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Google has announced that it has expanded the number of sitelinks shown on search results pages, something you'll see on a search for most brands. 

I've been asking some of our SEO guest bloggers about how the changes will affect websites, and how they can adapt to and take advantage of them... 

Google's new sitelinks

According to Google, displaying more sitelinks is designed to help users quickly navigate to the most relevant section of a site. 

The new sitelinks certainly help brands dominate the search results page. Here's our results: 

Since it helps users to bypass the homepage, some publishers may well be concerned that Google is stealing some of their traffic, and taking eyeballs away from their advertising. 

Google also displays extended sitelinks for sub-sections of sites. For example, Tesco's electrical department: 

Intriguingly, Google doesn't do the same for Amazon's extensive electrical section (I also tried electrical and other terms):

The same applies for our blog, though since we don't have obvious sub-categories to list, it would be interesting to know how Google decides which pages to show:

What's your take on the sitelinks changes? What are the consequences for website owners? 

Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director, bigmouthmedia

The new “Jumbo” sitelinks take up such a large chunk of the first page results that they will be significant for many brands. “Brands” feels like the correct word to use because the sitelinks are typically produced in response to a navigational search and most navigational searches are branded.

Site owners need to be aware of how they’re working their brand into search at the very least. Sites with more advanced SEO skills will use these new sites as further momentum to ensure their search campaigns are blended together as well as using modern SEO approaches.

Alex Moss, Search Marketing Consultant, Pleer

The new "super sitelinks" is obviously in its infancy, but will be a very interesting one to witness its evolution.

At the moment the sitelinks are basic in the way that Google are generating both the title and description themselves with no way of the owner of the site being able to edit, or even remove them yet. You can "demote" some sitelinks within Google Webmaster Tools but it's obviously not been implemented fully.

Personally I don't think the URL needs to be included and descriptions should go beyond five words, but other than that I think it's a great idea for a brand to accommodate more of the first SERP for their own branded term instead of having potential competitors and other less relevant sites sneaking above the fold.

Kevin Gibbons, Director of Search at SEOptimise

This a very big change to the SERPs layout for brand queries and I know it's perhaps a sceptical view, but every time there's a new Google update I always try to figure out how they are making more money out of this.

In this case, if you look at a query for "Nike", for example, the second organic result is pretty much on the fold – with everything else now listed below. But what about the PPC ads? These are still as prominent as ever – so if you're doing a brand query and not looking for the actual brand website (or at least open to distraction by clicking other listings), you're now more likely to click on the sponsored links and ignore the remaining organic listings. 

Nichola Stott, Director, theMediaFlow

I think this is a great move for both users and website owners, and interesting from a search-technology perspective in that this bold increase in sitelink real-estate and detail shows ever-increasing confidence in brand recognition from Google.

Users that are brand-aware are much further down the purchase-decision path, and as such offering more sitelinks, with more detail (snippets) should help conversions significantly. Certainly at theMediaFlow we’ve seen across-the-board tangible increases in visits and sales from keywords containing brand permutations; though of course it’s very early days.

How can site owners adapt to these changes?

Andrew Girdwood

Modern SEO approaches are those that see search as some sort of warped ‘paid media’ where links to the site are the assets and moves to a view where SEO is a combined of ‘owned media’ and ‘earned media’.

Brands can optimise their own assets but also need to earn the authority status necessary for high visibility in competitive markets. Sites also need to earn these jumbo sitelinks. It’s an opt-out, not an opt-in feature from Google.

I’m really excited by the recent Google changes. These large sitelinks mean site architecture is really important, site design is really important (multiple homepages, to some extent), full use of Google’s webmaster console is necessary (some luddites still dislike it!) and very clearly all good SEO must now take Google’s socialised results page and ranking factors into consideration.  

Kevin Gibbons

For SEO, I think it's now even more important to try and control those sitelinks which appear, by reviewing and blocking those which you don't want to appear. Also, try viewing your top landing pages in analytics and try to emphasise these by ensuring that they have good internal/navigational links into them; that way there's more chance that your top converting content will be listed as the extended sitelinks.

