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Sitelinks in Google have been around for about ten years. They appeared for the first time around 2005 and underwent many iterations before arriving at today's sitelinks.

Summary

sitelink-illustration

A sitelink is a complementary link that appears under theURL in the search hits from Google (also called SERP). Some sitelinks also appear with a search bar which the user can use directly to start his search on the website. They have been put in place by Google to improve the UX (user experience) and help Internet users to navigate the different sites by offering direct access to pages other than the home.

Their average number has also risen from 12 to a maximum of 6 and varies according to the degree of optimisation and the relevance of the content of the websites concerned. Not all sites can boast of having sitelinks in search results. Google only grants this privilege to the sites that are most relevant to its users, i.e. sites with a well-designed structure and whose pages can respond directly to the user's problems.

Sitelinks are different from the sitelink extensions of Google Ads that only appear in paid announcements. The latter can be set up by the account manager, unlike the organic sitelinks which site editors and SEOs don't have direct control over.

So there is no direct and infallible way to control your sitelinks, but you can design your site to increase your chances of seeing them appear in the SERPs

Sitelinks improve your brand awareness

The pages that Google chooses for sitelinks are often product pages, price pages, categories or blog posts. In all cases, the algorithm is generally relevant and offers pages with high added value. Sitelinks highlight strategic pages and the most useful information for the user. Your site then gains points from your prospects who quickly find what they are looking for.

Sitelinks increase click through rate (CTR)

In addition to conveying a positive image of a site, sitelinks are known to increase CTR, which corresponds to click rates (about +20%). On average, the first three results represent between 54 and 59% of all clicks (source Abundance).

Let's take a case in point: 

If a keyword generates 10,000 searches per month, it means that the top site gets 3,124 clicks. If this first site manages to get sitelinks and therefore 20% more clicks, it means that it will capture about 2,000 additional clicks, which is considerable.

Sitelinks allow users to directly find the page of your site that interests them.

The same pattern can often be seen on the vast majority of sites: users arrive via the home page and then navigate from page to page via the internal links. Depending on your activity, the user can visit only 4 or 5 pages from the home page. He can therefore miss pages that are strategic for you.

The interest of sitelinks is therefore to highlight your strategic pages directly in search results. You will thus drain qualified traffic and naturally increase the popularity of these pages. These sitelinks can take the user to category pages such as blog posts.

Sitelinks, a sign of confidence from Google

Sitelinks are an effective way to demonstrate the reliability of your site. Indeed, Google only displays trusted sites in its first results and sitelinks. Thus, when a user first sees your site and sitelinks, he will naturally interpret it as a positive signal. 

As mentioned above, there is no direct way to generate sitelinks even in the Google Search Console. Today, sitelinks are fully managed and automated by Google and depend solely on compliance with Google's recommended best practices. We won't pretend to give you infallible techniques, but we can tell you the essential points to check to increase your chances of getting sitelinks.

sitelinks-google

Ensure the referencing of its brand and a unique site name

Even if it seems obvious, the first step is to make sure that your brand and especially your domain name is unique and not generic (except in very rare cases, such as Apple for the most famous). Indeed, domain names of the type "the best American sweets" have no chance of reaching the top positions because they will be parasitized by sites offering content that responds to a problem ("where to find the best sweets in the USA"? etc). In addition, there are many other sites that offer the same products as you, so it will be very difficult for Google to distinguish you. With the snowball effect, you will not benefit from a good positioning or sitelinks.

However, if you read this guide and realize that your domain is too generic, we do not recommend that you change it. Indeed, you would be obliged to migrate your site with a redirections 301 and risk losing many of your positions (temporarily or more permanently). First, tackle the following points to increase your chances of seeing sitelinks appear.

Structure the site, add a sitemap and implement structured data 

Optimize the structure of the site 

We can't say it enough, one... clear framework and easily interpretable by robots is the basis for a good natural referencing. It has indeed been proven that sites with a confusing structure have much more difficulty positioning themselves, even if they implement a netlinking strategy. This is rather simple to understand: if the bots can't find or understand your content, how could a user (who has other things to do than trying to understand you) find your site relevant? UX and SEO are now closely linked.

In terms of site structure, go to the simplest: a home page to which the main categories are linked, containing the sub-categories etc. Also set up a management of filters (facets) rather fine not to "open" all the doors to Google. For example, you can use techniques such as obfuscation that will help you sculpt your inner pagerank and optimize your crawl budget.

Also use clear headings that really respond to a request. Don't use them to try to mislead robots, they will always be stronger than you! It is also advisable to have "hard" pages where you will discuss important information related to your business (contact, delivery, T&Cs, etc.). Google understands them very well and could use them for your sitelinks. 

sitelinks-structure-site

Create a sitemap

The sitemap is simply a plan that you submit to the Google crawlers to help them browse the different pages of your site. It in no way guarantees the indexing of all pages and is of no use to optimize the crawl budget, but it can help the search engine to find more easily some deep but relevant pages. If your site structure is relatively clear, you will have everything to gain by submitting your sitemap in the Google Search Console. The sitemap is also an opportunity to include media and images.

