

Unless you live in Croatia or want to download a Coca Cola screensaver, these sitelinks are likely not very relevant for you and won’t help you get around the site faster.

If, as in this example, your sitelinks highlight content that you don’t like, you can do two things.

  • Restructure your navigation, internal linking, and general site content to emphasize the pages you want Google to display.  Then hope for the best.
  • Block particularly bad sitelinks from appearing.  Do this in Google Webmaster Tools -> Site configuration -> Sitelinks.
The Plot Thickens…
The Google Operating System blog reported last week that Wikipedia listings are showing a “special” kind of sitelink that directs clicks to a subsection of that page.  A Wikipedia listing for John F. Kennedy illustrates the new format:
On Page Sitelinks
The links to “Early life and education,” “Military service,” and “Early political career” point to anchors which will drop you down to different points on the same page.
And Sitelinks May Soon Have a More Direct Effect on Your ROI
The effect of sitelinks may soon be bleeding over into PPC.  Today, SEO Roundtable and Darrin Ward reported that sitelinks are now appearing sporatically in AdWords PPC ads.  It appears that this is only in a testing phase, so there is no need to panic yet.  But your sitelink values could have an effect on click-through rate, thereby affecting quality score and the minimum bid required to show on the first page.
This only adds to the importance of monitoring your sitelinks and at least blocking any ugly values.

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