Can you control how Google shows your brand in search results?

control brand listing in SERP

When searchers type your brand in Google, they should be seeing your website. But often they will see more than just a title, url and snippet of text. Let’s look at one of those extra bits: sitelinks.

The Love Matters team came up with this question: can we do something about the extra results shown on Google, below the main result? If this makes you think “what the hell is he talking about”, here’s a screenshot:

Love Matters sitelinks in SERP

 

The extra links under the description are called sitelinks. When you Google your own brand, you might see them in a different format. Like sitelinks shown on one line:

Love Matters sitelinks in SERP small

And on mobile phones you might see a mix of extended and small formats:

Love Matters Sitelinks mobile

 

When Google shows your website including sitelinks, other results are pushed down. The result will attract more attention and achieve higher click-through rates. And important pages on your site are directly shown after searchers typed in your brand. Nice!

So how can you get Google to show these sitelinks? And can you influence which links Google is showing? Read on to find out more.

 

Google rules

The first thing to remember: you can’t completely control which links are shown. In Google’s own words:

We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them. At the moment, sitelinks are automated.

So, for each query, Google’s algorithm calculates what to show and how to show it, closely matching the searcher’s intention. This is true for sitelinks as well. The screenshots above prove this: In the second image the query is ‘love matters’, and the result contains the small format sitelinks. But in the first image, I actually searched for ‘love matters.in’, which triggered Google to show the extended version of the sitelinks. It’s more clear that you want results from a specific website, so Google decided to feature them in search results more prominently.

 

What you can do

While Google’s algorithm ultimately decides which sitelinks to show, there are some things we can do to optimize results.

  1. Create a very clear site structure, with the most important pages or sections available in the main navigation. The main menu should be aligned with the most important tasks you want users to perform on the site. A nice example of site structure is Ivoire Justice, where the main site sections and most important pages are neatly shown in sitelinks:Ivoire Justice sitelinks
  2. Your most important pages should have optimized page titles and meta descriptions. Optimized meaning: containing the text that YOU want Google to show. To be fair, Google doesn’t always show the exact text of the meta descriptions in sitelinks, but in general this still is a best practice.
  3. If there’s a sitelink that you DON’T want Google to show, use Google Search Console to ‘demote’ the link, after which the link will be replaced with the next best option (according to Google!).
    UPDATE: In October 2016, Google removed the demote sitelinks option.
  4. You can also use Adwords, create an ad for your brand name with added sitelinks. You pay, so you also have complete control over the sitelinks you want to show. As an example, this is an ad of the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant:Volkskrant ad sitelinks

 

Knowledge Graph Panels and other advanced stuff

There is more you can do to show off in search results. I guess everybody wants to look like Beyoncé:

Beyonce knowledge panel serp

 

My advice to be featured in search results like that (no guarantees whatsoever):

  1. Become famous. Or rather, become a well-known entity: a brand, organization or person.
  2. Link your website with your Google+ Brand Page, and check which images are shown on maps results. Upload new ones if necessary!
  3. Help Google understand the structure of your site, your exact brand name, your address, your social media profiles, by using special markup in the backend of your website. To get a better idea of the opportunities, read “How to Change What Google Displays About Your Brand“.

Finally, let’s not forget that we should only go into the advanced stuff after taking care of the basics: how do your pages show up in search results? Did you optimize your title tags and meta descriptions? You just don’t want to see a category ‘Opinion’ with a search snippet that says “A view to emulate Drupal core’s handling of taxonomy/term”.

Justicehub search snippet

 

 

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