Go to any book publisher’s website and you’ll see that bestsellers (or expected bestsellers) are always prominently displayed.
Why is this?
Bestsellers get the special treatment because they’re more valuable, and because they’re what many customers are looking for.
This, in a nutshell, is how Google Sitelinks work.
Google only displays Sitelinks for websites that it deems the most valuable and most helpful to users.
So, it’s up to you to prove that you’re a bestseller.
What Are Google Sitelinks?
Sitelinks are a feature of Google Search that displays a table with the most helpful site pages under the first branded result (i.e. the domain name or the brand name).
Pretty looking, isn’t it?
But exactly which pages are the “most helpful” is up to Google’s automated algorithm, of course.
This is the caveat with Sitelinks:
You can’t generate or control them in any direct way, because Google assigns them automatically to websites.
Here’s how Google Sitelinks appear for the branded keyword “backlinko:”
So, according to Google’s algorithm, the six most helpful pages from Backlinko are:
- The Blog page
- The About page
- The SEO Hacks training
- The Backlinks guide
- The Link Building guide
- The On-Page SEO guide
Then it all ends with a beautiful “More results from backlinko.com,” which a hungry searcher like me always found so attractive (and in fact, I end up clicking that link all the time).
Can you see the potential of Google Sitelinks?
Remember, searcher psychology matters—as I said, I could hardly resist the temptation and curiosity to check out those links!
However, there’s no guarantee Google will display Sitelinks for your site.
They’re entirely up to its automated algorithm, when they’re deemed “useful to the user.”
How to (Maybe) Get Google Sitelinks and If They’re Worth Your Time
Sadly, there are no actions you can take directly to score these automated in-search links.
But there are a few strategies you can use to gently “persuade” Google’s algorithm to give you some.
1. Improve On-Page SEO
Whether you do it yourself or hire a specialist, improving your on-page SEO is key to upping your chances to score a few Sitelinks in Google Search.
On-page SEO helps to improve impressions for your content, sending Google a signal that what you publish earns eyeballs and is worthy of consideration for Sitelinks.
Consider improving these on-page SEO areas:
Title and H Tags
The most important tags on every page on your site are the <title> and <h1> tags, immediately followed by subheadings.
Make these descriptive, inclusive of relevant keywords and helpful at first glance for the new visitor.
Images and media are important in the eyes of Google, so don’t neglect alt tags when you add more goodies to your content.
The text in the tag will tell Google if the content is helpful or not.
Alt tags are also critical to improve the accessibility of your site, making it even more helpful from a UX viewpoint, especially to visitors with disabilities.
Use your main keywords and branded keywords as often as naturally possible, and at least once within the first 100 words of your content.
However, make sure to avoid over-optimization that could lead to an algorithmic or manual penalty.
Keep your keyword density in the 1-3% range across your content piece.
Natural language URLs work better for SEO than ID- or token-based URLs. They’re easy to index, you can use keywords in the URL slug (e.g. example.com/this-keyword), and searchers can find them through those keywords.
Besides, they’re easier to recognize and remember for human searchers who want to search or type the URL again in the future.
Pages that are easily digested by mobile devices and thus accessible to mobile users will be seen as more helpful by Google, which will help your rankings.
As a consequence, optimizing your site for mobile ups your chances to get Sitelinks.
2. Rank for Branded Terms
Ranking #1 is best, but any rank on page one is an opportunity-opener for Sitelinks.
Sitelinks are given to pages that Google’s algorithm deems useful for users. Generally, the results on page one of the SERPs are the most trafficked and (isn’t it obvious?) the most helpful to users.
Now, since Sitelinks appear for domain or branded term searches, it’s essential to help your site rank high for such terms instead of the more common industry or niche terms.
(But please, whatever you do, don’t neglect your overall keyword SEO just for Sitelinks! Instead, make sure you include branded terms as part of your strategy.)
Here are a few ways to improve your rankings for branded terms:
1. Guest post and include branded terms in the post. Also include your branded terms in close proximity to your website link in the author bio
2. Build links to your website using branded terms as anchor texts or as contextual words surrounding the anchor
3. Get mentioned on social media, forums and community websites (with or without a backlink)
To monitor your rankings for your branded terms, check the Rank Tracker tab under your Monitor Backlinks account at least once a week. From here, you can easily track which keywords earn the #1 rank for your content.
Just order your keyword rankings by “Ranking” to see your highest ranking keywords at a glance.
If you don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account for yourself yet, claim your free trial to take it for a spin for 30 days—no commitment or credit card required!
