Google changed the way how site links are displayed in the SERPs in August/September 2009. Today’s SEO Q&A topic is about just that and how Google now evaluates external and internal link structures differently. Understanding this should help you get your site links back.
A couple of clients already reported to me at the end of August that their set links disappeared or changed. We have seen everything from
In addition to that, site links often changed in where they actually LINK TO… so the the actual linked pages changed. It is not what it used to be – that the most popular pages according to your menu structure are shown as site links. It seems to be based a lot more on the internal site linking and their anchor texts. It looks like Google is evaluating external and internal links differently now for finding the pages to consider for site links. Or to put it another way, it seems they have thrown in some more criteria for the most popular pages. Possible criteria here could be any or all of
So when it comes to over-optimzation of anchor test, I just continue the discussion about the anchor text variations of the last SEO Q&A… the reason for the minus 50 penalty IS anchor text overoptimization – it appears we need to pay even more attention to that topic.
Having site links properly shown in the SERPs can increase your traffic up to 20% according to some clients data. Those 20% are gone if you don’t have the site links at all. And if Google shows the small site links, or the one line site links that don’t look any good, you have a lot less real estate on the SERP page – if any extra space there at all!
So you want the site links back. But what can you do to get your site links back?
Our recommendation is to really look at your internal link structure and verify the pages you power and the anchor text being used. Of course you can use our new LinkResearchTools for that. I encourage you to check out the beta of www.LinkResearchTools.com that we just launched. We do have a special tool in there called Backlink Profiler (formerly Backlink and Anchortext Tool) where you can look at the internal links, external links and all the anchor texts which are used for that.
At first, we would look and try to find over-optimized anchor texts and unrelated anchor texts. It appears that some of the site links, of the “new” site links that we see now are anchored site links. They are not named like the pages are named, they are named according to the commonality of the anchor texts powering those pages. This is fairly interesting because it means that you still need to optimize your anchor texts even more. It’s not enough to have the right, catchy, high click-thru title any more. Google decides what to show. But of course in this case you have to be more careful than ever to not overdo it – don’t overoptimize your anchor texts!
As mentioned before, we vary anchor texts in our link building projects for years already. You should have different anchor texts with all different actual phrases and actual sentences. Do not repeat the same thing over and over again! Take care of your anchor texts.
Based on the feedback I (Christoph) got on my recent presentation in Budapest, I find it interesting that a lot of people still don’t seem to understand or practice the concept of many related anchor texts boiling down into single major keyword phrases, so we’re planning more content on that to be released soon!
Update 2009/09/30: Google just officially announced that they added site links to forums.
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