Sitelinks (specifically Google Sitelinks) are links that appear together with a top ranking website for a particular search. Sitelinks don’t appear on every search query we perform, but can be ubiquitous for more niche yet popular search terms. They are randomly and automatically chosen by Google’s algorithm, as Google explains:
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.
The obvious advantage of Sitelinks is that if our site has one, it gets to show more than just one link Google usually does on typical search results. Google neatly displays links to important pages within our sites, something that other websites don’t get.
The follow up question now is how do we get Google Sitelinks on our site on search results?
Based on Google’s explanations and observations, here are some information and tips on how to get Google Sitelinks:
Google Sitelinks on websites are closely associated with branding and keyword ownership
Try searching for “nba” or “sesame street” you’ll find Sitelinks but not with “nba players” nor “sesame street characters”. As with these examples, Sitelinks are more likely to show up on single keyword terms than in multiples.
#1 Keyword ranking #1 on a consistent basis helps our sites obtain Sitelinks
If our website “owns” the keyword by consistently ranking on top for certain search phrases, that’s one key to getting Sitelinks. I say one key because not all sites that always show up on top for certain keywords automatically get Sitelinks. There are other factors, as described in subsequent points.
It takes years for most websites to achieve Sitelinks
Authority and trust factors are also measured in the number of years a website exists. For bigger sites that generate enough links and search volume for related terms, this case seems to get bypassed. But for most, it takes patience to achieve Sitelinks, the very same route a brand gets recognized and top keyword rankings stabilize.
There is a certain level of keyword demand to trigger Sitelinks
Just because we own brand terms doesn’t mean we certainly get Sitelinks. There should be a certain keyword volume level for these brand terms to warrant Google Sitelinks. This means that keywords that are not popular enough aren’t likely to result to Sitelinks. So for the example about “nba” and “nba players” I pointed above, note the disparity in terms of search queries for these two terms.
PageRank values for certain pages certain help
Presence of high PageRank web pages is likely to boost creation of Sitelinks.
Anchor text of outbound link associated to a website could influence Google Sitelinks
Optimized anchor text provides a hint to Google on what keywords are often associated with a particular web page. Google Webmasters has a tool (“What Googlebot sees”) to find out how external sites view our pages.
Rate at which a site gains external links and visitor traffic
If Google sees a gradual but consistent improvement in terms of inbound link quality and subsequent improvement
To summarize, Google Sitelinks are rewarded to sites that provide quality content to human visitors, as evidenced by growth in visitor traffic, brand recognition through improvement on brand related searches and established authority through quality of inbound links.