Using structured data

Often referred to as "rich snippets"(enriched extracts), structured data have now become the goose that lays the golden egg. Simply put, it is data that has been formatted in specific tags to be perfectly understood by robots. There are all sorts of them (notation/notification, cooking time, preparation time, date of an event etc). They considerably improve the comprehension of your pages by the robots, which may thus be more tempted to grant you the precious "sitelink" sesame!

Put your strategic pages at the heart of your internal network

Building internal links to guide the robots to your most important pages has a name that we have already mentioned: pagerank sculpting. It is one of the most complex issues in the SEOThis is especially true for e-commerce sites that use a lot of filters to refine the results on their pages. Ultra efficient, this technique is however often neglected because it often requires structural modifications, development and even in some cases a complete redesign.

To better understand this concept of internal links, just imagine that "SEO juice" is poured on your site on the home page. This juice will then rush into all the holes (=internal links) it will find. The pages closest to the home page and/or those on which the most juice is poured are therefore the ones that will be the most popular and interesting for the robots (at least if your content is useful). These pages are therefore good candidates to appear in the sitelinks of your site. In the case of a chronological structure (news sites, blogs etc), it is equally (or even more) important to optimize the internal network. In which case, old articles will fall over time into the abyss of Google, which will often prefer fresh content! If they are relevant and timeless, do not hesitate to regularly link your old articles directly from your new posts. You will thus continue to "sprinkle" them and perhaps encourage a little more robots to post sitelinks.

The study of the internal mesh can be done through the Google Search Console, but the tool is not the most complete or relevant. Prefer a specialized crawler like Screaming Frog (free up to 500 URLs), Oncrawl or Botify.

sitelinks-pages-strategies

Define relevant titles and appropriate descriptions for candidate pages

Remember the value of sitelinks: improve UX by offering direct access to relevant content. To do this, you must make the robots understand what the pages contain and above all show that they respond to for the benefit of Internet users. Structure your pages using Hn tags is an essential first step. You can also turn them into a question to make Google understand that your content addresses a concrete issue. With this technique, in addition to the sitelinks, you can even claim the zero position.

Add your target pages to your sidebar

The sidebar, more commonly known as a sidebar in SEO jargon, can be used to reinforce the internal mesh of the pages you want to see appear in sitelinks. The sidebar is indeed present on all the pages of your site and is therefore a strong signal for Google. Attention, in order not to dilute your SEO juice too much, you should use them sparingly. In which case, the sidebar links would lose all their interest.

Add a summary/table of contents for long publications with anchors

Even if you use Hn tags to structure your content, in the case of a very long article, it makes sense to use a table of contents containing anchors pointing to each paragraph. Not only will you improve the user experience, but you will also enhance the understanding of the robots.

sitelinks-code

Optimize the SEO and on-page SEO of your website

This last point is a more general advice, but which can also help you win sitelinks. To get in Google's good graces, your site must display good performances in terms of loading time and a clean code free at most of Javascript which slows down and/or hinders robots when interpreting the code. Also make sure to completely eliminate duplicate content, which is often unintentional and not always visible when you have an e-commerce site with filters.

How to manage mobile sitelinks?

With the arrival of the Mobile First IndexGoogle has announced that it will treat mobile pages in a slightly different way than desktop pages. If you've opted for responsive design, you don't have to do anything special except make sure that the content and structure are the same in the mobile and desktop versions.

sitelinks-mobile

How do I remove a Google sitelink?

For several years, Google allowed site editors to modify sitelinks. It was not possible to remove them completely, but they could simply be downgraded. Since 2016, Google has not left the hand at all, believing that its algorithms are powerful enough to manage the sitelinks themselves.

Google quote (source)

We only display Sitelinks for results when we think they will be useful to the user. If the structure of your site does not allow our algorithms to find good Sitelinks, or if we don't think your site's Sitelinks are relevant to the user's query, we won't display them. This process is fully automated. Sitelinks have evolved based on the traditional ranking of websites, so the way to influence them is the same as for other web pages.

How do I add a search box?

Not all sites are eligible for the site link search box, and as usual, Google remains fairly opaque about the eligibility criteria. 

However, studies have shown that search bars generally appear when :

        • The site receives a high volume of traffic and/or if its brand is very often sought-after
        • You have a powerful internal search engine
        • You have added the Searchaction Schema on your home page.

Conclusion

Sitelinks can significantly improve your visibility in search results Google by significantly increasing your CTR. If you can't specify precisely to the robots the pages you want to appear in sitelinks, you can optimize them so that they attract Google's interest. In other words, don't think too much about how you can get sitelinks! If you follow good SEO practices, you should see them appear sooner or later.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

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