Google’s Listings of Internal Site Links for Top Search Results

Sometimes when you see the top search result in Google, under it is a list of links to other pages on the same site. Ever wondered how and why that happens?

For example, a search for “wordpress” shows the wordpress.org page at the top of the search engine results page, with a link to the site, and a snippet of text from the wordpress home page. Then under that are links to other pages on that site, including; Download, Hosting, Extend, Blog, and “More results from wordpress.org.”

Here’s an image, from the US Patent and Trademark Office, of a result for the search “hp” which shows a link to the HP web site at the top of the results, and additional links to pages from that site:

image from the US Patent and Trademark Office showing a search results page with additional links from the top search result displayed.

I’ve had a few people ask me how Google does that, and while I could provide some ideas, I couldn’t provide more than that. Google published a patent application this week which gives a little more insight into the process.

Systems and methods for providing search results
Invented by Luis Castro, Walt Lin, and Benedict Gomes
US Patent Application 20060287985
Published December 21, 2006
Filed June 20, 2005

Abstract

A method includes generating search results in response to a user query, where at least one of the search results includes a group of links. The group of links may represent links to web pages within a same web site and may be identified based on at least one factor associated with the links. The method may also include providing the search results to the user.

The questions that I had as I first started looking at this document were:

  1. How are the pages included in the list chosen?
  2. Why show lists of links for some web sites, and not others?
  3. Is it always only the first search result that will show additional links?
  4. What can I do, if anything, that might make it easier for the search engine to add a list of links for a site?

Which Pages are Listed?

How does the search engine choose which pages to show in these sitelinks? The patent application tells us that those pages are the ones that searchers might most likely want to access.

This could be based upon a log file analysis which tells the search engine:

  • How many times the page has been accessed.
  • How long visitors stayed upon the page.
  • If a visitor scrolled down the page, or clicked on a link without scrolling down.
  • Information retrieval scores for the page, along with an indication of how good a match the page may be for the query that was used in the search.
  • The likelihood that someone might make a purchase on that page.
  • Other information that might indicate that someone would be interested in the page.

How are Pages Chosen to Have Lists?

One possibility is that the pages have enough traffic so that Google can make some meaningful choices regarding which additional pages to show for a site from a log file analysis.

That log file information would be used to create a map of the pages of a site, and maintain some quality score information about the pages like I’ve listed above. Other information could also be used, such as the number of links pointing to those pages from other web pages (the patent application doesn’t explicitly make a distinction here between internal site links or external ones).

What Determines the Ordering of Those Additional Links?

A map, or list, of pages from the site would be created which includes a quality measure associated with those pages. The quality measure may represent:

  • Popularity associated with a web page,
  • Likelihood that the information on a web page will be accessed by a user,
  • Likelihood that the information will be useful to a user submitting a search query, or;
  • Other factors associated with the quality of a web page.

The order of those pages in the list would be determined by the quality scores for the pages.

Where would the Search Engine Get the Log File Information?

The patent application describes how this mapping of pages, and assignment of quality scores works, and for this example uses information gathered from search engine and toolbar usage.

In the conclusion area of the patent application it notes that an alternative approach might be to allow the siteowner to identify what they believe might be the most important pages of the site:

It also notes that it might be possible, based upon different users’ past search histories, to provide different lists of links to different searchers.

Conclusion

It’s interesting, but not terribly surprising, that so much of the generation of these additional links are based upon user-behavior based information. The patent does note that it is only the top result they are showing these additional links for, so to have lists like this appear, it’s helpful to rank pretty well.

Beyond being number one, the first step in getting Google to show additional links from your site may be to get lots of traffic to your pages. It’s hard to tell how much is enough, but it has to be enough for them to think that this will be a good user experience for searchers to list those pages.

The second may be to have a core group of pages that tend to get visited more than other pages of the site – the only reason to list pages like this is if you are helping make it easier for searchers find what they may be looking for.

When someone visits the wordpress site, there is a small identifiable core group of things that they may want to do once there. When they visit the front page of Wikipedia or Digg, they may be interested in any number of pages. When you do a search for wordpress, you’ll see a list of links to additional pages under the wordpress site. When you search for Digg or Wikipedia, you don’t. (Both do have second indented results, which are relevant for the search term, with a link for “more results from” those sites – but that’s not the same thing.)

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104 thoughts on “Google’s Listings of Internal Site Links for Top Search Results”

  1. The funny thing about these sitelinks is that they have a rather stupid bug in them, f/i if you search for “yahoo”, the first sitelink goes to mail.yahoo.com, and the second result does too!

