Yesterday, we began a series inspired by the evolution of Google Sitelinks where we reviewed the definition of Google Sitelinks. Today, we’ll be looking at some of the factors that help your site become a good candidate for Google Sitelinks. The good news about getting sitelinks is that it’s automated, so you don’t really have to do anything to add them. In fact, your website may already have them. The bad news about Google Sitelinks is that they are automated. That means if you don’t already have them, getting them can be somewhat of a mystery.
Here’s what the Google Webmaster Tools Help says on the matter:
At the moment, sitelinks are automated. We’re always working to improve our sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future.
Hm. Not incredibly instructive. Looks like we’ll have to take it to the streets to get some answers. Or, at best, some theories.
Google Sitelinks have been a topic of intense study and experimentation since they were rolled out years ago. After surveying some of the trials and errors reported by other websites, it’s a good bet that these factors matter most:
- Search Engine Ranking and Keyword Relevance
- Age and Trust of Domain
- Good Link Structure
Let’s take a look at each of these.
Search Engine Ranking and Keyword Relevance
Sitelinks only show up for the top search result. That means you’re going to have to be number one for the search term that users are searching to find your site. If you want sitelinks to show up in the search results for your domain, website name or brand name, this is a breeze.
If you want to get sitelinks for a more generic search term, like “New and Used Cars for Sale” or “online tech tutorials” you’ve got your work cut out for you. In fact, I have yet to see full sitelinks show up for a generic search. However, it appears that a condensed version of sitelinks will show up for at least the top two results.
Takeaway: Rank well for your website name and relevant keywords.
Age and Trust of Domain
It appears that sitelinks only show up for sites that are have a domain age of about two years or more. The site should also have a reasonably high PR. I believe the threshold is 2 for PR. groovyPost.com was registered in 2006 and has a PR of 4/10, making it a shoo-in for sitelinks.
groovyHacks.com, on the other hand, has a PR of 1/10 and is just shy of two years old. It does not have sitelinks.
While looking for a PR2 site that had sitelinks, I found lasernailcenter.com did have sitelinks and a PR2. Oddly, the sitelinks showed up for “lasernailcenter” but not “lasernailcenters.” FWIW.
Takeaway: Shoot for PR2 and a domain that’s at least two years old. For the record, I’ve seen sites that bought up existing old domains and repurposed them and still maintained sitelinks, if you’re looking to fast track it.
Good Link Structure
The Google Webmaster Tools guidelines on sitelinks go on to say:
There are best practices you can follow, however, to improve the quality of your sitelinks. For example, for your site’s internal links, make sure you use anchor text and
alttext that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.
That last bit is code for “don’t keyword stuff.” But the part about alt text was interesting to me. Especially because none of the websites with sitelinks that I visited appear to use alt attributes in their <a> tags.
I think what is most important here is to make sure that all of the links on your front page are indexable. This means creating a well-organized and intuitive navigation menu that’s easy for bots and people to use. It’s also a very good idea to create a sitemap, something you can do automatically with a WordPress plugin. If your nav menu is worth its salt, it’ll also have logical anchor text. For example, you want a block of links that reads like:
As you can see from this example, it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Google will often choose the most popular pages to include in the sitelinks, or, if you’re using a generic search term, the most relevant. We’ll discuss how to pick and choose your sitelinks in another tutorial.
Takeaway: Make sure that your important links appear on the front page and are easily indexable by the Google bot. Use a sitemap to help you out.
Getting Google Sitelinks is about 30% luck and 70% web design best practices. Unfortunately, if you’ve already created a nice sitemap, optimized for the right keywords and gained a decent amount of PR, then your only course of action left is to wait. Perhaps in the future the domain age issue will become less of a factor, but for now, it looks like you’ll just have to wait patiently for the Googlebot to arrive. Until then, tidy up your links and make your page easily navigable.
[Read part one of this series: Google Sitelinks 101: What are Sitelinks?]