Great news for branding Google’s Sitelinks have been given a breath of fresh air displaying a cleaner look and feel with up to 12 site links in prominent positions each with their own Instant Preview/Snapshot.

New Sitelinks as displayed for Amazon UK

New Sitelinks as displayed for Amazon UK

Sitelinks have been around for a long while (circa late 2006) and it has gone through a few facelifts over the years, but nowhere near as significant as the changes we see today.

The Sitelinks for a sub-category within a site is a nice new addition; funneling for more information inside a particular category of a site. For instance, “Amazon Books” produces:

A look at new sub-category Sitelinks as displayed for Amazon UK

A look at new sub-category Sitelinks as displayed for Amazon UK

You can read more about its evolution here.

But it still has its flaws – not just from the webmaster’s perspective but from the user’s as well:

  1. Description text for each Sitelink is around 4-6 words. Not the greatest amount of information for a user to determine if they have the right page or not.
  2. Display URLs are not clear. Particularly for longer URLs. The display URLs still provide trust for the user in displaying the domain name, but for longer URLs they look, well, just awkward.

In fact, a lot of the Sitelinks that you will see are infested with ellipses ‘…’ everywhere. The Instant Preview covers over the blemishes a little by providing a screenshot of the page with a tiny bit more of information, but that’s another extra click.

Granted, the above has a lot to do with what little space there is available on the screen. But there are better ways to display that information. For example, on hovering over a Sitelink they could display more description text and/or more of the URL.

And what about what webmasters have to go through

Well, to be honest, most Web masters are pleased to know that Google considers their site “trusted”. But that doesn’t mean to say you should have limited control over what is displayed.

Surely, if your site is considered trusted then Google should supply you with a list of links you can choose to display from and have the option to edit titles, even with the strict character limit.

They do give webmasters the new option of ‘demoting’ unsuitable Sitelinks within Webmaster Tools but what happens if the Sitelink is pointing to the right page but it’s labelled incorrectly? A dilemma for any webmaster: do you demote it, reconfigure the page and hope Google updates it, or stick with it and have an unprofessional look.

Previously, in Webmaster Tools you could block (and remove) a Sitelink if you were confident that the Sitelink was irrelevant, but what would happen if it was a mistake? Ow.

Demotion is not too disimilar except you now have the option to remove the demotion – just in case. But, again, if you are confident the Sitelink is irrelevant then you may be stuck with it for a bit.

And, sure, there are ways to update it correctly, which takes time – if Google is willing, but to those not so inclined it can cause a lot of pain.

Sitelinks – more room for improvement

Sitelinks were super simple before, and still remain so, but they have now grown in size and have increased whitespace although the extra information that is now displayed is very limited and not particularly any more useful than having nothing at all. Functionality and relevancy still needs sharpening.

There is no doubt this is great for brands with even more real estate for their own search results – well, except for those brands sharing the same name and are now even farther down the ranks.

For webmasters, there’s still too much based on hope and crossed fingers when it comes to Sitelinks. Allowing webmasters greater control over their own Sitelinks would definitely improve relevancy.

For visitors there’s a fresher experience and it is far more clearer but not much change in usefulness. User experience might be down if Google isn’t serving the right links.

Definitely room for more improvement – which is true for the evolution of any product.