by Dave Crader - Evolve Web Marketing Strategist SEO/PPC/Social
Google has been experimenting with Sitelinks on its search engine results pages (SERPs) for over a year. As of 8/16/11 the company has officially announced that Sitelinks are here to stay, at least for now, and they’ll be even larger and more robust than before. This monumental update will undoubtedly revolutionize how users find and navigate through your website. Is your site optimized for the change?
What are Sitelinks?
Sitelinks, also called 4-packs, 6-packs and 12-packs, are the links shown below some listings on Google’s search results. They’re more likely to appear when you’re searching for a specific brand name, but they’ll also show up for all sorts of different keywords if the search engine thinks the additional links could help you navigate faster. Previously, a maximum of 6 links (hence “6-pack”) without descriptions could be displayed if Google’s search engine deemed your site authoritative. Now, authoritative websites could see up-to 12 links appear, along with a snippet of their corresponding Meta descriptions, if their sites are optimized correctly. At roughly 751 pixels high, these new links occupy almost an entire 1024x768 screen. For the Sitelinks below to appear you would simply need to type “Evolve Creative Group” into Google.
How to Add Sitelinks
There is no concrete way to populate what Google uses for your Sitelinks, but there are a couple of best practices you can follow. To improve the quality of your Sitelinks, Google recommends using "anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition" for internal links throughout your site. Another reason why we feel the sitemap is so important. Additionally, we’ve found the H1 tag to be another factor shaping how your Sitelinks will appear in the SERPs. Let’s have a look at our own website to make some conclusions. Below is a picture of our sitemap: Notice how Google is using the anchor text from our sitemap for the title of the link anchor text of almost every Sitelink. The only Sitelink we see that isn’t using our sitemap anchor text is the “video production” link, but sure enough “video production” is in the H1 tag of that specific page. Our repetition of the word “video” in our sitemap may be the culprit here. Sitelink Meta descriptions pull up-to 34 characters (including spaces) directly from the Meta tag of that page. With such a huge change to the Meta description character limit, it would be wise to revise yours to ensure readability.
How to Remove Sitelinks
Although you can’t choose your Sitelinks directly, Google does give you the option to “demote” URL’s if you feel they are incorrect or inappropriate. The company doesn’t guarantee that this will work, but it’s worth a shot if your Sitelinks are a complete mess. Taken from Google’s webmaster tools help center:
To demote a Sitelink URL:
- On the Webmaster Tools Home page, click the site you want.
- Under Site configuration, click Sitelinks.
- In the For this search result box, complete the URL for which you don't want a specific Sitelink URL to appear.
- In the Demote this Sitelink URL box, complete the URL of the Sitelink you want to demote.
This may be a viable fix for short-term ventures, but we recommend optimizing your site with anchor text’s and H1 tags as quickly as possible. The 12-pack Sitelink update is one of the most significant changes to Google’s SERPs in years. Online Marketers who previously used the homepage as a launching point for their sales funnel may need to rework their strategy in order to be successful with this update. Controlling your new Sitelinks can be tricky business.
Need some help or want to learn more about improving your Sitelinks? Give us a call at 330-331-0211.