Sitelinks are a search engine’s way of guiding users toward relevant information quickly and efficiently.
In true Google fashion, you can’t directly change or add these sitelinks.
However, you can optimize your website in a way that adheres to best practices while influencing sitelinks.
What You’ll Learn:
- What sitelinks are and how they’re used
- The 3 types of search queries in Google
- The types of sitelink formats in search queries
- Can you change Google sitelinks?
- How you can optimize your website for sitelinks
- New options for link demoting
- How brand awareness may help get sitelinks
What are Sitelinks?
Take a peek at a “navigational” Google search engine results page (SERP). A navigational query is one in which the user is seeking a particular website, rather than general information.
Under many of these navigational search results, you’ll see something called a sitelink. This SERP feature quickly directs users to relevant information within the listed website.
As a user, you click a sitelink and it takes you to a specific part of the website. The sitelinks you see may lead to landing pages that are relevant to your search history or browsing activity.
For example, search “Target” and you’ll see sitelinks for various parts of their website that are relevant to you. You may see sitelinks that for sections like Women, Home Furnishings & Decor or Careers.
Sitelinks have been around for awhile — Google officially announced the feature for navigational queries in 2006 — so this is a tried and true method that’s helped make searching more effective for users.
Why Should You Focus On Google Sitelinks?
There are only three primary types of search queries:
Navigational queries make up about 18% of all search queries, so they’re no small factor. What’s more is that navigational queries stem from branded keywords (AKA keywords that include a company or brand name).
Branded keywords are about twice as likely to convert than non-branded keywords, making these types of queries extremely lucrative.
A PPC-Hero study even determined that sitelinks increase clickthrough rate by nearly 64%.
Typically, branded queries stem from folks who are further down the sales funnel. The more you direct them to specific destinations on your website, the easier it is for them to complete a purchase or action.
By calibrating your website to influence Google sitelinks, you could be maximizing your brand’s clickthrough rate on search engine platforms, ultimately boosting your chance of conversion.
On the other hand, avoiding sitelink optimization can cost you easy sales, something that really adds up over time.
Different Types of Sitelinks
The good news: Google has multiple types of sitelinks, which ultimately increases a brand’s chance of getting them.
Not all sitelinks are created equal. After all, there are so many different types of websites out there (Ecommerce, nonprofit, portfolio and service provider to name a few), so it makes sense that sitelinks would vary between results.
Here are a few different variations of sitelinks:
- 2-column sitelinks with up to 6 URLs
These lead to various web pages within a specific website.
- 1-line sitelinks with up to 4 URLs
These can lead to various web pages within a specific website or different parts of a single web page.
- Sitelinks with a search bar above them
Search bars powered by Google may lead to a second SERP. You can also add Search Action Schema markup on your homepage to make Google’s search bar snippet lead straight to search results on your website.
Can You Change Google Sitelinks?
You can’t directly change Google sitelinks, but that doesn’t mean you’re SOL.
The process is currently automated, but you can optimize your content in a way that adheres to Google’s best practices and influences sitelink placement.
According to Google, utilizing anchor text and alt text that’s “informative, compact, and avoids repetition” is one way to garner sitelinks on a navigational SERP.
You may realize that this is quite vague, and that’s because Google frequently changes its sitelinks algorithm to better serve the needs of users.
How To Optimize Your Website To Influence Sitelinks
Try these steps if you want to influence sitelinks on a navigational query that includes your own brand’s keywords:
1. Take a look at your brand or website name. Is it unique?
This is the most basic — yet probably the most important — piece of the sitelinks puzzle. Sitelinks stem from branded keywords.
If your brand name doesn’t stick out, you’re going to have a hard time ranking (even when someone searches your company’s name word for word). Without a solid ranking, you won’t get sitelinks.
Say your business name is something along the lines of “The Butcher”. If someone searches that term, they’re probably going to find an array of results of other butchers — maybe including your business, maybe not.
But if you have a more unique name, like Superior Meat Market (a local, family-run operation in York, Pennsylvania), then you’re more likely to earn sitelinks.
2. Add structured data to your website.
Adding structured data — AKA schema or rich snippets — to your website can work to generate sitelinks because it helps Google comprehend your website’s purpose.
Add a code to your website that tells Google which piece of the pie to consider for sitelinks. You can specify your about, contact and menu pages, just to name a few.
If you have a WordPress website, consider the Schema Pro plugin, which will install structured data for you using what seems like magic. With tricks like this, adding schema is not as hard as it seems.
For blogs with clear sections, you can add an article schema that tells Google which sections they should link to, if they choose to do so.
3. Clarify your website’s structure, navigation and page titles.
Let’s talk about website architecture. Your navigation, structure and page hierarchy are so important, especially in regards to sitelinks. Basically, they need to be clear enough for Google to decipher them with ease.
