Achieve Google Sitelink Status
About 1 year ago, while surfing the web, I came across a very bizarre but interesting feature in Google’s result pages with a phrase I queried. I noticed that the top result for that query was displaying 4 "meekly" named sub-links for the website. After doing some research, I discovered that they were officially called Google Sitelinks (aka - Google snippets, snippet links, or website categories). I took an interest in trying to figure how I could achieve sitelink status, so I decided to set my sites on achieving this for one of my client's websites. After 4 months of research and testing, I woke up on October 11, 2006 to Google's re-cached version of my client's site - it had assigned Google sitelinks! Whoo-hoo!
I then took it upon myself to analyze what I had changed with the site since I set my sites on this...
So what are sitelinks?
As Vanessa Fox from Google puts it - 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 claims that the process of generating sitelinks is completely automated based on the website's structure as well as the query relevant to the user. While Google has released very little information about how this process is truly generated, I have discovered some interesting theories concerning sitelinks.
How do you achieve sitelink status?
So Google claims that the process is completely automated, but I say that is false. The sitelinks under my client's site (as well as a few other sites) are not named in reference to their titles, sitemap links, navigation, or anything that I could find. The names are very clean, simple, and semantic. Somebody must be on the other end validating these and giving the final thumbs up.
It is true that your site can lose it's sitelinks upon re-caching. In my research, cambriausa.com came up with sitelinks with the query "cambria". Then, just recently, the sitelinks were gone. I have no concrete explanation for this, but my theories lean towards possible broken links or decrease in traffic.
The sitelinks come from the top-visited pages and the pages that have the highest PageRank on the website - false and true. Based on my research, sitelinks are a combination of the top-visited pages, most linked to, most funneled to, longest user time duration pages in addition to other significant benchmarks. Google may also be using it's toolbar for help in establishing sitelinks - possibly through it's "bookmark" feature.
- The site must show up #1 for a specific proper noun keyword (or keyphrase) - typically involved with a company name or brand
Good: "nikon cameras" - Bad: "cameras"
- The site must have maintained the #1 position for a substantial amount of time
- The keyword (or keyphrase) must show up in the title and meta-data somewhere
- Must include an updated sitemap - with no broken links
- Easily spiderable and good, clean navigation
- Additional pages must have a significant position in Search Enginer Result Pages
- Additional pages have unique titles and meta-data
- Site validates with few errors and few broken links
Tips & Tricks:
What to do next? Focus on optimizing your website and establish a good plan for the sub-pages you'd like to include in optimizing. The great thing is that Google has expressed interest in possibly expanding it's sitelinks program to include webmaster input in the future.
Resources & Articles:
- Avoid changing the site structure
- Include an XML sitemap in your root directory
- Heavily validate your site through W3C
- Include robots.txt in your root directory
- Create pages under semantic principles and naming convensions
- Site achieves 1000 or more visits a day (on average)
- Site must have a substantial depth of pages (25+)
- Information About Sitelinks (Google Webmaster Blog)
- How do you compile the list of links shown below some search results? (Google Webmaster Help Center)
- Google Sitelinks: New Name For Those Links Under The Top Listings (Danny Sullivan)
- Google Web Site Categories Explored (Search Engine Watch)
- UI Fun: Better Snippets (Matt Cutts)
- Google's New Sitelinks (SEO Buzz)
- What are Google Sitelinks? (Jonathan Hochman)