Google Sitelinks Demystified

I’m still amused by the various posts and discussions in webmaster forums regarding sitelinks in Google’s search results. We need to get past the misconception that the occurrence of sitelinks confers some sort of status upon a web site, and some how the webmaster or site owner is responsible for this as it’s some sort of achievement or reward for their link building or PageRank “sculpting” efforts.

I think it’s necessary to first understand the basics regarding Google and their search results. Google classifies search queries into three categories:

  • Navigational – someone searching for a site, such as IBM.
  • Informational – someone searching for information on a topic of interest, such as DIY (Do It Yourself).
  • Transactional – someone searching to complete a transaction, such as buying an iPod nano, or wanting to download a copy of Adobe Reader.

if you follow the links above, it should start to become apparent why Google displays sitelinks and for what type of search query. For those that still insist that it’s because a site is an authority, let’s look at Google’s information about the sitelinks displayed in some search results.

Google’s Webmaster Central Blog offers Information about Sitelinks:

“You may have noticed that some search results include a set of links below them to pages within the site. We’ve just updated our help center with information on how we generate these links, called Sitelinks, and why we show them.

Our process for generating Sitelinks is completely automated. We show them when we think they’ll be most useful to searchers, saving them time from hunting through web pages to find the information they are looking for. Over time, we may look for ways to incorporate input from webmasters too.”

Google’s Webmaster Help Center offers their explanation about sitelinks: How does Google compile the list of links shown below some search results?

The links shown below some sites in our search results, called sitelinks, are meant to help users navigate your site. 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.

We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.

At the moment, sitelinks are completely automated. We’re always working to improve our sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future.”

Once you make the simple connection that sitelinks appear for what are perceived as navigational queries, it’s easy to see why Google displays them, and it’s not because a site is considered an authority or enjoys any special status.

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