Google Announces Changes to Organic Sitelinks

Google recently announced a change to the appearance of their organic sitelinks. Organic sitelinks show under the first listing in the natural search results and are direct links to various pages within the particular domain. They are generated automatically by Google and not all websites will have sitelinks.

With the change announced by Google, the appearance and layout of the sitelinks has been updated to improve the search experience. Google does indicate that how sitelinks are generated has NOT changed. They will still be “generated and ranked algorithmically based on the link structure of your site, and they’ll only appear if useful for a particular query,” according to Google.

Let’s Break Down the New Sitelinks

Here is a quick snapshot to the changes you see:

  • Pronounced – Sitelinks are now the same size text (before they were in smaller text), with the green URL and a line of text below. This mimics the usual search results. Presumably this makes them easier to find or notice.
  • Optimized – With this change, sitelinks that are shown and their ranking can change based on the searchers query, which means more optimized results. Prior to this change, sitelinks were fixed, up to eight links were shown or not shown, regardless of the search query. Finally, up to 12 links can be shown, and again this is based on the search query.
  • Separation – In prior search results, pages for a particular domain would be show in the sitelinks, in subsequent natural results (position 2 or lower) or both. With this change, there is a clear distinction between the top domain and other domains. If the results show a top domain with sitelinks, all results below will be from different domains. So, while the top domain can physically take up more room on the page, other domains will have a chance to appear in positions two through ten. Note: one exception to this change is if the top result is for a subpart of a domain and all the sitelinks are part of the same subpart, other parts of the domain may show in subsequent results.
  • Unified Algorithm – By combining the components used to generate and rank sitelinks (link structure of websites) with Google’s traditional ranking, Google indicated they have created a unified algorithm. There is no longer a distinction between the traditional results and sitelinks anymore.

Sitelinks and Webmaster Tools

With the old version of sitelinks, site owners chose to block pages from the list of sitelinks generated.

Webmaster Tools has already been updated and site owners can continue to manage their sitelinks. The change in managing sitelinks through the Webmaster Tools is through “demotion” of pages that site owners do not want to appear as sitelinks. Keep in mind removal of these links are not guaranteed. With sitelinks varying over time and through individual queries, site owners will need to suggest parent pages to be “demoted.” Site owners can designate 100 demotions per website. Any pages that were blocked in the old system have been converted to demotions.

This change does not impact one-line sitelinks or paid search sitelinks.

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