So what exactly are Google Sitelinks and why are they so important in the SEO world? Sitelinks are basically small links placed under the SERP (search engine results page) listing of a website that provide a user with useful shortcuts on the site listing. As an example, if a particular website has the following pages within their site; About Us, Sign-Up, FAQ’s, Terms and Conditions (you get the idea) and the website is properly formatted, aged and trusted, then Google may decide to add Sitelinks to that SERP in order to make it easier for a visitor to get to a particular page on your site without having to go the main page and try and find it. Therefore Sitelinks in general, offer the user of Google a much better experience and user interface, theoretically.
The thing about Sitelinks that most people do not understand, is that you cannot set them up yourself, you cannot buy them, you cannot make them…website owners are completely at the mercy of Google and the Google algorithm to determine if your site is Sitelink worthy. An example of what Sitelinks looks like is shown here:
“There has been much speculation in the SEO community about what it takes to garner the coveted Sitelinks from Google. Many an SEO have searched hi and low for that magic trigger to pull that evokes the awesome and powerful SITELINK to appear!”
Why, you might ask, is having Sitelinks so important to your site? Well, for starters, Sitelinks are considered an automatic indicator of the trust factor. Google’s algorithm will only pick up sites that are well established, trusted sources of verified information. In other words, if your website rates Google Sitelinks, it a fair assumption that you a trusted site in the eyes of a Google. That means a lot in SEO terms. In fact, it’s everything!
So you might now be asking, “that’s great Mike, but how can I get my hands on some Sitelinks?”. Here’s where unfortunately it turns into a bit of a gray area. Google controls the Sitelinks via their proprietary algorithm. They have not revealed what it takes to acquire the links nor how long it might take. They simply confirm that they exist and that it is part of the algorithm, nothing more. You can read more about Googles position on Sitelinks here at the Google Webmaster Tools site. Also, Google Search engineer Jeremy explains them a bit more here in this video;
Based on these indicators (and lot more research on the matter, I have compiled a list of the best practices to try and get Google to activate Sitelinks on your SERP. These are just my suggestions, there is no guarantee that they will work for your site or how long it would take to get the Sitelinks triggered. They have however, worked for me on several sites. Here is what I believe you should look at in order to acquire Sitelinks:
- The Keyword that returns your SERP needs to be ranked #1 with Google and it needs to be there for some time. Exactly how long is anybody’s guess, but I would venture to say 3-6 months at a miniumum.
- Your site needs to 100% coded properly, allow complete (or almost complete) access by the search engine spiders, a complete and structured navigation system that includes useful and valid internal and external links.
- Good use of anchor text on your internal links. Anchor text that properly describes your sub pages is paramount.
- A high percentage of click-through rates & traffic from the search engines.
- High quality inbound links (important in any good SEO program)
- An aged domain. By that I mean a domain that has proven stability both in time active and years of purchased domain security. Google dislikes brand new domains (no trust) and domains that only register for 1 year at a time. Those seem to be tricks of the trade for spammers.
So having site links is important for several reasons. It displays a high level of trust from the search engines, it gives the website owner more real estate on at the top of Google (always a big PLUS!) and it provides a level of comfort and security in even the most novice of web surfers who may stumble across a listing. The benefits are more than worth the investment. Furthermore, each of the above listed action items are just good web design and SEO practices so you would never be hurting yourself by performing them.
What are your thoughts on Sitelinks? Does your site have them? How long did it take to get them? Do you feel any one particular item triggered the Sitelinks or was it a concerted effort with several factors being deployed at the same time? Tell us your Sitelink story in the comments sections below!
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