Like many of Google’s innovations and search-engine-related changes, their sitelink system is designed with the search user in mind. The idea of sitelinks is that they help the average browser to navigate directly to the page they want by publishing a mini directory or sitemap of pages below the main search result. This sitemap type structure will link through to individual landing pages or categories depending on how Google sees the site. This allows the user to navigate easily to the page most of interest.
While sitelinks can only be a positive thing for the publisher looking at the bigger picture – by providing more access points to the site from the search engine results page and by taking up more space per listing therefore pushing competitors further down the page and out of line of sight — there are occasions when the sitemap system can cause problems.
Google retains complete control over when sitelinks appear for your site, depending on how useful they determine the results will be to the user. As Google also determines sitelinks through its search algorithms, webmasters of sites that can’t be easily crawled by Google may find themselves missing out. Sitelinks are automated, leaving little control to be leveraged at publisher level if too few sitelinks are being shown or if sitelinks are not appearing for the site at all. While Google doesn’t allow webmaster input, there are a few best practice guidelines that can be implemented at site level to encourage the search engine to show better quality sitelinks for your domain.
1. Link to important pages from the home page
You’ll undoubtedly have at least one or two important landing pages on your domain. Very often these will be pages about best-selling products or key service areas. These pages should be clickable from the home page – as search engine spiders follow links, this is the first stage in having the bot find and understand the important pages on your site and therefore, develop an initial impression of which pages ought to be included in your page’s sitelinks. When developing this route through the site, be sure to also check that it is just as easy to navigate the other way and go back to the home page or main category page.
2. Use useful, relevant anchor text
When improving your site’s link architecture to improve the relevance of sitelinks, use meaningful, descriptive anchor text. Describing the page after the jump in the text of the link gives the search engine a clear idea of what the destination page is about. It’s also an important feature for website users, allowing them to intuitively journey through the site to find the exact page or information they require. Anchor text is a feature of on-page optimization so will often be keyword rich – just make sure the descriptive keyword is used as part of the link rather than simply in a textual prelude, followed by the ubiquitous ‘click here’ hyperlink.
3. Check Web Crawl Errors
Checking the way Google sees your site is an important step on the road to verifying you’re providing exactly the right information needed to improve your sitelinks. The Web Crawl errors in Webmaster Tools shows any pages the search engine can’t find on your site. The list of problem URLs also highlights the internal links that lead to the stricken page, therefore highlighting issues such as misspells of destination page URLs that may otherwise have not been apparent. Regularly checking for crawl errors and correcting the issue on any pages linking in makes for a much cleaner crawl. It goes without saying that for crawl errors to be meaningful and useful for sitelinks improvement, a new and updated site map should be submitted each time pages are added or removed.
4. Block sitelinks
If Google is showing a sitelink that you deem to be unimportant or do not want included for any reason, blocking the page from the Sitelinks tool frees up space for a more appropriate page to be included. The Sitelinks dashboard is available from the Site Configuration section of Webmaster Tools. Simply browse to the sitelink you wish to be removed and then click ‘block’. This action lasts for a period of 90 days and there is space to inform Google why you have chosen this course of action. To extend the 90 day hiatus of the sitelink, you’ll need to revisit the Sitelinks page.
Keep these tips in mind and Google’s sitelink feature can be a real plus for your website.