    Now how providing a link to the same page twice in one SERP is good usability, I don’t know :)

  2. They mention in the patent application that they may serve different links to different searchers.

    In my case, I’m seeing the following in a search for Yahoo:

    Mail – The best web-based email! – mail.yahoo.com/
    Finance – finance.yahoo.com/
    Radio – music.yahoo.com/
    Movies – movies.yahoo.com/
    More results from yahoo.com »

    So, no repeats here. I wonder why they gave you links to one page twice. Like you say, it’s not good from a usability stance.

  3. Sorry, I apologize.

    You mean the links to Yahoo mail in the sitelinks, and in the second unindented organic search result.

    Google tends to treat different subdomains as if they were different sites when showing organic listings, and the sitelink listing is treating that page as if it were the same site. So that issue revolves around how organic results serve subdomains.

    It isn’t necessarily good from a usability point, but it could be worse. :(

    I guess your point illustrates that these are two different indexes where results are being drawn from, and they do function on slightly different sets of assumptions.

  4. Yeah they do seem to be different. What I’m thinking though, since this is so heavily based on user behavior, it could be gamed I guess… The benefit wouldn’t be to high perhaps though :)

  5. And I have to say, from a user’s perspective, I like the way the sitelinks part seems to handle subdomains better than the “normal” way… Subdomains should be part of the same site…

  6. There probably are some checks in place to keep something like this from being gamed (checking IP addresses, looking at user sessions instead of individual user actions, and others).

    And the scale of user data that they look at before they would add a list of links like this to a site has to be on a pretty large scale.

    I’m not so convinced that subdomains should always be treated as if they were part of the same site.

    Many site owners create subdomains for branding purposes, or to address different needs and audiences, like Microsoft with separate subdomains for support and developers. I think it makes it easier for searchers in many instances (but maybe not all) to treat subdomains differently in organic search results.

  7. Thank you for this post. I always was interested in this funktion.
    I never clicked one of the links below, because I want to find an info myself AND the links dont show if there is really the info i´ve been searching for.

    One question, the function, where I see a result and right after this a result of the same site but a little bit more on the right (dont know how to explain this), how does this works? Is the answer for this question already known and I´m a Wannabe-Seo?

    Thanks a lot.
    Bill, congratulations for being nominated at Search Engine Journal. I voted for you, you are going to win!

  8. Hi Lukas,

    Thanks for your kind words. :)

    I’m not sure that I’ve ever clicked on one of those links either. But your comment about wanting to visit the site to find the information yourself reminds me of the User Interface Engineering (UIE) firm’s article about finding The Right Trigger Words. Sometimes the words used in a link make more sense in the context of the page, than out of context but within search results.

    One question, the function, where I see a result and right after this a result of the same site but a little bit more on the right (dont know how to explain this), how does this works?

    When there is more than one result from the same site that the search engine thinks is relevant from a site amongst the top set of results for a search, it will often move that second result up so that it is under the first result and is indented so that people can see quickly that it is from the same site.

    Those are usually referred to as “indented results.” I think that’s what you are referring to in your question. You can see them on Google, Live.com (MSN), and Ask.com. You’ll also see a link to “more results from this site” under the second result if there are even more pages relevant for that search from the same site.

    Yahoo doesn’t show indented results like that, but they usually have a link to “more from this site” after results that they show. That may just be the single result, or it may be more pages, if those pages are relevant for the query used.

    Thanks for the vote in the Search Engine Journal Awards. I don’t know that I will win – there are so many other blogs out there (nominated and not) that are worth voting for, that it makes me proud to be part of this industry.

  9. Bill,

    I know that you have posted, and we have discussed user intent, as it has been a hot topic around the patent office. But, ever since I first started to see these extra links show in the organic results, I have been trying to think of their purpose and have come up with two potential conclusions:
    1. this could be a response to gather data about what the users intent is when providing a specific query based upon users activity
    2. this could be a way to more effectively use the real estate on the results page because subsequent pages, even though indented, take more space than do the new sitelinks

    I would like to know what you think of this analysis.

  10. Hi Stephen,

    I think that’s a pretty good analysis, based upon a couple of excellent questions that could be useful for most changes to a search results page.

    A lot of the changes or query refinement suggestions that are put on a results page are likely watched very carefully, and log file analysis is conducted to see how people react to something like this. At least, that’s what Google’s Dan Russell has been saying in his presentations on how people search using Google.

    So here, we likely have Google looking carefully at what happens when people are provided additional links into a site itself, based upon what people have done previously when they’ve gone into that site. Will they use these additional links, or do they insist on going to the main results page?