Another tip is to make sure that you haven't got all of your content locked behind https (you have bigger SEO problems if you have anyway); Google only displays sitelinks for http content - for example, PayPal has no sitelinks as a result.

And finally, if PPC competitor brand bidding is a key part of your strategy I think it's a great time to make the most of that opportunity, as in my opinion this change is only going to increase the clickthrough rates of ads on branded queries.

Graham Charlton

Published 17 August, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (23)

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steveplunkett

It fits in with future possibilities for Google Plus for Business, it's also a going to have a huge impact at the local level.

The brands that anticipate the next data migration will endure and prosper, those wishing to piggyback on established brands just got "Google Slapped".

about 5 years ago

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Laura Pasetti

It's quite interesting how this seems to be related to brand terms.
If as SEO you are trying to optimise keywords that also are a brand company name...it will become more difficult to be visible as before (unless you get #1).
From the other side this modification means a better information for the user looking for a brand.
More efforts for SEO and more people trying to get visibility via PPC.

about 5 years ago

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Johann Thorsson

We just noticed this this morning, and have been frantically trying to control which sub sections are linked to, and trying to understand the rationale behind it.

Overall though, we like the added real estate our site gets, and the amount of sitelinks displayed.

about 5 years ago

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Sam V

All good points and great for big brands. However, it may be much more difficult for smaller businesses with leaner, less content-rich websites and smaller SEO time and budget to take advantage of the full number of sitelinks available, and of course ensuring these are all relevant to the search query. Also, there could be potential negative implications for those sites optimising for generic terms which have brand name overlaps, for example 'low cost holidays', where the 12 sitelinks appear for lowcostholidays.com and therefore pushing out other travel competitors from that premium area - they may, as a result, focus more time and budget on PPC for these queries. It will be interesting to hear how SEO strategies are adapted off the back of this.

about 5 years ago

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Alex

Thanks, this is a great summary.

My first observations are:
- This should be good for businesses with a re-seller model who also sell direct online as it will push their search competitors (re-sellers) down for branded terms. Although re-sellers may increase PPC spend the sitelinks are far more noticeable than previously and if the page they are looking for is displayed in the sitelinks people will be more inclined to click through to it.
- User journeys will have to be adapted to allow different entry points to the site.
- FYI https does not prevent sitelinks (I have tested it for a site I know) so PayPal is just not getting them for some reason.

about 5 years ago

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Sam Vandermark

All good points and great for big brands. However, it may be much more difficult for smaller businesses with leaner, less content-rich websites and smaller SEO time and budget to take advantage of the full number of sitelinks available, and of course ensuring these are all relevant to the search query. Also, there could be potential negative implications for those sites optimising for generic terms which have brand name overlaps, for example 'low cost holidays', where the 12 sitelinks appear for lowcostholidays.com and therefore pushing out other travel competitors from that premium area - they may, as a result, focus more time and budget on PPC for these queries. It will be interesting to hear how SEO strategies are adapted off the back of this.

about 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

5 years ago people were saying "Google is the new homepage". This is more-or-less the logical conclusion of that idea. I also read Aaron Wall talking about "Search Engines as Stealth Web Portals" which I think fits well here.

Alex's point above was interesting too:

"You can 'demote' some sitelinks within Google Webmaster Tools but it's obviously not been implemented fully."

I think they may have done this on purpose, rather than it being a partial implementation. If site owners were allowed to be very specific about their sitelinks, it would mean 2 big negatives for Google:

1) Site owners begin to push the content *they* want to show, rather than the content users are looking for.
2) If you can dictate what Google shows completely, then there's less need for branded PPC ads.

dan

about 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

From what I can tell, these extended sitelinks are currently limited to branded searches, which is great for brands and users alike. A brand can now control more page space in the SERP and a user can click directly through to whatever page they want. It does seem like it might get a little cluttered, and this means the competition for spot 1 in Google will get even more vicious. With that much real estate at stake, companies will do anything to rank first.

about 5 years ago

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Gary Moyle

Interesting point about brands that have exact match domains Sam. In that particular example it's a big win for the client. However for the most part this will limited to brand queries.

