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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?
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.
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.