    One of the papers on search queries tells us that there are at least three different types (A taxonomy of web search), informational, navigational, and transactional. Does that help us? If we assume that people will search for a company’s name to get to a page within a site, is this kind of search result refinement helpful for people using a navigational search?

    For people using a query in an informational manner, these results provide a sort of a preview. One of the criteria in the quality scores mentioned in the patent application is that a page may be something where people can make a purchase, So, there’s a shortcut to one of the most popular product/sales pages for people performing transactional queries.

    And the “more results from this page” link is in effect a sitemap to the site (not the “Google Sitemap” but rather more like one that a site builder might create), to encourage people to explore the other pages if the additional links weren’t quite what they were looking for.

    So, searchers get a number of additional links to view instead of just one, like they would with an indented result. It may also be a little more effective in telling those people whether or not that top result is a good match for what they are trying to find, and it might meet some of the possible objectives of a searcher, based upon those different query types. It looks like it is potentially a better use of the limited real estate on a search result page. Of course, that might be determined by what they see when they start analyzing lots of clicks and other user behavior.

    Yes, your analysis had me looking at the process in that patent in a helpful way.

    Cheers.

  11. These sitelinks are another great reason to create some good filenames that people will be happy to click on.

  12. Good point, mad4.

    That crossed my mind, too. The user interface for these sitelinks don’t provide snippets from the pages, but they do display the URL for them.

    And that might influence whether or not someone will click on one of those links. A “pretty” URL, (http://www.example.com/support.htm as opposed to http :// www . example.com/?pid=444&?qid=ytur&?cat=34 when someone is looking for a support page) might make a difference between whether someone will click on a link or not.

  13. This is absolutely comprehensive information that I ever read about the Google sitelinks.

    My experience about this context is that the keyword that is mostly targetted in my site doesnt show the sitelinks on SERPs, whereas the term that is not targetted but a competitive one shows the sitelinks on Google SERPs.

    In addition to this, the competitors though Authority sites such as Verisign etc are not listed for that keyword.

    On conclusion, I would say that the process is purely inclined upon the way the pages navigated and are linked to internal and external sites.

  14. Hi Narshimhan,

    Thank you. I think you are right on some of the limitations of how sitelinks are used. They seem to be more likely to be used for very popular query terms, where a lot of people search for those terms, and information can be collected about how people use the pages of the site in the top result.

    Some sites aren’t organized and linked internally in a manner which makes them good candidates for the use of sitelinks, and the number of links both internally and externally to the pages may determine whether or not a page/link appears as a sitelink.

    The “authority” of a page or site may only play a role in whether or not a page appears as the top role, but doesn’t otherwise appear to be a factor in the decision to show sitelinks or not for a page. (For example, the wikipedia may be considered an authority site possibly, but it’s probably not a good candidate for sitelinks since those probably wouldn’t be much of a help to searchers.)

    It’s good to hear of your experiences with, and your observations about sitemaps. Thank you for sharing them – much appreciated.

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  17. Thank you very much for providing such a useful information which I’ve been looking for a long time.

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  19. Can rule out size of site as a major factor, I’ve seen sites as small as 135 pages with SiteLinks. Age hasn’t been mentioned yet as a factor in whether SiteLinks will appear or not, and it is definitely a factor in sites that I have seen. Obviously with age comes all the other factors, but I reckon its part of the mix.

    If part of the selection of SiteLinks is popularity, doesn’t this lead to a circle in which the most popular pages get placed, get clicked on, grow in popularity, and so on?

  20. Thanks, C.G.

    The popularity factor would lead to the conclusion that this is indeed a matter of the rich getting richer. Of course, if the only sites showing sitelinks are the ones at the top of the results, than relevance still plays a role (though ranking that highly is usually a matter of both relevance and popularity – at least popularity in terms of links to a site).

    I’ve seen more than a couple of sites that weren’t terribly large showing sitelinks, too. Age may play a role.

  21. William, nice set of posts here. We have been gathering some stats on Google’s sitelink feature (we have one of those listings for “Wave Shoppe”). I was wondering if you have any web stats on whether or not these sitelink listings actually lead to increased conversions (that is what its all about).

    These listings are intriguing because we did not receive ours until we completed a certain phase of development. But I can say that I am relatively certain that the website does not have to be very big, as previously mentioned by another poster.

    William I would be happy to chat with you as share some notes, drop me an email.

