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Experiences with SiteLinks

   
10:11 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



We all know what SiteLinks are, even if we don't know the official name for them. Site Links are the kind of #1 ranking on Google search results that shows up to eight internal links under the snippet. Whether these links show up or not is determined by algorithm, and very much dependent on the search term.

(For more background, see these two Hot Topics threads: SiteLinks [webmasterworld.com] & SiteLinks Expanded [webmasterworld.com])

The most common type of SiteLink situation is when your site is brandname.com and the search is for "brandname". Getting those SiteLinks is a good sign that your business is now pretty well "branded" for Google, to the point where your domain is seen as authoritative for that brandname by the algo.

More difficult (much more difficult) is getting SiteLinks for a generic term. I've seen sites get SiteLinks for a general keyword search, only to have them disappear. A notable exception is CNN, who has SiteLinks for "news". That's quite an achievement, I'd say!

Recently one of my clients went through an adventure with SiteLinks disappearing and then reappearing that I thought was interesting enough to share.

The organization's domain is trademark.com and the search for "trademark" used to show a nice set of 6 SiteLinks, back in the days before Google expanded it to 8 possible links. But one day, the SiteLinks vanished. What happened, they asked. How can we get them back?

In reviewing the site, it soon became clear that a recent change in their CMS had caused several of the internal links in the page template to go 404. The main menu was pretty much OK, but other liks in the footer, and "related pages" and so on were now broken.

We fixed the broken links and within about 10 days, SiteLinks were back. Now did we fix the cause? Or did the two events happen coincidentally? Can;t say for sure, of course.

But the new SiteLinks are different, and one of the differences is very interesting. The first SiteLink is to the members "Log-In" page. This is one of the last links on the Home Page and it occurs nowhere else in the entire website. The only reason I can see for shoosing that link right now is that this is a very active community, and that particular link gets the most clicks by far, from what I see in the server logs.

So is this a sign the the much-debated "traffic" factor really is in play here? This domain does not use Google Analytics, by the way.

I thought it was suggestive, and interesting enough to share. Does anyone else have observations about SiteLinks that might point to how the algo works in awarding them to a #1 ranking domain?

[edited by: tedster at 2:30 am (utc) on Nov. 15, 2007]

10:28 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



More difficult (much more difficult) is getting SiteLinks for a generic term.

I know a guy who has site links for an extremely generic term. It seems to be primarily based upon PR. It also seems to only happen to homepage keywords as well.


Does anyone else have observations about SiteLinks that might point to how the algo works in awarding them to a #1 ranking domain?

I've learned that sitelinks do not guarantee that those "extra" links will actually point to your site. I saw an example today where 6 of the 8 sitelinks went to a different domain entirely. It was weird. Actually the domain in question was a subdomain and the site links when to a different subdomain owned/managed by someone else.
10:36 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Yes! One of the SiteLinks for the client I mentioned goes to a different subdomain.

This is clear evidence that subdomains are not treated exactly like "different" domains, but only that there is some kind of separation. For example, you can still get two main domain results plus a subdomain result on the same SERP - they don't get clustered and they don't get filtered.

I haven't see SiteLinks pointing to a completely different domain, however.

1:03 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



It wasn't so the last time I checked ( around when GWT introduced the sitelinks tab, a few weeks ago ), but right now the links for a site of mine include one of its subdomains.

Except for one, the 8 sitelinks show the top 8 high traffic URLs.

But then again... these are at the top of the navigation, the site uses Analytics, GWT, and there aren't that many public/crawlable pages on it.

...

1:08 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member billys is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The official name is "Sitelinks."

From Google's Webmaster Tools:

Sitelinks are completely automated, and we show them only if we think they'll be useful to the user. If your site's structure doesn't allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don't think that the sitelinks are relevant to the user's query, we won't show them. However, we are always working to improve how we find and display sitelinks.
1:33 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I hope I can mention these specific searches.

A few weeks ago, the Senate of my country voted something which was against the vast majority of the will of the citizens.

Next day, the blogsphere started a concerted movement; hundreds of popular blogs linked to the Senate homepage with an anchor text like 'national shame'.

The homepage, as expected, already had sitelinks for the search [Senate]. Only two or three days later, a search for [national shame] returned the Senate homepage, with sitelinks. The interesting point is that the sitelinks were the same, in both cases.

