The expansion of sitelinks is just another huge change Google has made to search engine results in the past year. I touched on this two weeks ago, but wanted to go in depth with examples of how this latest change could make, break, or be a totally neutral play to your website. To end it on a happy note, we’ll start with the Cons:
If you’re a reseller or affiliate, you just got cut bad. Whether you resell DirecTV or Yokohama tires, Google just made it harder for eyes to get on your site. 12 sitelinks plus a wikipedia result then their twitter page makes their first page real estate go way up and affiliate/reseller visibility go way down.
BRANDED SEARCH THAT ISN’T BRANDED
Search for “natural area rugs” or “compact appliances”. Google is betting that people are looking for www.naturalarearugs.com and www.compactappliance.com. This type of assumption could be incorrect and they might need to tweak it a bit. I’ll cover how they’re actually doing a good job of this in the Positives section below.
While it’s better than just the shortened sitelinks we were accustom to seeing, Google will only show 35 characters of your meta description. Not a terrible negative, but you’ll want to make sure the descriptions showing make sense and are unique. I’ll go over below how unique meta descriptions are less of a best practice suggestion and more of a necessity now.
GIVING CREDIT TO THE BRANDS
Brands deserve to rank well for their own names. There are few things more frustrating than having an affiliate, wikipedia page, or some other site show up ahead of your own domain for a branded search. In the same way it’s a negative for affiliates/resellers, it’s a big positive for the true company.
GIVING OPTIONS TO THE SEARCHER
While it’s going to create more analysis on the analytics end, this change should be helpful for the searcher, which is what Google is usually all about. By adding up to 12 sitelinks, Google is helping users cut down on the time they are spending searching. Better results + less time searching = well….who knows what people will do with the extra time.
BRANDED SEARCH INTENT
While results can be a little off, I think Google did a decent job bringing back sitelinks for truly branded searches.
If I search for diapers, I’ll get two sitelinks from www.diapers.com:
Diapers.com is a pretty big brand and they sell diapers. This is definitely a relevant result, but Google is still hedging their bet with only two sitelinks that diapers.com is the destination the searcher wanted.
If I search for diapers.com, I’ll get twelve sitelinks:
This shows that Google has some degree of branded search intent & adjust sitelinks accordingly.
Another example is searching for Brown Shoe. This brings back 10 sitelinks for www.brownshoe.com. Google isn’t willing to put their entire stamp of approval that the intent is 100% branded, but they’re pretty sure it is.
A search for BrownShoe.com brings back 12 sitelinks, showing Google stamps this as a 100% branded search intent.
The last search for Brown Shoes is a relief, as Google DOESN’T SHOW ANY SITELINKS for this search. Hoorayyyyy
IMPORTANCE OF UNIQUE TITLE TAG & META DESC
Sites now have up to 13 calls to action they can make on a branded search. If your site currently has the same meta description or title tag on every single page, Google might just show the same one over & over again. A search for Facebook shows how the meta description for 9 of their sitelinks is the same.
It’s not as damaging in this example, but if you’re someone like BCBG and have the same meta description “Shop The Summer 2011 Collection…” for the Footwear, Evening Affair, Tops, Handbags, Bottoms, Apparel & Store Locator pages, you might be missing out on a higher conversion rate.
USING PLACES PAGES
Google is including pictures in Places page which are showing up under sitelinks. This could be 12 sitelinks plus three images from your Places page, creating monster ownership of first page results for branded searches.
SEER realized that we have videos on our Places page, but no photos.
We quickly inserted some pictures and within a few hours we had pics in our Places listing.
The expansion of sitelinks was only launched full time yesterday, so no one can be an expert on this just yet. The impact will be analyzed and we’ll get out the true Negatives, Positives & Neutrals in a few weeks. Look for it on here or posted through twitter @adammm or @seerinteractive.
As always, we’d love to hear other takeaways and even some speculations posted below if they’re sound.