    Charles

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  23. There seems to be a lot of question around the idea of if sitelinks help improve your click through. From an SEO perspective, there is one obvious benefit. It gives your site more real estate in the SERPS, pushing your closest competitor further down on the page. So while you may not see increased traffic to the specific sub pages that have sitelinks, I think it is safe to assume that you will get a better click through overall if you have these “enhanced” listings in google.

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  25. Thanks for the insight into sitelinks – this is exactly what I was looking for. Google is such a mystery that anything helps to un-muddy the waters. (And thanks to those who commented as well… I found the comments almost as enlightening at the post itself.)

  26. In addition to the ‘user-driven data’, the structure of the website and how the pages are linked may also affect the sitelinks.

    And perhaps size is an issue too. I wonder what the lower limit would be.

  27. Hi Shirley,

    There may be a number of factors that weren’t spelled out in the patent filing that do influence which links to pages appear in sitelinks. Usually, a patent will provide enough details to give people reading an idea of what is covered, but not enough so that anyone could go out an copy what they might be doing.

  28. Hi boer,

    I’ve been seeing more and more search results with sitelinks, even for smaller web sites and smaller businesses. It’s possible that some of the results are determined manually, perhaps for sites identified as the best results for queries that might be determined to be navigational in nature. But, given the size of the web, it’s hard to believe that a good amount of the creation of sitelinks isn’t automated in some manner.

    Sitelinks are an attempt to deliver people to a final destination on a site, by giving those searchers a chance to go quicky to a page that seems like one they might be most interested in finding. I’ve experimented with something similar, with a set of “quick links” on ecommerce pages that deliver people to the most popular/useful pages on that site. Extending that idea to search results seems like a good idea.

  29. These site links are very useful.
    I wish there were more solid rules and more widespread knowledge of how to achieve them tbough!

  30. Thank you for this very informative info. I have been looking how I could do this with the Sea Cadets site. The site is currently listed No1 for Plymouth Sea Cadets, however does not have the site links below it. Although a user who types in this key phrase will want to go to this site I very much doubt there will be enough traffic for google to value it enough to qualify for sitelinks.

    Sea Cadets

  31. Hi Sea Cadets,

    You’re welcome. It’s possible that Google may provide site links to the site, in the future, regardless of the amount of traffic. The idea behind the site links is to provide a shortcut to pages that the search engine might think are helpful to visitors, and if your site appears to be the ideal destination for visitors on a search for that query, it just might add a set of site links under a link to your page.

  32. Thanks William for your response. I think one problem I have is that there are no links to any of the other pages. All external links point to the home page.

  33. Hi Sea Cadets,

    It looks like you have some work to do ahead of you building some content on those deeper pages to attract people to link to them. Your “News” and “Marine Cadets” pages have no main content so far, and while your gallery has a few pictures, your forum hasn’t seen much activity either.

    Maybe you can get some of the cadets, and some of the adult volunteers working on creating some content for those pages. Their involvement might be enough to make a difference. I’d recommend taking what appears to be a problem now, and making it an opportunity – by having the cadets work on it, and building something that they can be proud of, you might just end up with a nicer site than you anticipated. Relatively inconsequential things, like whether or not you have site links showing up in Google may just end up following naturally out of your efforts.

  34. Pingback: VPRO_Kenniscentrum » Blog Archive » Google’s automagische Sitelinks, soms een beetje zwarte magie ;)
  35. Hi Bill,

    Google lists internal site links only for the Top 1 search result and that means a website must be highly relevant and must have a lot of links and deeplinks (what of course takes sometime and effort). But why take this effort when a website is far away from being Top1 for the most relevant keywords?
    If a website is on Top1 there is just one benefit from the SEO point of view: A Top1 search result listing with indented internal site links is just bigger and gets more attention and twice as much clicks because it’s partly indented. That’s it.
    The point is that you can easily achieve the same effect (twice as much clicks) just by creating double indented listings in the search results for every position in the search results and not only for Top1.
    Just identify one of your page indexed and ranking then create a second page linking to the first which uses the same and/or similar primary keywords as the first one. To do this for the Top10 keywords of a website and the according already ranking pages is more easy to achieve and takes much less time.

  36. Thanks very much, Zev.

    I probably should go into more details here on the differences between domain collapsing and sitelinks here, because it could be easy to confused the concepts.

    Sitelinks are more focused on query terms that Google might believe are navigational queries, where people are trying to find a specific site or page on that site. The sitelinks only show up in the top result for a query, and the links to pages inside the site appear to be what a search engine might consider “destination” pages. That is, pages that it might be more likely than not that a searcher might like having a shortcut to in the search results for a specific query.