It will though, be a welcome move for those companies with reputation management issues as it will push other results way below the fold, especially when you consider that many websites also have additional results appearing below the jumbo sitelinks.

about 5 years ago

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itsmartie

Yea this is only for brands they could not do this for genereic searches otherwise google would be saying if your not number 1 with us then dont bother as would decrease the amount people would scroll down to look at other websites

about 5 years ago

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Peter Willis

An awful lot of people (both in this comment thread and on other blogs) are missing a vital piece of the jigsaw here with their comments regards "brands controlling the SERP".

There is now MORE room on page one for other websites, not less. Most strong brands (e.g. those that have 12 site links) occupied the top 3, 4 or 5 spots on Google anyway - meaning they had everything above the fold and there was just 5 or so positions left open for everyone else to rank.

Now there is almost always 9 spots open to everyone else, meaning it's going to be actually easier to get on page one, and thus generate traffic, for brand terms, not harder.

about 5 years ago

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Sam Vandermark

I agree Gary - regarding your final point, I know from Google's statement on the new sitelinks that they have adapted the algorithm to combine sitelink ranking with normal result ranking. "Now, all results from the top-ranked site will be nested within the first result as sitelinks, and all results from other sites will appear below them." Is this Google's attempt then to potentially avoid brands completely dominating page 1 with additional results below the jumbo sitelinks as you mentioned, and have you seen many examples of this? As a native PPCer this is all very interesting to me so great to hear everyone's thoughts.

Oh and apologies for the duplicate posting earlier! Sam

about 5 years ago

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dan barker

Peter: while they may be 'on the page', the lower down positions on brand serps sadly get far fewer clicks than those lower down generic serps.

dan

about 5 years ago

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Laura Pasetti

I partially agree with Peter, visually there is now more room on page one for other websites but this does not mean it is better than before.

In my opinion it's better having less room but more visibility. Once we'll have SERP heat maps we'll be able to understand the impact of this modification.

about 5 years ago

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Keith Brown

True this makes it more important to control sitelinks, but Google promptly made a change in webmaster tools that doesn't allow blocking anymore. You have to "demote" pages and hope they don't show up. Interesting stuff...

about 5 years ago

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Rhea Drysdale

Quick comment because I was excited about https being blocked from sitelinks. I'm seeing sitelinks for PayPal now and the majority are https. Also did a quick search for some other https queries and they were appearing in sitelinks as well. So, https no longer appears to be an issue. Oh well, wish it was. :)

about 5 years ago

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Kevin Gibbons

Rhea, yes I've noticed the same thing with paypal now. Plus over sites such as Barclays have https sitelinks, so this doesn't appear to be an issue.

about 5 years ago

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Jason M

One thing we're looking at already is reviewing the titles and meta descriptions on the pages appearing as sitelinks. Most of the pages rank well on their own for more specific queries, and of course we don't want to jeopardize that, but it seems now that we should look at further tailoring the first couple words of the titles and descriptions to help maximize clicks from the sitelink display as well.

about 5 years ago

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Paul Atherton

The page titles seem to generate from several different elements, including url, and H1, but the snippet seems random, and as mentioned earlier, 5 words seems slightly pointless.

about 5 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

"These large sitelinks mean site architecture is really important" - yes, agreed and probably explains why our big brand clients have seen quite a jump in traffic and sales in the past few days as we concentrate on getting the site architecture right.

about 5 years ago

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Clare Brace

I like it.

Webmasters must now ensure relevant and good quality pages throughout the site rather than focusing on a generic homepage.

I think it also put's emphasis on well written Meta Titles, perhaps a move to more user friendly page titles rather than titles produced purely for SEO.

I would be interested to see how this change effects bounce rate and conversion rates.

about 5 years ago

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Mike Taylor

I agree ...it more important to control sitelinks,
"These large sitelinks mean site architecture is really important"

over 3 years ago

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Mike Taylor

agree ...it more important to control sitelinks,
"These large sitelinks mean site architecture is really important"

over 3 years ago

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