Friday, November 28, 2008

About Google Sitelinks

You've probably noticed that some Google searches return results in which one or more search results is accompanied by a miniature index of the site, allowing you to jump directly to a specific section of the site.

These results come up when Google decides they are able to provide you with a highly desirable result, and that you might appreciate the mini-index. The little index does not appear every time that result comes up. It's particularly likely when you search the name of a specific site; Google finds the site and provides the index if it has it. Google's house name for these is "sitelinks." (You can find out immediately if your site has them on Webmaster Tools, by clicking "Sitelinks" under the "Links" menu entry. Like PageRank, they are updated periodically, not rapidly.)

The value of the mini-index depends on what the search topic is, of course, but it 
does provide a professional image. The real value comes when the subindex headings
attract clicks. These are not so interesting. Spice it up, Ryan! You've got
June and September -- how about Jurassic and Cretaceous instead?
The index is constructed by a search formula, not by the quality of the site. However, that formula, or algorithm, is more likely to function if your site is designed in a clearly delineated manner. Titles for the sections of the mini-index come from your own tags and page titles, so if they are perceived as descriptive of sections of your site, the index is easier to form.

Site maps help Google understand the architecture of your site, and can be submitted to Google. The specifics are beyond the scope of this post, but I hope to cover them in the future.

Let's spy on  Kez, colleague cartoonist and webcomic how-to addict, and see
how her site does. Obviously not as many subdivisions, but important pages are
featured: her other comic, Not Alone; About; Links; and the maps for her comic's
fantasy world setting. Well done! See it live at .

Traffic and age seem to matter. It was hard to locate sitelinkss featuring people with newer comics, who might benefit a bit from a mention in a blog, or at least more than the larger titles I ended up using.

Kez does a good job explaining why search engine traffic matters to comics (a link to her new blog is at lower right), and I'd offer that mini-indexes are worth monitoring and optimizing via title, tag and layout planning and submission of site maps.

Aaron Diaz' Dresden Codak offers some tantalizing headings, though it's a shame
"Epilogue" comes first. A lot of us, in weaker moments, would click "Naked and 
Riding a Dinosaur." Pretty good, Aaron!
By the way, did you ever notice those little boxes next to the results headings? They turn search results customizing on and off. You can play with telling Google how you feel about various results -- but since they record your Google ID next to your choice where others will see it, you are leaving a public record. My guess is people without a Google ID -- no Gmail, or Analytics, etc. -- don't see the boxes. Anyone able to verify that?