    For example, a search on the term “wordpress” shows a number of sitelinks to pages on the wordpress site that searchers might likely want to go to directly, such as the download page and the support forums. Those pages may not be the most relevant pages on the web for “wordpress,” but they may just be the pages that searchers for that term may want to see at the top of the search results.

    Here are the main differences I see in a nutshell:

    Domain Collapsing = pages from the same domain that are most relevant for a term (in the top x number of search results), grouped together

    Sitelinks = navigational shortcuts to inside pages of a domain for the top result page on a query term considered by the search engine to be navigational in nature.

  37. The subject is very interesting for me because I’ve been thrown into disarray by how Google ranks and shows my site. I’ve got the main site and the blog inside the main one. Google UK at the moment (Feb 2009) shows 2 entries: main (site) and sub-entry (blog). The blog is original, I type entries myself, so everything’s cool there.

    Now, Google US (.com/ncr) shows only one entry – for the blog – but shows two entries for the Romainian site with the same name. How could you explain that? I don’t really understand it but I’m happy anyway ’cause I work only with the UK clients at this time.

    George

  38. Hi George,

    This doesn’t sound like a site links issue that you are experiencing as much as it does a display of search results based upon what Google might think is your country of choice based upon the version of Google that you’ve searched with.

    I’ve written a little about that in another post:

    Changing Google Rankings in Different Countries for Different Searchers.

    When using the co.uk version of Google, the results look like they favor your site more than when using the .com version. Since “.com” is supposed to be more global than tied to a specific country, having Romanian results make an appearance might not be completely unreasonable.

    Why show your main page, and not your blog’s main page in the .com version of Google? It’s possible that Google may be seeing your blog tied more closely with the UK audience than a global audience, and may be trying to diversify the .com results it presents by including a broader set of global results.

  39. William,
    I don’t disagree that Google UK favours UK sites – it’s always been the case, this is why I don’t like it sometimes and use Google.com/ncr to get true results. The thing I don’t understand is why it preferes /blog/ over the root on the global site and doesn’t show both like it does for the UK. I would not say that both of them somehow tend to be UK-bound. There are articles about UK and the pound and my local info but some respectful american site can write about that too, right? Or a matter is simply in the page rank (/blog/ has 3 at the moment and the root has 2)? Sometimes I get really confused about this ’cause I don’t understand what’s behind this ranking. But as I said before I’m happy for it to be this way.

    George

  40. Hi George,

    PageRank might have something to do with it, but there might just be other things that influence what you’re seeing as well. For instance, a couple of the factors that are mentioned in the post that I linked to in my earlier response to you involved the country location of pages that you might link to, or be linked from.

    Are many of the posts to your blog from other sites primarily in the UK? How frequently do you link to sites outside of the UK? Those are two factors that they mention, but other things influence what Google is showing as well.

    Thanks for bringing your situation up though. It’s a topic worth paying attention to.

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  42. Hello. this is a strange story but I once had a very small website hacked by a mambo hacker and I only noticed it when I saw that my website would show on search results with the additional links that we are speaking about here.

    While deleting the hackers work, I noticed he masked my site with a version of his own in PHP. He also was running thousands of random htm. files for god knows what reason.

    My website is for a tiny business that does not bring in much traffic and is not an ecommerce site.

    How did this hacker get my site to show additional links on the organic? Would be a nice trick to know.

  43. Hi Christian,

    Sorry to hear about the troubles that you had. It is interesting that you noticed that you had been hacked based upon the site links that started showing up for your site. You may want to start paying attention to your log files, to see what searches people are coming to your site for – that might help identify problems like that as well.

    Unfortunately, there may be a number of different ways that the hacker may have gotten access to your site.

  44. Hey Bill,

    I have been hunting in the internet, to find out what those links are called. I stumbled on your site and yelled “YES!” when I found this article. It and the other article you did about Yahoo Site Links are very helpful. Thank you for writing them.

    May I ask, is there yet any definitive way to get these links on one’s site apart from being chosen by search engines?

  45. Hi Tracy

    I’m happy to hear that my post was able to answer some of your questions about site links and quick links.

    There is no way to apply for, or ask the search engines to show site links for your site, but there are things that you can do that might make it more likely that they will.

    1. If it looks like people are trying to find your site specifically, by typing in a phrase that looks like a navigational query, you stand a better chance of having site links show up. This may be your site name or business name or a product or service name that is very closely tied to your business. For example, I’ll type in “espn” into a search box to get to the espn web site.

