How Does Google Pick Sitelinks For Your Site?

How does Google select sitelinks?
Google has made quite a few changes to its search engine in the past few months, and these include the exclusion of certain authorship data from search real estate. Ever since then, some people have faced problems with their sitelinks. Sitelinks are automated links generated from your site, and are seemingly chosen randomly. So how does Google choose these sitelinks, and post-authorship changes, what can you do to make sure the correct ones are being displayed?
The algorithm that picks sitelinks for your site isn't very transparent, like most anything at Google. There is very little documentation, and the only advice you get is fairly simple - make sure your page has a clear hierarchy and navigation.

However, that doesn't mean there' nothing you can do about it. Webmasters have been poking around for quite some time now, and they have discovered some factors that can help. Some of these factors include;

  • The site must rank number one for the target query
  • Search robot friendly site navigation navigation - use of sitemap recommended
  • Site must have high traffic as small sites don't get sitelinks
  • Customize titles and meta descriptions of the internal pages
  • Internal pages must be robust and valuable, and should contain unique content

Of course, all of these are just characteristics shared by the sites that receive sitelinks; there’s no confirmation on Google’s part whether they’re actually part of the algorithm.

How to get Sitelinks?

With Google remaining close-lipped about sitelinks, the best you can do is extend these factors to actionable points if you want to get sitelinks for your site.
  • Make sure your navigation is easy to parse by robots. The easiest way to see if it is would be to use Google Webmaster Tools and use the fetch as Googlebot tool. This shows you how your site looks without all of the excess scripts and elements you include for usability. Some webmasters recommend a navigation structure using HTML5 nav tags, spiced up with CSS and links.
  • Make sure your navigation is organized to present a nicely ordered list of pages. Specifically, you’re looking to apply quality over quantity; a few valuable pages as top-level links are better than a wide array of mid-level links.
  • Make sure your website has a unique brand name. The presence of sitelinks relies on being the clear, obvious choice for the destination of a query. If you share a brand name with another site, or if your band name is something too generic to pick out specifically, you’re going to have issues.
  • Make sure each page on your site has a unique meta title and description. This is just good SEO practice. Google won’t display sitelinks if the titles and descriptions of all of those sitelinks are identical.
  • Make sure the content of each page is unique and valuable. Google provides sitelinks to enhance the user experience by directing them to the pages they want to see, rather than forcing them to go through your homepage. If there are no pages they want to see, there will be no sitelinks.
Additionally, your site needs to meet certain minimum thresholds of popularity. If you don’t have a certain level of interested users, you’re not going to be in the running for sitelinks. You need traffic volume to make traffic funneling a worthwhile investment.

Can you pick your own sitelinks?

Unfortunately, no. There are no HTML tags or structured data wizardry that can get Google to pick up your sitelinks. There's no way to manually set them, so the best you can do is to take as many steps as possible to maximize the likelihood of the correct ones being displayed.

But there is one possibility. If you see pages displayed on sitelinks that you don't want to show, then you can demote them. If you have weird sitelinks, Google allows you to set those links to be demoted. Essentially, you tell Google that you don’t think that specific link is valuable as a sitelink, and you shouldn't have it displayed.

To demote sitelinks, all you need to do is log in to the Google webmaster tools page. Under the search appearance section, click the link labeled sitelinks. In this page, you will be presented with a box labeled “for this search result.” Add in the URL of the page you don’t want showing up in sitelinks. Click to submit the demotion and wait for it to go through.

If you have sitelinks, be sure to check them occasionally to make sure that the pages Google chooses make sense. If they don’t, be proactive with demoting them; otherwise you may be losing out on traffic.

Good luck :)

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  1. i alwasy get amazed... about it... thanks for sharing the post...

  2. Hello - thanks for this. I am trying to find the Sitelinks link on Google Webmaster Tools but I don't seem to have it?