New Google Sitelinks: More Space on the Results Pages for Your Brand

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August 23, 2011
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August 30, 2011

New Google Sitelinks: More Space on the Results Pages for Your Brand


Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Natural Search Specialist

What’s the deal with Google’s new brand sitelinks?

Just last week, Google expanded its sitelinks program for brand searches.  For example, when you do a search for “Nike” you will see that virtually the entire Google search results page is filled with links to different pages on the Nike site:

Sitelinks1 
These sitelinks put popular brands in a pretty awesome position.  It used to be that if another site was better optimized than yours, it might receive top ranks for brand searches, while your site would be in second place or even lower. This has happened more than once, actually.

Now, when someone searches for your brand, your site will have most of the real estate on the search page; people will have to scroll down if they want to see any other results than pages from your site.  This gives your site a great advantage for brand search visibility. If someone’s looking for your brand, they’ll find your site.

Google wrote a post with more details about its site links.

For brand searches, sites can have from eight to twelve links appear in the Google results, and each result will have its own title tag, URL, and brief description snippet.
Apparently, the more certain Google is that a query contains a brand intention, the more sitelinks will appear.  The example Google uses is a search query “The Met” vs. “The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”  If you search for “The Met,” Google is reasonably sure that you’re looking for information about the Metropolitan Museum at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City, so it’ll put up eight sitelinks for this site: 

Sitelinks2 

Towards the bottom of the search results for “The Met” they’ll show links to the Metropolitan Opera (also in New York) just in case you might have meant that:

Sitelinks3 
In contrast, if you search for “Metropolitan Museum of Art,” then Google is about as sure as it can be of your intent, and you will see not eight, but twelve sitelinks.  (Interestingly, you get less sitelinks if you search for “the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” or “Metropolitan Museum New York”):

Sitelinks4 

 Where Are You Keeping Your Content?

A couple things occurred to us here at Performics about ensuring sitelink visibility for your brand.  First, it will probably help if the majority of your brand’s content is centralized on a single site.  For example, if you search for “Coca Cola” or “Coke,” you won’t see sitelinks.  It’s not because the site isn’t popular; instead, the Coca Cola company has spread its content out across several sites, including coca-cola.com, thecoca-colacompany.com, cokeusa.com, mycoke.com, and many other subdomains.  It’s possible that because the Coca Cola company’s content is so decentralized, Google isn’t able to create a good set of sitelinks. (Not that Coke’s really in danger of having some other site come up #1, of course…)  Another barrier to good sitelinks is keeping content in Flash, JavaScript, or some other technology Google finds difficult to parse.

Is Your Brand a Verb?

Second, there may be a benefit if your brand name happens to be a verb or an action related to your product or service.  For example, suppose you’re a typical search engine user and you’re interested in kayaking on the ocean; you might enter a search term like “Ocean Kayak,” right?  Well, if you do, you will see twelve sitelinks on Google for the “Ocean Kayak” brand.  This shows the power of brand names (and centralized content, e.g. OceanKayak.com).  If you search for “Ocean kayaking,” however, you won’t see the sitelinks; presumably this is because Google is less certain you’re looking for the brand.

Depending on how companies use this potential, Google may review certain sitelinks in the future.  It may be possible for companies to name themselves after popular verbs or actions solely to get search visibility.  As a completely crazy-go-nuts example, what if some company out there decided to call itself “Kidney Health”?  In informational-based search queries such as “Kidney Health,” could sitelinks to this imaginary website crowd-out links to legitimate health resources such as the National Kidney Foundation?  This is unlikely, of course; sites would have to accumulate an extraordinarily large number of backlinks to beat out kidney.org.  For less competitive keywords, however, who can tell?

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