    2. The more search engine friendly your site is, the better chance you have of a search engine understanding your different pages and what they contain.

    3. If your main navigation uses text links pointing to pages rather than images of text, that can make it easier for search engines to understand the content of those links, and consider them as navigation to use in site links.

    My post points out some things that a search engine might consider when it is considering whether or not to include site links for your site, such as the popularity of pages, and how useful a page might appear to be to potential visitors.

  46. I work for quite a large blue-chip company and have been looking at over 20 of our European sites that are quite similar to see how they appear in their local Google searches, and looking at just Google’s own data provided by Google search results and Google Webmaster Tools.

    About half of the sites have Google Site Links, so given that the sites are similar in design and structure it gives me a reasonable way to see what could or could not be responsible for making Google Site Links appear.
    That said the volume of content from one country to another does differ greatly, so these are are only rough impressions.

    Here’s some interesting things that I discovered:
    1) Those sites that don’t have site links don’t appear position #1 in a search for the brand name
    …kind of expected but worth pointing out

    2) If I do a Google search for site:www.mysite.xx for each site, then only those sites with the home page listed as the first result have site links
    …this suggests that getting the home page to #1 is relevant

    3) Those sites that don’t have sitelinks have home pages with basic Tags that just give the brand name, 95% of the sites that do have sitelinks do have longer more descriptive tags
    …this suggests that Title tags are in some way related

    4) The number of links in doesn’t appear to directly contribute (some have less than 200 and sitelinks, but some have more than 10,000 and no sitelinks)
    …although quality of links hasn’t been measured

    5) People have said that site age could be a contributing factor although a 2 year old site has sitelinks and some similar 10 year old sites don’t
    …so it may be a factor, but I’d say that factors contribute with greater strength

    6) People have said that the number of pages could be a factor although a site with 700 pages indexed by Google has sitelinks and two with 6000 indexed pages do not.
    …again, could be a factor, but again I think other things contribute with greater strength

    Hope you find this information useful.
    Having said that I hope it doesn’t give away any secrets as to how site links appear, as I really think these things should be as natural as possible and it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to cheat :o)

  47. Hi Nick,

    Thank you very much for sharing your observations. I appreciate your telling us about your experiences with these additional links that show up under search results.

    The primary purpose behind sitelinks seems to be to help searchers who are conducting navigational queries, and they pretty much have been limited to the top search results for a specific query, though Google has recently started showing some smaller (4 links or less) set of sitelinks on some results that aren’t at the top of the search results.

    If a site has been somehow deemed to be an ideal match for a “navigational” query, and is at the top of the search results, Google will show site links for it. If I search for [seo by the sea] or [bill slawski], I see this site at the top of the results, and sitelinks appear with it, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a brand name that triggers site links.

    It’s hard to tell if Titles are related to site links, but it doesn’t hurt to have good titles for pages regardless.

    Interesting observation about the number of inlinks to a site – I’m not sure if they have any relevance to the appearance of site links either. The focus does seem to be whether or not a page is a good match for a navigational query – and the number of links pointed towards a page, the age of a page, and the number of pages on a site might be considered in that determination, but I’m not sure that they matter much if a page isn’t a good fit for a query term that appears to be navigational in nature.

    When I search for [wordpress] or [espn], those queries are clearly navigational in nature – it’s a good bet that I want to see wordpress.org or the ESPN home page when I perform those searches. So, whatever criteria that makes it more likely that a page should be associated with a query that appears to be navigational in nature should be what a search engine will look for.

    Have you looked much at the query terms (in addition to just brand names) that people tend to find the sites with, and tried to identify terms that might appear to be navigational in nature – and then tried to see if site links appear for those pages if they happened to be at the top of search results for those terms?

  48. Hi,
    one month ago we changed the naming of the menus on the website, but the sitelinks still do not get updated and stay with the old words we used for the menu. Are they updated and what time it takes? Can somebody give me a hint? In Google webmaster tools there is only information how to block certain sitelinks but not how to update them.

  49. Hi Aleksandra,

    I have seen updates to sitelinks, and I’ve blocked a few that I didn’t think had very good titles. When blocking a sitelink, you can provide reasons why you are blocking them. But there isn’t a way of updating them, as you mention.

    When it comes to things like changes to the information behind sitelinks, I haven’t seen those changes take place quickly. I can’t give you any information on how long it might take Google to make changes. It’s possible that blocking the sitelinks that you want changed, and then unblocking them might cause Google to look at the new names in the menus, but I can’t guarantee that in any way.