Make sure your homepage is your “root” page. More often than not, it’s the most visited page on your site. Use this page as a hub to navigate visitors toward other pages.
Deeper pages should be filed in a logical manner. Check out Made In Cookware, an Ecommerce site that’s really solidified their site structure.
Another part of the navigation picture is clear page titles. Focus on clarity, not cleverness. Notice that Made In Cookware refers to each subpage using just the name of the cookware category.
As much as you may want to title the page “wok this way,” you’re really better off sticking with the word “wok” itself.
A clear website architecture does more than just help you influence sitelinks. It also makes for a more UX-friendly website, which keeps people browsing for longer and promotes on-site conversions.
You may have gone onto Made In Cookware’s website for a wok, but now you’re seriously considering adding an 8-inch chef’s knife to the cart…
4. Do your darndest to rank high.
If someone performs a search query for your brand name, you better be the first result that shows up. Otherwise, you can say buh-bye to sitelinks entirely.
After all, there’s only so much real estate on a single SERP, and preference always goes to numero uno.
Start by focusing on SEO best practices to achieve top spot for your branded keywords. Naturally, the sitelinks will follow.
5. Log onto your Google Search Console account and install a sitemap.xml file.
If Google has a sitemap of your website, they’ll be able to crawl it much easier. Simplifying their job is one surefire way to influence both ranking and sitelinks.
Once you create a Google Search Console account, log on to the dashboard and click “Sitemaps”. Click “Add/Test Sitemap” in the top right corner. Once the pop-up box shows up, enter the location of your site map. The URL should look something like this (just replace the Ignite Visibility domain with your own):
6. Prioritize internal links with optimized anchor text, alt text, link location and breadcrumbs.
Internal links are majorly helpful when vying for sitelinks. The more you link to a particular page within your website, the more you’re telling Google “hey, this page is important!”
If you search “Workweek Lunch” on Google, you’ll see that one of the sitelinks leads to the WWL Meal Prep Program.
On the website, the WWL Meal Prep Program is linked internally just about everywhere, including under the “Recipes” tab.
While it’s only one of 6 sitelinks for this website, Google understands the importance of the WWL Meal Prep Program page, in part due to extensive internal linking.
7. Make sure your pages are being properly crawled and indexed.
A page needs to be crawled and indexed in order to be available for sitelinks. Just because you have a branded website doesn’t mean Google will automatically crawl and index every page.
You can use Fetch and Render — a tool from Google’s Search Console — to make sure that the most important pages on your website are being properly rendered.
Once you log into the console, add the relative path of the URL (otherwise known as the last bit after the trailing slash) that you’re looking to render. Keep in mind that the tool is case sensitive.
Render the page from the view of Google and the user, using either a mobile or desktop device. You can request indexing for any fetch made in the last 4 hours that received either a complete, partial or redirected status.
No More Link Demoting, But There Are Other Options
Prior to October 2016, Google allowed websites with sitelinks to “demote” a particular link that you didn’t want included in your SERP listing.
But in an effort to keep the sitelink process as simple as possible, they removed this capability.
If you want to eliminate the searchability of a particular web page, you can always use a “noindex” robots meta tag so it won’t show up in search results at all.
People will still be able to find the page via internal links or navigation on your website. You’ll rarely have to do this, if at all, but it’s worth knowing about.
Some brands don’t want sitelinks for whatever reason. If you don’t want the sitelinks feature to show up for your website at all, add this tag to your homepage:
<meta name=”google” content=”nositelinkssearchbox”/>
Google Sitelinks and the Paradox of Brand Trust
Achieving a high ranking as well as sitelinks makes users view your brand as more reputable and trustworthy.
This gives you greater rapport for your target audience and only serves to boost your brand further.
At the same time, Google uses an automated algorithm that only provides sitelinks to websites that are…you guessed it…reputable and trustworthy.
Obviously, you need some sort of reputation to begin with if you’re going to get sitelinks. That’s why focusing on trust from your existing consumers is critical in taking that next step toward Google sitelinks.
How Brand Awareness Helps You Achieve Google Sitelinks
Hot take: By increasing brand awareness, people are more likely to know your brand by name. As a result, they’re more likely to perform a navigational query including your branded keyword.
When your brand is popular and reputable, your chances of getting sitelinks are much higher.
Brand awareness is one of those things that affects every corner of your marketing efforts. Without it, you’re just a name in a hat, waiting for someone to pick that little piece of folded-up paper that says your name.
It’s not a direct step toward sitelinks, but brand awareness definitely helps and is a smart thing to focus on.
Keeping Google Sitelinks In Mind Can Make All the Difference for Your Brand
While the first step in SEO is getting your rankings up, influencing sitelinks is a solid follow-up. Once you’re at the top of a SERP, working to expand your real estate and eliminate other results from above the fold will greatly increase your clickthrough rates and conversions.
And while you can’t actively change sitelinks, you can influence them — so why not try?