3. Improve Your Site Structure
You have to ensure that your site is easily navigated and can be read by search engine crawlers, especially those that Google uses to create its search index.
Below are a few tips to ensure that your site structure is up to the task:
Breadcrumbs, taken from the fairy tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” leave a digital trail of where the page you’re browsing sits within the hierarchical structure of the site.
For example, Homepage → About Me → Work Experience.
You can use breadcrumbs to improve navigation and to make it easy for users and crawlers to see how each page fits in the overall hierarchy.
If you use WordPress, install Breadcrumb NavXT to generate breadcrumbs for your site.
Optimize Your Sitemap
Your sitemap should be clean of any dead links and you should have all of your most important pages as “index, follow” for Google to correctly follow and index them.
For WordPress sites, plugins like Google XML Sitemaps can take care of your sitemap for you and keep it up to date.
Alternately, you can generate an updated and optimized sitemap with a free tool such as XML Sitemap Generator.
Optimize the Navigation Menu
Don’t clutter your navigation menu with a ton of buttons!
Instead, have drop-down menus or submenus to make navigation easy from a hierarchy viewpoint.
Use a clean design and, if you can, implement some of the principles of material design.
Schema helps you describe structured data for your website and make it more easily readable (semantically, too) by Google.
You can take care of your structured data in Google Search Console, under Search Appearance → Structured Data. This is where Google tells you what it thinks needs to be fixed.
Check out our detailed guide to schema markup for more tips and step-by-step instructions to implement schema on your site.
Monitor Sitelinks in Search Console
Keep track of any Sitelinks Google assigns to your sites in Search Console, under Search Appearance → Sitelinks.
Here you’ll know exactly what pages to monitor for improved traffic and CTR.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t give you an option to change your Sitelinks in Search Console, so you can’t request that a certain page doesn’t get a Sitelink or that another one does.
4. Implement an Internal Linking Strategy
Google advises using “informative” anchor and alt text on internal links to up your chances of scoring Sitelinks.
When you know you have a content piece that you worked hard on and that brings value to your niche, and there are informative phrases, branded terms and keywords in other posts on your blog, make sure you link those phrases to your best articles.
You can do this with your whole website, and depending on how much content you have online, it might take anywhere from a few days to several months to improve your internal linking.
But you can do it!
Then, make sure you have these descriptive and informative internal links for each new post that you publish.
You can also easily set up key terms with a WordPress SEO tool like Keywords to Links Converter, to automatically link these terms to specific articles without spending too much time on the effort.
Is It Worth It?
So, should you really bother with all this work if it’ll only maybe result in Sitelinks? What can Sitelinks actually do for your website?
Well, as it turns out—not a whole lot.
A 2015 experiment-based case study showed that Google is keen to assign Sitelinks for pages that include blocks of links. These are most likely to be informative pages where users can learn more about your brand, its mission and where to get help.
Meanwhile, a previous case study from 2013 showed that Sitelinks aren’t clicked as often as content headlines, but they do provide additional CTR benefits and help users find critical information about your brand and website.
So, while Sitelinks could make a difference for your traffic and click-through rate, they’re nowhere near as critical as a good marketing and link building plan which will directly influence your site’s performance in SERPs.
Also, the inability to modify your Sitelinks in Search Console might not always work to your advantage, potentially showing pages that aren’t really helpful or relevant to your brand.
(You can noindex the less helpful pages on your site, of course, but there’s still no guarantee that the pages Google displays as Sitelinks are among the most helpful anyway.)
Overall, we could agree that Google Sitelinks only have a mild impact on your search CTR and branding efforts.
My business website displayed Sitelinks in Google until a few months ago, but I haven’t noticed any spike in traffic nor increase in conversions.
After I had to take the site offline for about two months while I worked on making it GDPR-compliant, my Sitelinks were gone with the website in the SERPs.
Now that the site is back in the SERPs, it no longer shows Sitelinks for branded terms (domain name and my first and last name). But I haven’t noticed much of a difference in traffic, to be honest.
Still, earning a few Sitelinks is better than having none at all. They still spark a user’s curiosity, especially if your website is well established.
Final Words on Google Sitelinks
Google Sitelinks are helpful, sure—but don’t focus too much on getting them to show up.
Both for the fact that they’re a 100% algorithm-generated feature, and for their minimal impact on your overall branding, CTR and SEO goals.
Hopefully, Google will make these links less automated in the future, and therefore more helpful to both webmasters and the end user.