  50. Hi Herts,

    Thanks. At the time that I wrote this post originally, I’m don’t believe that Google had yet started giving us the opportunity to block the sitelinks that they had chosen. Google doesn’t allow people to choose sitelinks, but they do allow siteowners to block specific sitelinks that Google has chosen.

  51. Not sure wether this has been mentioned in all the above comments, but it’s possible to change these links (known as site links) can be choosen from within Google Webmaster Toolkit

  52. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks. That’s a very good issue to raise. I have seen sites that have lower pageranks than that with sitelinks. While Google has started giving search results that don’t rank number one some alternative style sitelinks, or quicklinks, sitelinks tend to be the top listing in a set of search results, and very relevant for a navigational query. For a site to even be listed at or near the top of search results, it should have some amount of PageRank (even though there are many other ranking signals that will determine the ordering of pages in search results). So, PageRank may have something to do with whether a site has sitelinks, but it could also be a coincidence.

    Google has not allowed people to “craft” which links show, but they do allow you to block sitelinks that you don’t like using webmaster tools. The two things aren’t the same, unfortunately.

  53. I’ve noticed that once a page gets around a PR4-PR5 that it always has sitelinks as long as google can find the structure. Anything I have had below PR4, has been an on-off-on-off when checking the sitelinks. It’s nice google has now allowed you to “craft” which links show, so you can help them and your visitors out when they are looking for something specific on your site.

  54. I noticed something of that in a major way when doing a zolaenterprises search on google then it had the cam links, video page and alot of pages off that site. I also found something else interesting. I put just the word zolaenterprises in my firefox browser and forgot to enter .com after it. The site came up on its own even after I cleared cookies and things.
    Any idea how that is possible? I was only finding that works with major sites or seems ones with the most traffic under such terms.

  55. @Bill Slawski
    @Aaron

    Nice points fellas, I did a bit of searching around and managed to find the query “Timber Yard” that returns a site with a page rank of 1 and still has the one-line “mini” sitelinks. So I’m pretty sure page rank is unrelated.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=Timber+Yard

    Also, the site has only 29 backlinks and no relevant anchor text, so I suppose those factors can be disregarded as well as PR.

    The site does have a DMOZ listing, so link authority may be a factor, but I assume that sitelinks are gained when a site sits in first place and has a high CTR, mainly because Google has said that sitelinks were created to enhance usability.

    Nick@One Original

  56. Hi Nick,

    I’m not presently seeing sitelinks for a site under a search for Timber Yard, but I don’t doubt that you did when you performed your search.

    The Official Google Blog had a post last year on those one-line sitelinks where they told us that they might use them for pages that don’t show up at the top of search results, unlike the two-column sitelinks that usually only show up for pages at the first result.

    Sitelinks aren’t limited to sites with high pageranks and high traffic amounts. The ultimate goal behind showing sitelinks, whether one-line or two-column is to make it easier for searchers to find a specific page, usually in response to a navigational-type query.

  57. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the reply, I have just performed the same search on a different computer and got the same result, so I assume you may be fetching from a different data centre or something?!!

    As an addition, I have been looking through sites with sitelinks and every one I have come accross so far has a DMOZ listing! Coincidence? Probably!! Haha, but Im going to try and find one without to ease my mind! I thought I was onto a winner finding Ronan Keiting’s website, but turns out he’s listed!

    Hope you’re well!

    Nick

  58. Hi Nick,

    Thanks. I hope you’re doing well, too.

    It is quite possible that I’m viewing results from a different data center, just as my results and yours might be customized in a slightly different fashion as well based upon things like location.

    Interesting observations on the DMOZ listings. I would guess that is a coincidence, but it’s possible that Google uses sites like DMOZ as a starting point for crawling webpages, so it wouldn’t be surprised if there were some connection. I’d imagine that there are sites with sitelinks that aren’t listed in DMOZ – but now that you raised the issue, I might start checking to see if the sites I see with those links are also listed in the Open directory.

  59. A ‘little’ off topic… Smart thinking! I didn’t even think to look for patents that Google has applied for. I’m always documenting these types of finds and I’ve gathered a pile of data, but I never thought to look there for some reason – go figure :)

  60. Hi Edwin,

    I had been looking at some of Google’s patents, but really started to get into searching through them more methodically back in March of 2005, when Google’s patent application on Information Retrieval through Historical Data was published. I’m not sure I could even guess at this point how many search related patent filings I’ve read since then.

  61. Hi Bill,

    I have done some research on it. I found there are 2 possibilities

    1. Having H1 tags on the links

    2. Having on the links.

    But there is no definite answer about how to get your chosen links as sitelinks.

