Last week it appeared that Google were testing a new format for SiteLinks in the organic search results. The big difference with these compared to what we see at the moment is that they’re, well, big:
This compares to the normal version of SiteLinks which look like this:
Right now, appearances of the new SiteLinks seems very unpredictable. They only seem to appear on exact match brand searches – and even then it’s not on every machine or every time you search. This change is highly significant though.
In a lot of cases, brand searches tend to be navigational, with search being used as an analogue for the address bar – check your analytics to see how many people simply search for your domain in Google, and from that perspective, enhancing the appearance of the individual links makes huge sense. users will known what the content of the page they are navigating to is, and make a better choice about which internal page is best for them.
There’s been a lot said about Google using brands to improve search experience – the Vince Update is probably the most notable major change they’ve made in this area, but the trend goes back as far as 2003 and the Florida update.
Most of the time in SEO, we get targeted with increasing “non brand” traffic to a website and from a marketing manager’s perspective, most of the time this is the right choice. Offline marketing, display advertising and other branding work is an investment in increasing brand awareness, although generic search plays a part too. Brand traffic is seen as being what a website should get anyway. of course, the challenge is that a lot of the time, that brand traffic can be hi-jacked by competitor bidding and affiliate marketing – particularly via voucher code or cash back websites.
With the new SiteLinks layout in Google, sites are going to see a much bigger share of the natural search results, which means less visible space for affiliates and competitors.
On the surface, this is a good thing for brands – for searches that return the new layout, there is no where for competitors to be seen, however the cynical part of me thinks that the other part of this change is that it will increase the competitiveness and therefore cost of bids for competitors who want to appear within the paid results.