Tabular Sitelinks In Google SERPs – Big Wins For Brands?

Jul. 06, 2012 | by Modestos Siotos

Google have made several updates to the functionality and layout of sitelinks appearing in the SERPs in response to specific brand searches. Most of these updates so far have led to increased brand traffic. Google is currently testing a rather major update on the layout and functionality of sitelinks. The new tabular format  is already visible to some users, offering searchers many more options and quicker access to the most popular sections of a site.

Up until now, sitelinks consisted of 5-7 links pointing directly to the most popular/useful pages of a site. When the new update gets rolled out, there will be around 5-8 different tabs, each of which including several links to specific pages of a site. With the new sitelinks layout there could be at least 35 links pointing to various pages of a site, which will certainly have a big impact on user experience, traffic, dwell time, and conversion.

New layout

Previous layout

apple UK sitelinks

The first tab (Top Links) seems to match the previous site links closely, although it is not always 100% identical. However, the other 6 tabs in the above example (Apple Store, iPad, Support, Mac, iTunes and iPod) offer many more navigational options to users as many more pages become visible. By incorporating a larger number of popular landing pages directly into the sitelinks, Google’s intention is to offer a better user experience to searchers.

The iPad tab offers seven different options to the user, all pointing to different pages:

The above iPad description is not pulled in from the meta description of the iPad page but from the first paragraph that appears in the source code of that page. Where the previous Apple sitelinks listing consisted of 7 links, there are 51 links available in the new layout. The Support tab alone consists of 10 links:

Apple support tabular links

The number of tabs at the moment ranges from 5 to 8 and it may depend on the character length of each section that appears in the tabs. Longer category names may result in less tabs, such as in the following example where only 5 tabs are available searching for ‘BBC’:

On the other hand, there are 8 tabs on Next’s listing:

Next tabular sitelinks

The new tabbed sitelinks format does not seem to come without issues Google needs to address before a full roll-out. In the following example one sitelink is illegible (Co… which links to the Coast Dresses page), also it is questionable how useful the ‘Sign in’ sitelink is.

john lewes sitelainks issues

10 Ways Tabular Site Links Could Affect Online Businesses

How will this update impact brand searches in terms of click-through, visits, pageviews, dwell time, conversions and eventually sales? Although it is still very early, a few thoughts can already be made based on what appears to be at the moment the new sitelinks layout:

  1. Improved user experience for branded search, as more users will be able to find quicker what they are looking for, directly from the sitelinks.
  2. Deep pages will become more visible, as quite a few of them will appear in the tabbed sitelinks. These would serve as additional entry points, therefore should meet user expectations and offer an optimal user experience  For the same reason, sitelinks optimisation will become even more important.
  3. Higher search visibility for brand search. The new tabular format offers users several navigational options, making it less likely users will click on an alternative search result.
  4. Click-through from sitelinks may increase further given that the new tabular layout offers significantly more options. Potentialy, organic brand traffic will increase.
  5. Conversion increase from brand traffic given that the increased number of sitelinks and the corresponding landing pages will be matching user intent more closely.
  6. Quick snapshot of a site’s core services/products. Tabs and sitelinks will provide the users with substantial insight on the site’s content and structure. That could result in more quality traffic as users more likely to bounce off, may choose not to visit the site at all.
  7. Number of pageviews may drop for sites with high percentage of branded traffic as more users will be landing on the page they are looking for rather than use the homepage as an entry point. This can negatively impact websites that use pageviews as a KPI.
  8. Bounce rate from sitelinks may increase at page level as more users will be landing directly on the pages they desire. However, this will heavily depend on the type of each site e.g. informational, eCommerce, news.
  9. Average time on site will drop. Users enterering the site from sitelinks are more likely to browse less pages as many of them will land directly onto the page they’re after. In this case the user journey would be cut short. When a user visits a page and bounces off, no matter how long they spent on the page, the time on page will be reported as 00:00. Relying on dwell time, rather than bounce rate and average time on page would be more beneficial.
  10. Usability and conversion optimisation will become even more important. Brands will need to redefine the various user journeys available via the sitelinks as some may not be offering a great user experience.

Overall, the new tabbed sitelinks layout will be beneficial for websites as long as popular and relevant sections appear in the tabs and the sitelinks. These will provide a much faster route to pages that sit deeper in a site’s hierarchy. However, the landing pages will play a big part in conversion and revenue as they will need to meet the users expectaions.

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    Comments (26)

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    • Modestos Siotos

      Thanks Chris.
      I accidentally came across the new tabular sitelinks today but it was just me getting them in the entire office.

      Totally agree that it is very interesting to see if any additional capabilities will become available to to webmasters via Webmaster Tools. I also hope they will take on board your recommendation on reported clicks via sitelinks, although I doubt it will happen any time soon.Jul 6, 2012 07:05 pm

    • Chris Ainsworth

      Fantastic post Modestos and a very interesting development. I've run a few incognito searches but I'm unable to replicate the tabular sitelinks; shame as I would like to see it in operation!

      I wonder how much control a webmaster will have over the tabs/site-links within Google Webmaster Tools? Hopefully Google will retain and/or improve the control over sitelinks within GWT so a webmaster will be able to manually remove links such 'Sign in' if required.

      It would also be superb if Google reported on the percentage on clicks via sitelinks to give webmasters some form of CTR statistics! Hopefully this may come with time.

      ChrisJul 6, 2012 04:57 pm

     
    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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