  62. Hi John,

    While Google might consider using anchor text found in headings and lists as sitelinks, I’m not sure that’s an absolute requirement. Some links found on pages that are laid out in tables might also be possible choices as well. Formatting may matter, but I think there are other considerations as well.

  63. hi bill,
    this has been a very interesting blog for me (I am not an SEO expert by any means, but find SEO very interesting). I have managed to create a site which shows with site links (purely by accident may I add). So here my story!
    I paid £10000′s to so-called SEO companies over the years to get my site to page 1 of google. But all the effort and money didn’t pay off. In fact it had NO impact on my rankings.
    So I went back to the drawing board so to speak and decided that rather than trying to rank highly for an entire industry in an entire city (london), I would try to rank highly for one section of my industry in my city. Simple I thought!
    My next step was to create The most informative webpage about the given subject ( I could not do this alone, so involved several professional article writters to create a huge amount of original content for the site.

    I mixed and matched their bits and incorporated my bits. At this point I had very useful and unique content on my site (my site only had 4 pages at this point).
    Within 2 weeks my site showed up positions 1 and 2 of page1 of google!!! Great this is exactly what I was aiming for!!
    Soon however I found myself scrutinising my own site, and found what I considered loads of faults with the content. My site was wayyyy to focused on 1 small part of the industry. I had loads of hits on the site, but only a few calls!!! frustrating.
    Rather than simply adding the so-called omitted information to the existing 4 pages, I proceeded to create very content rich, informative and useful pages about the same part of the industry (just from different perspectives if i can put it that way). soon I had over 40 pages on my site.

    This is when things started to happen!
    My site was on page 1 of google 6 times, and several times on pages 2, 3, 4 etc. Virtually all my dreams had come true lol.
    This continued for I suppose about six or so months.
    Then one day it alll changed instantly. I had only 1 listing on page1 of google (but with 7 site links below)!!

    So from my perspective, I think in order to get a site to show with site links, you must provide the consumer (google searcher) with authoritive, useful, unique, better quality information on the given subject than any of your competitors! (this at least is the way it went for me).

    The downside however is, the number of calls i receive went down at this final stage as well!!

  64. I like your conclusion! I thought these sites had made some kind of pact with Google. These internal links is a super advantage for the top ranked sites since most people follow that link, or at least I do… I guess that is because it looks more professional and well recognized with those extra links.

  65. Hi William,

    I can see how people might think that sitelinks might be the result of some agreement between Google and the site they are displayed for, but that’s definitely not the case. They do tend to make a site with sitelinks look like they are some kind of authority for a specific query.

  66. I have noticed when I get an internal page to rank well my main domain gets dragged up with it and sometimes I get a double listing. Other times it is not so. I was wondering what is the criteria for getting a double listing in google? Any answers would be appreciated.

  67. Hi Timothy

    There are a few possible ways to get a double listing for your site in Google search results. You could have more than one page which rank well for a result, or it’s possible that Google thinks there’s an entity included in your query (A specific person, place, or thing, including possibly a brand), and assumes that you are trying to do a site search. I’ve written about these in other posts:

    Domain Collapsing, Indented Pages, and Search Results
    Google’s Show More Results (Plusbox) Patent

  68. One of my niche sites was showing sitelinks and I was curious as to what would have qualified to be given such treatment from Google. Site is no. 1 on a tough ranking keyword, is 2 years old and has a lot of traffic and the 3 sitelinks were highly visited. So looks like you are quite right in your educated guessing on what Google looks for. Thanks for sharing.

  69. Hi Peter,

    You’re welcome. I actually think Google has made some changes from what is described in this patent. Will be investigating and probably writing about that sometime in the future.

  70. Great article, it has help us a lot with our SEO activities(Optimeez, a french SEO tool). Sitelinks are indeed taking a LOT of space in the SERP and must really be taken into account!

  71. I really think how you structure your site can give you an edge in Google displaying the sitelinks.The site that got me the (3)sitelinks was built using xsitepro with only keywords as the post title showing on the sidebars. My xsitepro sites look very different from my sites using WP. Well just a guess.

  72. Hi Peter,

    Chances are that how your structure your site does play something of a role in what Google might decide to display as sitelinks. But that’s probably not the only thing, as I pointed out in this post.

  73. It also seem to be a difference where the page shows up. If it’s on page one i the SERP, it will show site links as long as it has an acceptable structure, but if it’s for example on page 6, it will not. Exactly the same webpage, but different search words.

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