To me, this seems to indicate that, to get the sitelinks, one must: first, reach #1 for a search term; second, have so many visitors (as is certainly the case with the Senate website) that Google can obtain a pattern of which pages are the most popular ones.

Does anybody have other interpretation?

1:53 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member




that Google can obtain a pattern of which pages are the most popular ones

Lots of "sitelink" pages I see are clearly not the most popular pages. They seem to be based upon navigation. Focusing on "contact" "info" "faq" pages, etc.
2:25 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I noticed that 2 of the Sitelinks have changed a couple of times over the past few weeks.

Of the 8 shown, four are part of the site's main navigation as for the other 4 I can't pinpoint why they have been selected other than there are links on the homepage to these pages - they are definately not the most popular pages on the site and there are hundreds of pages that Google sends far more traffic to daily, so for me I'm ruling out any traffic/popularity factors.

As a test I will swap two of the four links and see if the Sitelinks change and post the outcome.

3:24 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I "broke" a sitelinks on a college site by making a necessary change in the url - page names, top level links. Fortunately the site recovered in a couple of months and had the sitelinks back.

When the sitelinks are there, you defo get more traffic.

I thought I saw a correlation with sitelinks and traffic. It bombed over the summer period () but recovered at the obvious time. Sitelinks went and returned. This could well be a very big coincendence.

I've just 301'd the college to a new domain so it will be worth finding out how long it Google takes to grant those sitelinks again to a trusted .ac.

3:27 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



djmick200

Do you think sitelinks are that dynamic these days?

When I "broke" sitelinks I made a change to the anchor text and where the actual page was.

I suppose if you just move the links a tiny bit about on the page it might not screw thngs up.

11:36 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



A few months ago one of my sites had Sitelinks for a generic two word phrase until I added about 70 links to the homepage to reduce click depth of some inner pages
- the Sitelinks disappeared.

About four weeks ago I removed these links and a new set of Sitelinks reappeared.

The interesting part:

Four of the Sitelinks point to pages that are not linked from the homepage, but were part of the links I removed four weeks ago. Will they be replaced in the near
future?

The anchortexts of these four Sitelinks are and never were used as anchortexts by myself and the titles of the linked pages are 'Company - anchortext'. How does Google
determine the anchortexts?

---
BTW: Has anybody already made use of the 'block' option in the Sitelinks section of GWT? Are blocked links replaced by different links, do they simply disappear and you
end up with six or seven Sitelinks, or do the Sitelinks completely disappear?

2:38 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Lots of "sitelink" pages I see are clearly not the most popular pages. They seem to be based upon navigation. Focusing on "contact" "info" "faq" pages, etc.

Six of the eight sitelinks for my main site are from its header and footer links. I am therefore satisfied with Google's automated choices, and don't plan to request any deletions. Although I have wondered if new sitelinks could boost SERPs for the chosen word(s).

One thing I don't like is truncated sitelinks.

p/g

4:12 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Interesting on the "Log In" page factor as well. Is this the first maybe-evidence we've seen of the toolbar affecting results?
4:38 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



In GWT is says "If your site's structure doesn't allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks we won't show them"

Does any one think that having images for your navigation would have an effect on this?

Would placing an alternative textlinked navigation at the bottom of the page be worth ago?

8:01 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



sandpetra I honestly dont know if sitelinks are that dynamic as it's something I haven't studied or paid much attention too.

OutdoorWebcams raises the point about the anchor text and lookingatit mentions images.

Of the four non navigational Sitelinks that I see the anchor text seems automated by Google as these four Sitelinks are generated from 4 images and as OutdoorWebcams mentioned, the page titles do include the anchor text but do have more text surrounding it and this would also apply to the 4 navigational sitelinks - so for me I'm ruling that idea out too.

As I said above I dropped two of the links off the homepage and replaced them so it's just a matter of waiting to see the result - if any.

5:34 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



BTW: Has anybody already made use of the 'block' option in the Sitelinks section of GWT? Are blocked links replaced by different links, do they simply disappear and you
end up with six or seven Sitelinks, or do the Sitelinks completely disappear?

I blocked two links mainly because the naming of these links were terrible, these were blocked for a couple of days, and they disappeared from my totals shown, they weren't replaced just didn't show,

so i figured i could live with the bad naming and unblocked them a week later they were showing with different link text now I've got the same 8 links just the two i blocked have changed names.

still trying to figure it out...

vimes