One of my students asked me a SEO question a few weeks ago.
A question that made me stop in my tracks.
It was actually a pretty simple question, but it was one I had never been asked before.
"How do you get those site links below your website on Google search results?"
Now, that my friends is an very good question.
This post is my answer to that question and much much more...
What Are Google Site Links?
You might have noticed those cheeky little links to sub-pages that are shown below websites on search results, especially when you type in brand names or website names in Google.
The links shown below some of Google's search results, called sitelinks, 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.
Let’s take a look at some popular sites to show you what I mean.
Here is what a search for “Pro Blogger” brings up at the top of Google:
And this is what happens when I type in Mike Alton's "Social Media Hat":
Sitelinks With Search
It gets even more interesting when you look at some of the more popular sites like Moz:
They have not only the sub page site links in their search result but also a handy search bar you can use to directly search within Moz.com.
Obviously this is even better for helping people find what they need and can really help your website get more visitors!
Now, wouldn't you love to know how you can get yourself some Google site links too?
How To Get These Google Subheadings
This is what Google has to say about how they determine Sitelinks:
We only show sitelinks for results when we think they'll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn't allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don't think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user's query, we won't show them.
At the moment, sitelinks are automated. We're always working to improve our sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future. 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.
So, ultimately there is no sure fire way to get site links.
BUT...there are some ways to give Google a friendly kick in the bum!
Google is ultimately just a computer algorithm or "robot" if you like, and they follow certain rules.
If you do all the right things to encourage Google, site links become a whole lot easier.
And Google has given us some big hints above to help.
Why Are They So Important?
There are a whole swathe of reasons why sitelinks can really help you in the search results, such as:
1. Establish Brand Reputation
Sitelinks and brand image seem to go hand in hand. The more your brand is recognised by Google (as unique and authoritative) the more likely you are to get sitelinks.
On top of that, it is the more well known brands online that seem to get site links and that also establishes your brand's reputation even more. It's kind of a self-fulfilling circle in a way.
2. Increase Trust
Similar to brand reputation is the idea of increased trust. The more links you are getting within a specific search result (SERP) the more trust the visitor will likely have. After all, if Google thinks your website is worth giving more space in a given result, you must be worth trusting, right?
To test this all you have to do is look for a well known brand in search vs a lesser known one (aka unknown). See which one gets sitelinks?
3. Increase Click-Through Rate
It is no surprise that you will get more people clicking through if you take more space in the search results. Especially when you are in the first position. Below is a chart that shows the average click through for a given result on Google and of course position one gets the most clicks.
Google Page 1 - Click Through Rates in Percentage
On top of this, with sitelinks you are also taking more than position one. You kinda have position 2,3 and sometimes 4 as well. Add up all those percentages on the chart above (more than 50%) .
That along with the increased trust that is inherent with Google giving you more space, means more people will dive into your results on the top of the page.
4) Take More SERP Real Estate
Woven together with it all is the fact that you are simply going to take more space in the SERPS and push down your competition. That has to be a good thing, right?
5) Improve Conversions
Google often shows the most useful or popular pages on your site in the sitelinks which in turn means the path to the required page is shorter for the visitor. If someone is looking to get in touch with you or find your services, and those are in the sitelinks, the chances are even higher they will click without having to hunt for the pages on your site.
Take a look at my sitelinks. My services and my contact page are both in there and certainly help anyone looking for my brand find the pages they need, and faster.
Steps To Getting Site Links
1. Make Sure You Have An XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a great start to getting sitelinks.
This is SEO best practices anyway, so if you have not set up an XML sitemap yet then you will kill two birds with one stone.
A sitemap basically tells Google exactly
- what pages you have on your website
- what pages you have on your website
- and which ones are the most important to you.
Here is a complete guide I have to informing Google (and Bing) of what pages/posts you have on your website.
- signing up to Webmaster Tools / Search Console.
- creating a sitemap xml (using Yoast or other simple plugins)
- testing & submitting that to Google
Make sure you do this as a first step. It will help you in a lot of different ways!
2. Improve Your Website Navigation
A lot of the sitelinks you see on Google are the main links you see on a websites menu/navigation.
And there is a good reason for this. Menus display the most important pages on your website and guide users to those destinations quickly and easily.
That is what Google wants to do too (and said so in the Sitelinks documentation I showed you above).
For you, that means cleaning up your menu.
- Include the main / most useful pages
- Give the links meaningful descriptions
Back to Moz again, this is what part of their menu looks like and you can see at least one of these links appears as a site link:
3. Improve Your Internal Links
Following on from the menu (which is actually internal links anyway) you can tell Google which are the most important pages on your website by linking to them.
And, when you are linking to them you can use relevant and descriptive text to tell Google what those pages are about.
For instance, a link to your Start Here page from you About page would say just that "Start Here".
4. Structure Your Site Well
Site structure is one of the backhones of good website SEO. And, this goes hand in hand with your menu and internal linking.
There are lots of ideas out there on how to do this from:
- creating logical sections
- using categories to group similar content (WordPress does this well)
- and internal linking to increase the power of pages.
Here are a couple of posts that can help get you started on this topic:
- SEO Site Structure (from Yoast)
- A Guide To Site Navigation (from Distilled)
5. Improve Your Page Titles Meta Descriptions
You will also notice in the examples above that Google shows the title and meta description of the sub page links. Obviously, they read those on your site and interpret them accordingly.
So, if you want to influence which pages are shown in site links be sure to clean up your (most important) pages titles and metas. Quite often we forget them because they are "just services pages" or "just your about page". Google reads them all. So fix them all.
Here are two site links from Moz that have good descriptions and titles:
6. Increase Your Authority & Brand Presence
Authority can seem a bit hard to define, but in the SEO world it is usually straight forward.
- create helpful and authoritative content in your niche
- get more links to your website from higher authority sites
- get more mentions on social media
You could do things like grow your social media accounts, do guest posting or guest podcasting, getting interviewed, and so on.
The idea to for your website/brand to become known for excellence and to be worth showing in search results.
In the end what these things are really pointing to is good on-site SEO. Things you should be doing anyway. (hopefully!).
Getting A Search Box In Your Site Links
Another great feature of the sitelinks on Google is the search box. It dominates the search result and definitely helps your readers find what they are looking for. This is what it might look like:
Again, there is no specific way to force Google to give you this search box, but you can help yourself get it by:
- having a sitewide search working on your site
- marking up this search with schema data to help Google know it exists
Having both these things will earn you some points and help Google give you a search bar in site links.
You Are No Longer Able To Demote Site Links
Although there is no direct line to Google to tell them what site links you do want, there used to be a tool for demoting site links.
That tool allowed you to inform Google that you did not want specific links to appear in site links.
Since October 2016 the Demote Site Links tools has been removed in Google Search Console.
Google no longer feels they need our help, and can figure out which links are important :>
Every Advantage Helps In SEO
When it comes to winning in SEO you have to take every advantage you can, even with the small stuff.
In this case, site links can be a very helpful way of dominateing brand searches in the SERPS.
Although you can specifically create them or ask Google to, by doing all the right things in SEO you can certainly get yourself on the right track.
Give it a shot!