As you make searches on Google, you have likely noticed the appearance of sitelinks. Sitelinks are those additional links that appear below the main URL for a particular domain on the SERP.
These results are designed to help people better navigate your site by featuring the different areas of your site that might interest them. With the sitelinks, people can click directly to the part of your site that interests them the most, rather than clicking on the main URL and having to then navigate to their area of interest. Customers also get a better idea of the variety of content and areas on your site, which then helps them to see your relevance to their particular query.
Sitelinks, however, do not get displayed automatically. Google only displays them for sites when they believe they are highly relevant and helpful for the user. Google itself also selects the pages that get displayed within the sitelink portion, with the site owner having no direct control over the process. There are, however, steps that site owners can take to encourage their appearance on the page.
Given the potential benefits of sitelinks and their impact on SEO and traffic, we wanted to discuss these links with our community. Let’s dive into the benefits of sitelinks for site owners and what you can do to encourage Google to post them for your site.
Benefits of sitelinks
The immediate benefits that sitelinks offer lies in the increase in real estate on the SERP. When you have a domain that displays sitelinks, your listing automatically takes up the space of two to three listings, drawing the eye of every user on the page.
Considering that the top three positions get 52 percent of the clicks from the SERP, the click and traffic implications of taking up this much more space on the SERP become clear.
This additional space on the SERP also helps to build trust and a positive reputation for your organization. Google only awards sitelinks to the domains that it views as deserving of this extra space. Site owners cannot click anything within their search console to activate the links. Therefore, receiving this ‘award’ from Google helps to clearly demonstrate that the search engine views a particular domain as trustworthy.
Also, keep in mind that the sitelinks help to display a range of different pages within your site. It might include main categories from your menu, particular product pages, or portions of a blog. This encourages people to navigate throughout your site, as they can see more of what is offered on your site.
This variety within the listing on the SERP might also encourage people to explore parts of the site that they might not have otherwise looked at. It can help drive traffic to pages that previously did not receive as much attention.
Different types of sitelinks
The sitelinks most people are familiar with are those that Google generates automatically in response to certain queries. These sitelinks appear with the top organic search result and can vary, depending upon the type of query and what Google identifies as the user intent. The links also depend upon Google’s understanding of the site structure and what might help users navigate the site more easily.
The other main type of sitelinks are those that people can add to the Google Ads promotions they create. Google offers a sitelink extension that people can use to include additional links within their ad.
This extension makes it easy for people to offer a more varied ad with more options for customers to click on the material that appears the most helpful for them.
Changes Google has made to sitelinks
Although Google has never given site owners direct control over whether or not their page had sitelinks, until four years ago, people were able to remove certain sitelinks. If a page popped up in your sitelinks area that you did not want promoted on the SERP, you could ask Google to delete that particular link.
However, in late 2016, Google announced that it would no longer allow this option. Essentially, the search engine had decided that their algorithms had matured enough to know which pages would work best within the sitelinks area and that allowing people to discourage certain links unnecessarily complicated things.
Google has said that they do not rule out the possibility of allowing more influence from site masters in the future, but for now, site owners do not have direct control over the process.
As an important note, Bing does allow site owners to demote sitelinks, which are referred to as deep links on this search engine.
Google sitelinks don't just appear - Google makes them appear
Website owners have little control over whether or not sitelinks appear for their material. The creation of sitelinks is an automatic process on Google’s part. The search engine analyzes the structure of your site and then creates the sitelinks as shortcuts that can help users quickly find the information they need. The search engine also says that they only display sitelinks if they would be relevant for the user’s query.
The selection of sitelinks available for a particular domain can also change from query to query depending upon the usefulness of the links for the user.
Sitelinks appear most commonly for branded searches, but can also appear for some other specific searches from highly trustworthy sites as well. Similarly, they most often appear for a site that appears in the first ranked position, but occasionally you may see them for a search result slightly further down on the first page of results, provided that the site is exceptionally well-regarded.
About the sitelink search box
A sitelink search box is a search box that can appear with your domain on the SERP. It allows users to make searches of your website’s pages from the SERP. This allows them to find the exact information they need.
Site owners can use structured data to indicate they either do or do not want the search box to appear for their results. Its ability to bring users a variety of content from your site can make it very appealing from an SEO perspective. Since it is powered by Google, however, users will still have access to outside information while searching, which can result in their clicking of external links.
It is also possible for users with highly reputable sites to have a search box that will offer results to users by directing them to a SERP within the domain, rather than on Google. When this happens, it offers an excellent opportunity for branding and to keep traffic on your page.
Get sitelinks to appear for your site
Keep in mind, as we have already explained, the generation of sitelinks is an automatic process. That doesn’t mean, however, that site owners cannot follow steps to help influence the creation of sitelinks and help Google notice the pages that they do want to have appear on the search result.
When discussing how they select domains for sitelinks, Google specifically speaks about the site organization.
“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.”
Therefore, we believe one of the most important steps members of our community can take is to verify their site organization.
- Make sure your site structure and hierarchy is clear and logical. If you have not prioritized site structure, this should be good motivation to do so. Not only will this help with sitelinks, but it can also help with other aspects of SEO.
- Use internal links to help demonstrate your internal site structure and the priority of the pages within your domain. Good linking structures can help to clearly indicate which pages should be prioritized. As you create internal links, use carefully considered anchor text that provides value, without being repetitive.
- Have a main menu that helps to further emphasize the central categories of content on your page.
- Build an XML sitemap and make sure it has been properly submitted to Google.
In addition to carefully considering your site structure, you also want to look at your brand name. Make sure your site ranks first for branded searches. If it does not, see if the cause is a name that is not unique enough or if your site needs more optimization work. Look at your URL and site branding to make sure it clearly articulates your brand.
Adding a sitelink search box to your site
Finally, you can also use schema on your site to help Google better understand the content throughout your page and emphasize the parts of your page that you want featured on the sitelinks. For example, you can use a schema markup to create a search box for your site on the SERP. If Google decides that users interested in your site would be well served by a search box, this markup empowers the search box. Conversely, if you do not want the search box to appear, you can use a schema markup that lets Google know this as well.
If you do want the search box, the schema data, as generated for an example by Google, would look like this:
<title>The title of the page</title>
“query-input”: “required name=search_term_string”
If you do not want the search box to appear, then this line of code would suffice:
<meta name=”google” content=”nositelinkssearchbox” />
For more information on the sitelink search box, you can read the Google guidelines here.
Reporting on Google sitelinks
Site owners interested in taking advantage of the potential offered by sitelinks will need to carefully monitor their own site. Know for which queries the domain appears in the top positions and regularly track to see if sitelinks appear for the brand.
When you do have an idea of which queries and pages yield the sitelinks, see how traffic compares between pages that do have sitelinks and those that do not. Monitor also how traffic rates change after sitelink options appear for your site.
If you have sitelinks appear through Google Ads promotions, you can see how the sitelinks directly impact the campaign.
- Select the campaign you want to check
- Click on the ‘segment’ button
- Add a segment for your sitelinks extension
- Gain a far clearer picture of how well the sitelinks impacted the ad’s performance
Sitelinks offer tremendous potential for sites, empowering them to increase their real estate on the SERP and thereby boost their branding and their traffic. While site owners do not currently have any direct control over when and how the sitelinks appear, taking the steps above can help encourage their appearance and boost the broader SEO strategy at the same time.