Organic sitelinks are an important part of your SEO strategy. They give you additional opportunities to capture traffic and enhance your visibility in the increasingly competitive organic search results pages.
As an SEO professional, I've witnessed the dynamic nature of search engines over the years, and Google sitelinks are no exception.
Today, I’ll go over what sitelinks are, how they’ve evolved to accommodate shifting search behaviors and what you can do to encourage Google to list them for you.
What are Organic Sitelinks?
Organic sitelinks are links that appear beneath the main listing for a website in Google's search results. They help users navigate to important pages quickly and easily, improving their overall experience.
These links provide additional information about the site and may include subheadings, contact details, reviews and other helpful information.
Below is an example of a Google search for “Amazon.” Underneath the primary listing, which goes to Amazon’s homepage, you can see links to major sections of the site and (presumably) a list of the most visited pages. Having these pages accessible from the search results removes a few steps for the user and simplifies their experience with the site.
Benefits of Organic Sitelinks
One of the main benefits of organic sitelinks is that they help improve your visibility in the search results – this is partly because your listing now takes up more space on the page. It’s a bit of a cheat code to improve brand recognition.
However, as Google experiments with new search experiences, like Generative AI, businesses have to get more creative to earn a seat at the table. If AI becomes the new norm for web-based search, which it likely will, websites must do far better than simply following SEO best practices.
Earning sitelinks is a sign that Google can read and understand your website and determine which pages are most valuable to users. If it can do that, your site will be in a much better place to handle future changes to the search experience.
Long story short, sitelinks help you:
- Adapt to changes in Google’s search experience
- Build trust through enhanced brand recognition
- Increase click-through rates, potentially also leading to increased conversions
- Provide greater value to site visitors and improve their search experience
How to Earn Sitelinks
The key word here is “earn.” That’s right, you can’t choose whether Google pulls sitelinks into your search results; they are generated by Google’s ever-changing algorithms. However, you can influence Google to display them.
It sounds like a bit of a gamble. However, regardless of whether you get sitelinks out of your efforts, you will still be making valuable improvements to your site and helping Google grasp your site's content and understand the purpose each page serves. To increase your chances of earning sitelinks, you can:
- Optimize your site content
- Refine your site structure
- Implement structured data
- Submit your sitemap
1. Optimize Your Site Content
To encourage Google to generate organic sitelinks, optimize your site content. Ensure your content is well-researched, well-written and provides unique insights or solutions. Content that stands out and provides exceptional value is more likely to attract attention and earn sitelinks.
You should also review the finer details, like your linking practices, heading tags and metadata.
Linking refers to creating hyperlinks that connect different pages or content within the same website. Are you linking to words like “click here”? This text is too vague to be helpful to crawlers; the more detailed your hyperlinks, the better!
Metadata provides high-level information about your webpage. Incorporate relevant keywords and descriptive context within each page's meta title and meta description to differentiate pages that might be similar and give crawlers a clear picture of what each page is about.
Heading tags structure the content within the webpage. Use clear and descriptive headings (H1, H2, etc.) to help search engines and users understand the hierarchy and organization of your information. ALT tags (also known as ALT text) are also valuable as they help crawlers understand the visuals on your site.
If your focus is a blog site, organize your content into pillar pages and related topic clusters. Pillar content acts as a comprehensive resource that covers a broad topic, while topic clusters delve into specific subtopics. This structure helps search engines understand the depth and breadth of your content, potentially leading to the generation of sitelinks for the pillar page and its associated cluster pages.
Further Reading: How to Write for SEO - Tips for Writing Content That Ranks
2. Refine Your Site Structure
A user-friendly and intuitive navigation structure makes it easy for search engines (and visitors) to find what they need and identify important sections. This increases the likelihood of generating sitelinks.
Think about how your website comes together. Every website has some sort of hierarchy, and how you group and categorize your content can affect how Google “reads” it. This article on flat versus deep website hierarchies explains how you can organize information on your site.
The below visual is also an excellent example.
Image source: NNGroup
On the left is an example of a flat site hierarchy. It features numerous major categories and just a few vertical levels. On the right is an example of a deep site hierarchy. It has the same amount of information as the flat version but is organized into more sublevels.
There are several benefits and pitfalls to each hierarchy type. Still, the overarching lesson in earning sitelinks is that your site organization must be logical and easy to follow. Avoid overlapping concepts or multiple avenues to find the same information, and ensure your site’s navigation is specific and coherent.
Here are some additional rules to follow as you audit or build your site’s navigation menu:
- Crawl Depth: Aim for a crawl depth of less than 4-5 levels. This means that important pages should be easily accessible within a few clicks from the homepage. In other words, don’t bury your content too deep.
- Proximity to Homepage: Ensure that the most important pages, such as category pages or key product/service pages, are located closer to the homepage. This proximity helps search engines understand the importance and relevance of these pages.
- Internal Linking Structure: Implement a logical and well-organized internal linking structure to guide users and search engines through your website. Here are two common approaches:
- Pyramid Structure: This approach is often preferred for ecommerce and B2B websites. Content is categorized into categories and subcategories, forming a pyramid-like structure. It helps distribute link equity from the homepage to important categories and product/service pages.
- Silo Structure: This approach is highly effective for organizing blog sites. Content is grouped into distinct silos based on topic or theme, with each silo containing its own hierarchy. This grouping helps establish relevance within your topic clusters and enhances the visibility of specific pieces of content.
Ultimately, clear organization benefits both the user and the search engines that crawl your site to learn what information, products or resources you offer. The more organized your website is, the greater your chances of obtaining things like sitelinks, featured snippets and other visibility boosts within organic search results.
3. Use Structured Data
Are you noticing a trend? All of these tips have to do with assisting Google in making sense of your website.
Structured data markup is another way to help Google understand your site and its contents.
Structured data accomplishes this by labeling each piece of content on your site in a way that Google understands. Because these labels are standardized (usually using JSON-LD, Microdata, or RDFa), web crawlers get a leg up when “reading” your content.
Imagine you have a website dedicated to selling shoes. Structured data would organize each product’s information into specific categories such as brand, shoe type, color, size, price, availability, product description, customer reviews, etc. This organization of data helps search engines scan, select and display relevant product details to users.
This is just a simplified example, and the actual process might vary depending on your specific platform, products and industry, but overall this is the purpose and benefit of using structured data.
4. Submit Your Sitemap
A sitemap is a file that contains all the URLs on your website. It’s like an organizational map or table of contents for your site that helps search engine crawlers index your content more effectively.
You can submit your sitemap to Google using the Search Console tool. By doing this, you ensure that search engines have access to all your important pages, including those that may be deep within your site structure. This improved accessibility increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your pages, potentially leading to increased visibility and the generation of sitelinks.
Organic Sitelinks Aren’t Guaranteed
While the above measures can help improve your odds, Google still has the final say. But even if you don’t end up with sitelinks, these optimization and organization efforts will go a long way to garner more organic traffic and boost your overall rankings.
Teaming up with an expert who understands the nuances of SEO can be a game-changer. If you want someone in your corner, chat with one of our team members about SEO services for your business!