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Google’s new expanded sitelinks format

Google sitelinks update

Google introduced an expanded set of sitelinks on its search results pages recently. The new sitelinks format displays up to four more sitelinks, rising from 8 to 12, and now includes the web url and a short meta description snippet as well.

Sitelinks are useful at predicting what sections of a website users may want to visit based on search criteria, helping users to navigate quickly to the information they are looking for.

The most obvious impact of this redesign is that the number one ranked result now covers a much larger area on the search results page, making it harder for lower ranking sites to gain visibility. However, the sitelinks appear predominately on branded queries, so this should be a positive step in helping brands to defend their position and direct people to relevant sections of their webistes.

As users making brand specific searches are further down their purchase/decision path, this makes great sense from a usability perspective.

Another result from this change is that, with other natural search rankings being pushed further down the page, it leaves Google’s paid AdWords listings to be the main alternative to the number one result.

 

What impact will the new Google Sitelinks have on your website?

- Brands could be in a stronger position to fend off competing search listings depending on how many site results used to be displayed. If it was only one or two then competitors will now be further down the page, possibly below the fold, for brand specific searches. If a brand dominated most of the top ten results then they may see increased competition as Google may now consolidate these links in the sitelinks structure, allowing competitors to display higher up the page.

– Website architecture is more important than ever, as Google offers no direct way to edit what sitelinks are displayed.

–Demoting certain pages will be important to ensure that, while you can’t control what sitelinks are displayed, you can influence pages that you don’t wish to be shown.

– Website design will need to be considered as internal pages are being presented more prominently. People may access websites more often through internal pages, turning them more into mini homepages, meaning that the user journeys will have to be adapted.

–Branded PPC ads may see a higher click through rates for brand queries, making it harder for natural SEO on generic terms with brand name overlaps.

 

For an official overview read Google’s expanded sitelinks page.

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Posted by on August 18th, 2011

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