Posted August 17, 2011 7:25 am by with 7 comments

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Google has been busy as of late with the introduction of Google Related and now its rolling out of an expanded version of sitelinks.

Google’s Inside Search blog gives a quick history of sitelinks in search results that really shows how different the new approach is.

The first generation from 2006 looked like this

More recently, an expanded list of links in two columns has been more the norm.

Now, with the new announcement you get this.

The inclusion of URL’s and snippet text use almost looks like paid ads. I wonder if this is a way to get people more used to clicking on this kind of result thus making them more likely to click on paid search which is where Google makes its coin?

If you look at the example showing the “new and improved snippets I have circled what a paid ad looks like in certain situations above this new enriched sitelink result. It simply looks like the old sitelink ad which because of the continued lightening of the background color for paid ads looks very much like an organic result if someone wasn’t playing very close attention (which most don’t and Google banks on that).

Google prattles on about its improved algorithm to give the best choices for these sitelinks but there is no way for the site owner to suggest what might be best for them. No surprise there. Here is what Google says about this algorithmic tweak.

In addition, we’re making a significant improvement to our algorithms by combining sitelink ranking with regular result ranking to yield a higher-quality list of links. This reduces link duplication and creates a better organized search results page. Now, all results from the top-ranked site will be nested within the first result as sitelinks, and all results from other sites will appear below them. The number of sitelinks will also vary based on your query—for example, [museum of art nyc] shows more sitelinks than [the met] because we’re more certain you want results

Personally, I think this is overkill but that’s just my opinion. The results shown for a direct search of “Marketing Pilgrim” are various blog posts, a few areas of the blog and even a profile of a writer but one that contributes very infrequently. So as for Google’s algorithmic improvements there appears to be a need for some serious tweaking.

What’s your take?

  • It makes the number one spot incredibly valuable. The top ranked site basically owns the entire SERP above the fold. It also means that site owners need to a serious once-over on their site. You have to make sure every page is well optimized, since visitors can basically pick their landing page.

    • One thing I have noticed is that the more general the search term the less likely that the real estate gets used up by this kind of result. Like the quote from the Google post noted that they will deliver these links when then they are pretty sure you know what you are looking for. This will be interesting to watch.

  • Joe Steinbeck

    Now if only sitelinks were a little smarter, and companies were better at managing them. I can’t count the number of times something of very low value comes up, like “privacy policy,” “employment,” “request a quote,” or even another language.

  • Cynthia Boris

    I noticed these yesterday and thought – wow, has it always been like this and I’m just now seeing the difference? I think it’s useful once you get used to actually using the more details links. Right now, at the speed I go, I’m still conditioned to hit the main link on everything

  • I think it is overkill for sure and it upsets me that webmasters can’t control such a visually dramatic part of how their sites appear in search engines, especially for their brand search terms. It’s also no surprise that more often than not, the sitelinks that are shown are useless.

    I think the key here is to figure out how their algorithm picks sitelinks. From their support section it seems to have a lot to do with internal linking on a site.

    “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 alt text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.”

  • As someone who’s a big fan of PPC, I like how the site links all look like PPC ads now. It makes the real ones stick out less and hopefully will lead to more clicks.

  • Ivan Laube

    Through Google Webmasters Tools you should at least be able to “influence” the removal of some of these links from the SERP in case you are not satisfied of some of the sitelinks results that show up.