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Google's Large Double Column Sitelink Test Returns

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Google is experimenting with a change that expands the prominence of sitelinks on search results pages for brands. The new presentation makes the sitelinks larger and brings in the meta description and destination URL.

The Continued Rollout of Expanded Sitelinks

Sitelinks have been a part of the search engine results page since 2006, but they've always been limited. Here's what a set of sitelinks for Search Engine Watch looks like right now:

Search Engine Watch Google Sitelinks

The new version of sitelinks, however, takes up substantially more space. Here's a picture of extended sitelinks from Matthew Ridout at SEOUnique:

google-large-sitelinks-seounique

Here's another from Webmaster World:

google-large-sitelinks-webmaster-world

Meanwhile, the BBC News website features 13 big sitelinks (image from David Naylor's blog) below the news headlines Google began incorporating in the search results in May:

google-13-large-sitelinks-bbc-news

We reported on this sitelink test in April, and in recent days the buzz has been growing about the new sitelinks presentation. Early information indicates that this is an experiment rolling out to select regions, most notably the UK. I've been unable to recreate the expanded sitelinks, but users in Spain, Germany, and Japan have seen the expanded sitelinks sporadically, according to Webmaster World discussion.

It seems the expanded sitelinks are only happening for highly specific queries that signal "navigational intent" for the targeted site. However, most webmasters discussing the issue see the choice as favoring big brands at the expense of potential competitors, because the expanded sitelinks take up so much of the space above the fold.

What You Need to Change

The change to the interface does have an impact, albeit a small one, for webmasters. Since the expanded sitelinks show the destination URL, title, and a snippet of the description, it's a good idea to check on your pages. The great news is that if you've been doing your due diligence on every page, nothing extra will be needed on your part. However, just in case, here's a checklist:

  • Make sure you have a good meta description that looks professional when just the first 40 characters are shown.
  • Make sure you have an attractive destination URL.
  • Make sure you have an attractive and succinct meta title.

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