How to Get Google Sitelinks
What are Google Sitelinks?
Here's an example of a Sitelinks listing. On a Google search for the keyword "Sekonic" beneath the main search result we see links to various areas of the Sekonic web site. This would help a searcher in two ways: they can get a better understanding of what the site is about before they visit, and they can take a shortcut from Google to the topic that interests them.
Only the best sites seem to get Sitelinks. Virtually all of the webmasters I've spoken with feel that Sitelinks enhance a web site's visibility and reputation.
Google Doesn't Say How to Get Sitelinks
The workings of many Google algorithms, including Sitelinks, are kept secret to discourage people from manipulating the rankings, but we can still look at examples and try to understand where Sitelinks come from. I've worked on many sites with Sitelinks, and these sites are similar in the following ways:
These factors may, or may not, be exactly what Google uses to trigger Sitelinks. Nevertheless, everything on this list is desirable for a web marketing program, so using the list to guide our strategy will probably help our sites become more effective in any case.
What Signals Does Google Use for the Sitelinks Algorithm?
Again, we do not know for sure, but we can deduce some of the signals by looking at Google's Webmaster Guidelines and by studying the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Google's Webmaster Guidelines say, in the first item under design and content guidelines, "Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links." That's good advice for several reasons. A clear navigation hierarchy is good for visitors and helps search engines understand the topic of each page. Google can't create sitelinks if it can't fix the meaning of the sub-pages, either by analysis or by observing visitor behavior.
We know that Google search results pages (SERPs) contain links with tracking info, and that many users have Google accounts, so Google can watch their behavior over time. Google provides webmasters with Google Analytics free of charge. Google isn't expending resources to do all this tracking without reason. We can safely assume that Google will somehow use all that data to improve their search results, with features like Sitelinks.
If I were Google, I'd be very interested to know which search results have above-average click through rates for particular keywords. I'd also like to know if searchers were happy with my search results. If too many searchers choose a listing and then return to the SERP, that could indicate a poor quality search result. All this information is collected automatically, providing a scalable way to identify search spam, and the opposite, search "gems." A search gem with significant search volume would be the ideal candidates for a Sitelinks listing.
Things We Can Do to Improve the Odds of Getting Sitelinks
While we can only make educated guesses, we may as well do things that are also good for Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and user experience. Even if our guesses are off, we won't be wasting effort with these recommendations:
Sitelinks Versus Spam
Even unsophisticated web users recognize Sitelinks, and most of them feel that they signify an important site. Sitelinks sites are the opposite of search spam, and thus, Sitelinks are highly desirable for the savvy webmaster.
About the Author
After graduating from Yale with two degrees in Computer Science, Jonathan Hochman set up his own consulting company in 1990. He has been an Internet marketer since 1994.