With Google rolling out it’s “new and improved” expanded sitelinks for “brands”, the SEO game just got a bit trickier, particularly for local queries.

Here’s what you get when searching for some pig feet + foie gras heaven at Au Pied De Cochon:

Pass the pigs feet please

Some observations:

  1. If you rely on queries for business names to generate a lot of search traffic to your site, like most yellow pages sites do, you just got pushed way down the page, like Yelp appears in this example.  Local directory sites will need to beef up their review efforts to try to at least get attached to the Place Page result for these queries.
  2. This might help SMB SEO/website usability as problems with these results are very visible.  For example, you can see about that there are two different URLs for PDC’s menu.  Here’s one that shows a 404 URL:
  3. This may have made brand reputation management campaigns a bit easier.  Sites that want to push down bad results for brand queries can do strategic linkbuilding around URLs that are likely to get added as sitelinks (e.g. navigation links, URLs with decent inbound links, etc.).  That said, in doing a little (unscientific) research it does appear that sites with what I would consider weak brands are only displaying two sitelinks.  So go search for your brand and you may be able to get a quick idea of how strong it is in Google’s eyes.
  4. Personal rep management campaigns also seem to benefit.  Check out this result for my name:

That’ll push those pesky DUI mug shots down, don’t you think?

The moral of the story:

On the plus side, the sitelinks now give businesses even greater control on how they appear in the SERPs.  I fully expect to see further enhancements of this functionality where eventually the SERP looks more like a Place Page/Website/Plus combo than just a boring old SERP.

On the Debbie Downer side of things, sure looks like Google is trying to push everybody else out of the way.  And don’t even get me started on Google Related.

Update: Mike Blumenthal countered this post on G+ saying that the sitelinks update doesn’t really change the position of non-Google/SMB content on these SERPs much for local bizzes.  In many cases I am sure he is correct.  But I still think overall this change will have a negative effect on sites that are not Google or the SMB.

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22 Response Comments

  • Andre  August 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I hope that Google does push everyone else out of the way. Nothing ticks me off more than sites like Dex that charge thousands of dollars to market a small business. They promise ‘top rankings’ on Google, but those rankings are little more than a link right back to Dex where the company being marketed is stuffed onto a directory page full of other businesses that are exactly the same.

  • Chris  August 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Although the new sitelinks do look nice, I wasn’t too happy to see them in the results. I guess Google forgot that they were not supposed to favor big brands… =]

  • Andrew Shotland  August 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    This is as much about SMB brands as it is about “big” brands. Will be curious to see how this changes CTR from the SERPs.

  • Shane Eubanks  August 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I’ve already seen a decline in traffic in the past week for a variety of keywords/phrases…it’ll be interesting to see the correlation of this to adsense revenue that Google generates and what they’ll end up doing if these larger sitelinks negatively affect adsense revenue (which I assume will happen).

  • Andrew Shotland  August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I am seeing a lot of crappy URLs show up as sitelinks. Wonder if this isn’t GOOG’s way of forcing more people to demote bogus sitelinks?

  • Dave Oremland  August 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Andrew: I’ve noticed some sites wherein the results for a search were somewhat ambiguous; prime examples are wherein one business has a business name that corresponds w/ a search term for that city’s different vendors:

    Lets say there’s a florist with the business name Omaha Flowers.

    Are the searches for that term for the particular business or any florist within Omaha.

    In one of these cases, with which I’m familiar the dominant position of the business, that has the same business name as a generic search term is hurting certain businesses. Initially it was via a dominant onemap. Then recently it was via a onemap and about 6 sitelinks that were in two vertical columns.

    This latest version is brutal…at least in the case of the competitors to the firm w/ the business name that uses the city in its name. It also hurts consumers. They do like to comparison shop.

    I suspect that there aren’t lots of those examples…but where they occur they just rape and kill the competition.

    It wouldn’t have such an incredible impact if it was being shown on Bing or Yahoo. They don’t have monopolistic control of market share of visitors…but with Google…oh my.

    One other point, a while ago Chris Silver Smith tracked IYP traffic after one of these directory killing changes. It would be interesting to track IYP traffic over the next couple of months to see if there is a similar downward traffic pattern as Chris showed a while ago.

