Any long term user of the search engine will know that Google’s site links aren’t anything new but after five years or so relatively unchanged, Google has recently decided to give them a complete overhaul.
So how big a change is it and what do marketers need to know?
What’s Changing in Sitelinks?
The most apparent change is that the new sitelinks take up even more page space than before – you’re almost looking at the re-emergence of the old “above the fold” section which (despite its detractors) could become a significant concept again if Search becomes focussed around it. After all, they say the top three results in Google are all that matters and whatever your desktop resolution or setup, you can bet that’s what you’ll see first.
This raises a question as to whether Google might expand the size and design of this even further. If they’re 99.999% sure they’ve found the thing you’re looking for (and with brands, that can often be a near-certainty), perhaps they’ll start to include things like additional imagery. Or maybe they’ll save the fancy flourishes for CPC features.
Since the Sitelinks system only kicks in on large, branded searches, it means it remain something that will be of primary concern to organisations looking to protect their brand. More than likely, you will rank as number one when someone searches for your name but since the new setup dominates the page with the first result, the importance of securing this space just became even more essential.
Descriptions are more important than ever
Another consideration is that each Sitelink draws the descriptions you give each of your pages. While most forward looking brands will have already considered this for the myriad benefits that it includes, not everyone is switched on.
Check out the example below… couldn’t they differentiate what to expect from each page more effectively?
Fortunately though, Google has expanded its looking glass preview function to let you see each page and perhaps decide for yourself. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel intuitive to have to click on the magnifying glass icon before hovering over each link. The immediate impression is that the option isn’t available – something Google will no doubt receive feedback on very soon.
For better or worse?
Google makes tweaks like this all over its search engine every day – some take hold and stick around forever, others dwindle and are redesigned or stripped back after a beta period. However, either way, you can bet their data-led approach means they’ll go with whatever helps people find the results they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
A sidenote on Bing
At the same time, while researching Bing for a comparison here, we noticed that the competing search engine puts brands in a special grey box when it recognises them. Sitelinks remain a simple affair but this inclusion of additional formatting could hint at them considering options to expand functionality in cases where they’re pretty sure the first result is a winner.
So Google’s databots may not be the only ones keeping a close eye on the new Sitelinks experiement. If you’ve had any experience with them impacting traffic to your site, we’d be interested in your stories – let us know in the comments below.