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Google Site Links: What happens when you block one?

 6:49 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Recently we had a Google site link change for our home page and we noticed a big dip in the serps. Google did not properly title the site link as it did in the past, so I went into webmaster tools and blocked the site link. When it asked me for a reason, I simply put that the page had the wrong title and put the correct title in.

Example: The Page is about "Widgets that are Green"

Google gave the site link as "Are Green"

Now, when I made this change, Google said the site link would be blocked until October 2nd. Anyone experiment with this feature yet and how did Google react in the Serps?


Receptional Andy

 8:19 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've not seen any direct connection between ranking and sitelinks (blocked or otherwise) although sitelinks do give a good overview of how Google understands site structure. I would suggest that sitelinks are an effect, rather than a cause: site problems (especially structural or hierarchical ones) can be made more visible via sitelinks, but I don't think sitelinks themselves have any potential to cause ranking problems.

I would expect the impact of removing a sitelink on ranking to be nothing, aside from whatever changes occur to clickthrough rate as a result of the missing link or whatever replaced it.


 8:35 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

It was weird, when I saw the change (Which was all in one day), I started monitoring the serps for the example keywords "widgets that are green" and "are green"

A few days later, we fell 200 spots for "widgets that are green" and jumped to the top 400 spots for "are green"

I know Google dynamically gathers these words and site links, but something is a bit screwy with this.

So I did block it in my webmaster tools to see what happens.

The real odd thing about this is the date: June 26th. I wonder if Google made a change to the dynamic algo and Google is not properly classifying web pages now. Might explain some of the recent drastic drops for some people. Fortunately, “Widgets that are green” is not really a big search term for us.


 8:43 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

On a client site, we blocked a sitelink that was to some really silly page for them to sitelink to - can't even remember what it was, like privacy policy or returns page - and suffered no ill effects that I could tell.

It does look like they've done some updating recently - they just this past weekend added a sitelink to the most important event on my events site. Too bad the event was over two weeks ago. Be interesting to see if the link disappears now, since people won't be searching for it again until next year.


 8:48 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Interesting thing is that most sites have 6-8 site links. We have always had 8.

I blocked two today that are still showing up in search though. I wonder what and when Google will relpace it with.

Receptional Andy

 8:50 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

A few days later, we fell 200 spots for "widgets that are green" and jumped to the top 400 spots for "are green"

This may be because of the two aspects sharing a data source, but updating at different times: co-occurrence rather than cause and effect.


 9:00 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree about the data, the home page did not change though so that tells me Google made an algo change on their end. This does show that the mechanism that is related to site links does have an effect on the serps. I am going to see what happens when Google does replace the site links and makes changes and see what happens in the serps.

Receptional Andy

 9:09 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

the mechanism that is related to site links does have an effect on the serps

Personally, I would rephrase that to "the mechanism that is related to the serps does have an effect on site links" based on the effects you've reported. Serps create sitelinks, sitelinks don't create serps. Of course, there's an element of 'feedback', in that Google can look at how people utilise sitelinks, and so the relationship is not entirely that simple.


 12:20 am on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Agreed, it will be interesting to see how quickly google drops off the site links and how they get replaced.


 2:30 am on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've had two experiences with blocking a Google-chosen Sitelink for a client. In both cases the Sitelink was quickly dropped, but not replaced. It's now approaching a full year.


 10:33 am on Jul 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

In our case, Google gave us a bunch of sitelinks (great) but then gave them goofy names which were strange edits of the pages' title tags (not so great). A few weeks ago I edited the title tags so that they were short enough to be used as sitelinks in their entirety, and would also make more sense to Google users.

I know that the pages have been re-crawled and cached, but it hasn't made any difference to the sitelinks. They seem to be 'stuck'.


 11:58 am on Jul 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I removed two Site Links, they were never replaced.


 4:24 pm on Jul 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I feel left out. I have yet to directly work on a site that has sitelinks.


 5:20 pm on Jul 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I did once block a site link because it was a deleted forum thread that was returning a '410 Gone' header... the link WAS replaced and I've seen several shuffles since... I'm currently showing seven sitelinks that I'm happy with.


 11:25 am on Jul 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have enough data now to believe that Google is increasingly using traffic and user behavior as factors for many things ( including for rankings, and no bounce rates are not a part of the picture ).

Sitelinks are the most often visited pages of a website.
URLs Google estimates to be the most frequented.
This is the only valid co-relation from where I see it.

Number of unique visits seem to be the key even if the URL itself is not the most popular landing page or does not even act as an entry point.

Sitelinks aren't really related to keyword targeting in this regard.
But usability is a part of SEO and sitelinks are a mirror image of that.

"Users know this site. Now let's see, where were they likely to visit nearly always? Let's give them these links up front and score points for making their lives easier."

As for link text generation, I'd say they simply exclude obvious phrases that are already present elsewhere in the listing. It'd make sense in most cases not to list 'widgets' 8 times when everyone knows the site is about widgets. Looks rather stupid though, especially where the removed keyword was part of an actual name ( place, product, service... ).


Needless to say their estimates are sometimes off ( as they can't use Analytics data unless you let them, even if they have the stats of your domain ). For less popular / regional sites, or sites with seasonal trends this method sometimes multiplies a data sample that was way too small, and the domain ends up with 4 out of 8 links being a snapshot of a day's ( hour's ) worth of trends.

Rarely saw this problem with sites that have a large volume of visits, evened out.


'Blocking' is likely to disable the *display* of either URLs in the top 8. Unless that tips the balance and another URL pushes the ( now blocked ) page out of the top 8, I don't think they'll just go on and show #9 or #10, 11... etc. Say, why would they have any extras calculated?

But they do refresh the list at least once or twice a year.

[edited by: Miamacs at 11:40 am (utc) on July 14, 2008]


 12:16 pm on Jul 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Never blocked them. I am grateful for what I have ;-) Interesting thread. I must say, I am a little surprised to see webmasters blocking valid site links..


 2:51 pm on Jul 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google still has not shown a change, one of the links we did block was a 404 page and it is gone for good. I will keep you updated.


 1:46 pm on Jul 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google gave the site link as "Are Green"

I have noticed this too, that the link titles are sometimes truncated. Not sure why, and it doesn't always happen.


 12:39 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Today the blocked link was dropped. It has not been replaced though.


 10:24 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is this new, or did I just never notice it before? Today when I went into my GWT account and took a look at the Sitelinks for one of my sites, it now lists a date next to the Current Sitelinks - "Last updated Jul 23, 2008"

That's a GREAT addition! I was wondering that very thing, how often they get updated, and now I will know.


 11:57 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes, I noticed this as well.

I only have 7 site links showing, the one I blocked is a 404 page. I am in the process of removing that page through the webmasterpanel right now. Once google kills the page I am thinking about unblocking the site link to see what happens.


 12:55 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Never blocked them. I am grateful for what I have ;-) Interesting thread. I must say, I am a little surprised to see webmasters blocking valid site links..

I've only ever blocked one, which was to a "My Account"-type page; one that's utterly useless to a user that's not logged in, as the main message on it says "You're not logged in".

It hasn't been replaced with anything else, but it's only been about three months. There was a brief period after I blocked it, where the sitelinks on that site vanished entirely, and a period following it where I could see them in the SERPs, but not in GWT, and now they've settled back to being stable.


 5:16 am on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

The 404 page was removed from google through the webmaster tools, when I logged back into site links, it was still showing as blocked even though it has been a 404 page that was removed. I have already unblocked the url and I am going to wait and see what happens.

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