  • Andrew Shotland  August 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm


    I saw one or two of these exact match domains earlier and had similar thoughts. Good idea on the tracking.

  • Vik Chhabra  August 18, 2011 at 5:52 am

    …their tentacles just keep clenching tighter and tighter. Just wait for Google Offers to be fully scaled … and for them to push the medal to the metal with PPCall.

    This is another setback for IYP’s, but opens the door to SMB’s that can stay ahead of the curve.

  • Julie Gallaher  August 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Any advice for businesses on how to capitalize on this? I’ve tried to promote sitelinks to my own site with internal and external links, but it hasn’t worked. Perhaps it’s harder because my business name is a common phrase – Get on the Map – but no sitelinks for me. ;(

  • Julie Gallaher  August 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Wait a minute – I take it back. I have 2 sitelinks now. They’re not the sitelinks I want, but still …

  • Kris  August 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I don’t think this adds value for the customer (searcher). They are getting less with this type of page. I wonder what the true motivations were for this change. Is ES (is he still at Google?) trying to help people get out of the “cesspool” of too much choice and variety? One dominant player for each search. It seems like big players are consolidating their control over the market, like in other parts of the economy.
    It might be too soon to tell. You need to observe the result in order to determine the cause in this case. Like in politics 😉

  • Andrew Shotland  August 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    My guess is they figured if you type the brand name into the search box, you want to get their website and since most websites suck, they are going to try and give you as much of the website on page one as possible.

    And screw everyone else in the process.

  • Pitstop Appliance Repair  August 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I’m happy with this. If someone searches on my business name specifically, I *want* them to see MY site and the info it contains.. not someone else’s listing of my site that only exists to point them to my site anyway.

    My links look great..if I could post a screenshot I would. 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  August 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Agreed Pitstop. This is can be a nice bonus for SMBs.

  • Alison Ruth  August 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    That’s a great point about local directory sites being pushed further down in rankings. These “improvements” seem to be a double-edged sword, giving brands more autonomy over how their pages appear in the SERP, but also giving Google itself more juice by pushing other local directory sites further down. Because searchers aren’t making it to those directory sites, won’t more of your traffic be coming directly from Google rather than directory sites like Yelp? I would be interested to know how this new change will affect Google PPC revenue. Thanks for the info, looking forward to sharing with our readers @ http://www.searchinfluence.com/blog

  • Jerry  August 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Leave it to Google (again) to do something that offers one solution yet causes more problems for those trying to rank well in search results. This doesn’t seem to be good at all for any small business owner trying to boost their local presence.

  • Dave Oremland  August 24, 2011 at 7:26 am


    1. I’d nuke the commentator above this one 😀

    2. Was looking at snippets on some of my site links. In one case it was the beginning of 2nd sentence of meta description. …oh my…I would like to influence that somewhat. 😉

    3. Got some businesses w/ site links wherein I know that in lieu of 12 or 8 site links….visitors tend to go to 1, 2, or 3 pages after the home page. Come on Google knows that also.

    I’ve also looked at some sites representing large entities. In those cases the multiple site links are merited.

  • Andrew Shotland  August 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Nuked. The “this is very useful” corporation was out in force last night.

  • Nick Stamoulis  August 26, 2011 at 6:28 am

    I think this is great for sites that are well optimized. If people are searching for your brand, you want them to see your website content first. The way that this is set up ensures that they will see links to your internal pages (all pages that you control) first as opposed to seeing other results that maybe you didn’t control.

  • Ewan Kennedy  August 27, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I see what Mike’s saying about the position of the stuff below the fold being unchanged.

    However, I think the stuff above the fold is now so much better presented and clearer so that surfers will in future be more likely to enter one of the expanded site links and be less likely to venture below the fold.

    I agree with you that sites below the fold are likely to lose out even more in future (assuming of course that the site at the top has addressed the management of its site links as far as is possible).

  • Mike Nolls  August 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    There are definitely some advantages to those sitelinks above the fold, and I think we’ll see more crowding by big companies, especially once the .brand domains release. I see a lot more problems for the small guys, I just hope we can continue to dominate the localized search results.