Sitelinks – what they are and how to get them

Sitelinks are the links sometimes shown below the title, description and address of the top ranking site for a particular search. They were first introduced in 2006 but seem to be here to stay. They are very rarely shown except for the top result, and not always then, and according to Google?s Webmaster Tools Help,

are meant to help users navigate your site. Our systems analyze the link structure of your site to find shortcuts that will save users time and allow them to quickly find the information they’re looking for.

Google assures us that sitelinks are always generated automatically. They are alwaysnice to have – they do more than anything to make a listing stand out from the rest, as well as appearing authoritative.

sitelinks example

Sitelinks appear when a site is deemed to be an authority site for the keyword being searched. This means they are most commonly found in searches for brand names, as in the Heathrow example shown above. They are most likely to be found for the brand name itself but increasingly Google is delivering them for terms including the brand name.  So whereas a while ago Google would only show site links for a search on ‘Heathrow’ or ‘Heathrow airport’ (both of which appear in the domain name), now Google is also showing sitelinks for terms such as ‘Heathrow flights’ as well.

The key to getting sitelinks to appear under a search results lies with having a good number of external links coming into the site using the same anchor text as the search term for which the sitelinks appear. The search term appearing in the domain name is also  important. Lots of sites link to the Heathrow Airport site using the anchor text ‘heathrow’, and the word appears in the domain name (www.heathrowairport.com ) so Google sees this an authority site for the search term ‘heathrow’. The same behaviour is shown if a search is done for ‘heathrow airport’. Again www.heathrowairport.com is the top result and sitelinks are again shown below it. Again there are a high number of sites linking to it using the anchor text ‘heathrow airport’ and the term appears in the domain name.

Sitelinks and menu structure

There is one other requirement that a site needs to meet before sitelinks can be displayed even for its brand name and that is Google must be able to create site links from the internal linking structure of the site. Google says that

Our systems analyze the link structure of your site to find shortcuts that will save users time and allow them to quickly find the information they’re looking for.

This suggests to me that Google monitors the links that visitors to the site choose most frequently and use these as the sitelinks. With the Heathrow example, the sitelinks closely follow the navigation menu along the top of the page – and very nicely built it is too with real text but attractively designed and well laid out. Try searching for ‘coca cola’ and www.coca-cola.co.uk comes up as number 1 not surprisingly, but there are no sitelinks. There are plenty of other sites linking to the Coca Cola site and the search term appears in the domain name.

Blocking sitelinks

One final point – you can see what sitelinks Google is showing for your site by logging into Google’s Webmaster Tools. You will also find the option to block a sitelink if for some reason you don’t want it to appear. This happened on one of my client?s site recently. His site has developed a sitelink for the term ‘hire’ when he is a manufacturer. We have a page about hire simply to say that the company does not hire out equipment but supplies hire companies. I have therefore blocked the ‘hire’ sitelink to try and limit the traffic the site gets looking to hire equipment.

Sitelinks are quite difficult to optimise for and it is probably not worth trying.  If you are building a site with good content with a good search engine friendly navigational structure, they will come quite naturally.


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