Sitelinks in Google search results are the extra links underneath the main search result, that link to alternative pages on that website – for example, here’s what you see when you Google “Aubergine of Leighton Buzzard“:
It’s long been a frustration of website owners, in that you couldn’t tell Google what sitelinks appear for your site – instead, Google use automated methods to decide. That often means what appear to be low interest pages on your website still get put on Google as sitelinks.
Up to now, at least there was a way to try to remedy this – in Webmaster Tools (or Search Console, as its now called), you could try to “demote” sitelinks – in effect, asking Google to remove a sitelink for a period of time. Even this wasn’t very useful:
- it was a request, not an order
- the request was only active for 90 days
- and there was no guarantee anything would happen
And now – Google have even taken this away, “After some discussion & analysis, we’ve decided to remove the “Demote Sitelinks” setting in Search Console.” as they said on Google+ on October 13th.
In common with a lot of what Google do, in effect they’re saying “we know your website better than you do” and their use of data to decide is better than your own perceptions.
We suspect it’s also because their “Demote” functionality wasn’t very good or useful, so why bother supporting it any more.
So what can you do, if you get a sitelink you don’t want? Google’s advice is
- Provide a clear structure for your website, using relevant internal links and anchor text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition
- Allow Google to crawl and index important pages within your site. Use Fetch and Render [a tool in Search Console] to check that they can be rendered properly.
- If you need to remove a page from search completely, use a “noindex” robots meta tag on that page.
That’s fairly standard advice, but try not to resort to “noindex” of a page just to amend your sitelinks. It’s better to make your important pages well signposted and easily navigable, to give Google the right data signals – and more importantly, to give your visitors the best user experience.