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Which Sitelinks Get Shown Can Vary with the Search Terms

 3:38 pm on Sep 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Here's a Sitelinks twist I never knew about. Google's Maile Ohye explains that not only does their algo use the query terms to decide when to show Sitelinks, it can even change which Sitelinks get shown.

In search results, the sitelinks displayed are determined algorithmically based on the user's query. So, while Webmaster Tools may show 8 sitelinks for your verified site, it's possible that search results show only a subset (e.g. search results display 4 sitelinks).

Furthermore, the sitelinks displayed in search results can vary according to the query (e.g. different combinations of sitelinks for different queries).

Google Groups post [groups.google.com]



 4:36 pm on Sep 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I just gave the post another slow, deliberate reading and another bit of "news" popped out. It is possible that you block a sitelink or two and then (eventually I guess) the algo may pick out a replacement for the ones you blocked. That was never clear to me before.

Of course that assumes that the site structure (and whatever else they are measuring) is strong enough that other candidates get selected - but it's good to know that it can happen.

Sally Stitts

 6:07 pm on Sep 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes. Two of my 8 sitelinks were somewhat "less than ideal" (unpopular), so I blocked them. Sure enough, Google picked two more and added them.

The problem is, my site has 20 "Main Subject Areas". ALL the sitelinks that Google chose were from a SINGLE subject area. How do I address that? I have very popular pages in the other subject areas, including my most popular, by far!

They need to base their criteria upon POPULARITY! Right now, they pick a single subject area, and cling to it and only it, like glue. This severely limits the usefulness of the "sitelinks", and distorts the nature of the site.

[edited by: Sally_Stitts at 6:09 pm (utc) on Sep. 9, 2008]


 7:08 pm on Sep 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have the same problem as Sally Stitts. I have blocked 2 sitelinks and 2 new ones did show up, the problem is that most of the sitelinks are to forum posts and not really to good content pages.


 7:50 pm on Sep 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

They need to base their criteria upon POPULARITY!

Oh, I thought they did! My site links are definitely my most popular pages.


 11:30 am on Sep 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just be careful, if you block enough and you only have three or less Sitelinks, then Google will never show the sitelinks. You need at least 4 for Google to show sitelinks in the SERPs.

Receptional Andy

 9:22 pm on Sep 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Has anyone actually seen varying sitelinks? Try as I might all I get is the same links, whatever I search for. I assumed it would need a site with a large batch (>8) of sitelinks, but even then it doesn't seem to make any difference.


 1:34 am on Sep 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I haven't seen any variation using different search terms but just recently I saw the sitelinks change about 3 times in the space of about a week.

Another interesting observation is that google has given me a sitelink for a page that is not very popular, gets hardly any web search queries, but does however, get the most search traffic from Google Images. This sitelink replaced one that was blocked, which was also to a page that got an unusually large amount of traffic from the image directory.

They need to base their criteria upon POPULARITY!

I'm starting to suspect that they don't use the same set of criteria for all 8 sitelinks. Perhaps they throw in 5 or 6 that they know are popular and maybe they then throw in 1 or 2 to pages that don't perform very well, but still have some value to Google.


 7:27 pm on Sep 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Has anybody noticed different sitelinks for any given site?

Weird thing is that the console shows you up to 8 sitelinks that have been chosen for your site - I wonder if what Maile was saying was that sitelinks may be determined by users' queries, as in the queries used by users to find your site are also used when determining which 8 sitelinks you get?

Might have to ask a follow-up question on this topic.


 9:44 am on Nov 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just had a recent update to sitelinks

For one of the pages listed in sitelinks, Google is using the thumbnail alt text (truncated) from the Homepage as the title. On my Homepage, the alt text describes the landing page rather than the pictures in the thumbnails. In this instance, the alt text contains keywords which are very rarely used throughout my site and I get hardly any queries for them.


 10:37 am on Nov 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

What if, I block 2 of my sitelinks and once google adds another 2 as replacement, unblock the first 2?
Can this work to increase/build a large set of sitelinks?

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