Review-Site Sitelinks Just Got More Local?

You might be doing well on reviews, but can you see your business when you search for the review site?

More so than I’ve ever seen before, Google’s showing specific local businesses in the sitelinks when I just type in “Yelp,” for example.

I also see specific businesses show up when I search for Urbanspoon – sorry, Zomato.

I’m not seeing this when I search for most other review sites, and I’ve mostly seeing restaurants so far, but it appears you don’t have to be a restaurant to get one of these sitelinks.

The common thread I’ve seen so far is these places all have a decent number of reviews.  Also, the jewelry store in the sitelink is BBB-accredited, which helps its prominence in BBB.org, and may in one way or another make it more likely to show up to nearby people as a sitelink.

City-specific sitelinks have shown up for several years, but this is the first I’m seeing of sitelinks that (1) are specific to the city you’re searching in and (2) are for specific local businesses.

I am seeing the same results on mobile.

I’m not seeing those sorts of sitelinks in Bing, though:

bing-yelp-sitelinks

It seems recent, Google-specific, non-device-specific, and most noticeable in search results for Yelp.

If you’ve got a good reputation on a given review site, this could be party time.

Have you been noticing more business-specific sitelinks when you search for a review site?  If so, on which site(s)?

Besides getting reviews, what do you think a business needs to do to show up there as a sitelink?

What do you make of this, in general?

Leave a comment!

Using the Sitelinks Search Box for Your Local Business

I don’t think anyone’s talked about Google’s sitelinks search box in the context of how small-to-medium local businesses can use it.

It will probably never be a big part of anyone’s local SEO efforts.  But having a sitelinks search box might help you in a few ways:

  • People might find it easier to find what they’re looking for on your site. By “people” I’m referring to repeat customers and to people who are serious enough to search for you by name.
  • Especially if you’re not getting any autocomplete suggestions when you type in your business name, the search-box usage reports might tell you what people want to know about your business. And that might tell you what pages you need to create, give you ideas for blog posts, or alert you to brushfires you need to put out.
  • It might be a very minor factor for your rankings. That’s pure speculation on my part, although Google’s soft spot for structured data is no secret.

This isn’t going to be a long post, but I’ll break it up into two parts:

Part One is my brain-dump of everything I know about the sitelinks search box.

Part Two is some Q&A with structured-data whiz David Deering (who’s given me some great intel in other posts).

Warning: this one’s a little technical.  If you’re not the resident geek, maybe you should ask your RG to read this between Hot Pockets.

Part One: My Observations

Do any small-to-medium “local” businesses (as opposed to Home Depot) have the sitelinks search box yet?  I wouldn’t call them a small business, but here’s the smallest I’ve seen so far:

OK, that’s all I knew before writing this post.

Sad, huh?

Well, that’s why I asked David some questions about how you can get a sitelinks search box up and running and possibly helping your local visibility – before everyone and his grandma has one.

Part Two: Quick Q&A

Phil:  What are the technical prerequisites for getting a sitelinks search box to show up when someone searches for your business by name?

David:  You actually don’t even need to use Google’s Custom Site Search Engine.  Any functioning site-specific search engine is fine.  For example, WordPress websites usually come loaded with one.

 

Phil:  How long will it take and how much will it cost for the typical small-business owner to get it implemented?

David:  If a website does not have their own site-specific search engine, one can be added, such as Google’s.

To add that to a site only takes a few minutes.  Creating and adding the markup to the homepage itself also only takes a few minutes.

So all and all, a person can add the search engine feature and the markup to their site in about 30 minutes.  But they will need to edit their site files, and some people might not be comfortable with doing that.

 

Phil:  Under what circumstances will Google not show your sitelinks search box?

David:  From their documentation on the subject (found here), Google will display the search box feature for navigational queries, and when it’s relevant for users.  And, similar to other rich snippets, Google’s algorithm will look at various quality signals.  They obviously don’t want to make low quality sites more visual in the SERPs, so they likely won’t display a search box for those.

(Great post on this by AJ Kohn: The Rich Snippets Algorithm.)

 

Phil:  Besides Google’s documentation for developers, what resources should someone refer to for getting this implemented?

David:  Google’s documentation seems to cover it pretty well.  But just a couple of things to add to what they’ve written:

Many people have asked about how to mark up a sitelinks search box when the website has several different homepages for different languages or regions, such as www.example.com/us/ and www.example.com/fr/.  Currently, Google does not support search box markup for second-level domains (such as either of those example URLs).  But they are aware of the need and it sounds like they might (hopefully) begin supporting that soon.  So for now, a website owner should place the markup on the canonical version of their homepage.

Also, when Google came out with this suggestion, they demonstrated the markup in JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) instead of microdata.  So a lot of people started adding the markup to their site using JSON-LD, even though they’ve never used (or even SEEN) the syntax before.  People can use either JSON-LD or microdata to add the markup to their homepage.  The documentation page shows examples in both syntaxes.  Also, as the doc mentioned, you only need to add it to your homepage, not to every page of your site.  Just test it out to make sure that it works.

I’ve also had people say that they do NOT want Google displaying a search box for their search result in the SERPs because they felt it was not a good user experience (?? I don’t get that, but whatever.  And you can tell Google not to display the search box for your site in the SERPs).  However, there is good reason to add the markup to the site anyway.  Google does sometimes show the search box for sites in the SERPs even if the site does not have the markup on it.

And recently, AJ Kohn wrote an article where he found that Google displays a lot of ads for competitors when someone does a site-specific search (keyword + site:example.com), whereas if a person uses the site-specific search box, Google displays results only from that website.  So there’s good reason to add the markup–it prevents others from hijacking your visitors.

Thanks to David for the intel.  This is new territory for “local” businesses, so the dos and don’ts aren’t too widely known yet.  Follow David on Google+ if you’d like to absorb some of his savior-faire – or if you’d like to hire him to help get your search box squared away.

What questions do you have about getting a sitelinks search box?

Do you even want one showing up for brand-name searches?

Leave a comment!

 

P.S.  This is post #200 on my blog.  Thanks for sticking with me this long.

Local Citation Audit Tip: Use the New Sitelinks Search Box

One benefit of Google’s new sitelinks search box: it can help you save time on finding messy local citations.

See what I mean?

Just type in the name of the site and search for your listing(s) from within Google’s results.  It’s the equivalent of doing a site:yoursite.com search.  (For more on what exactly you should do in a citation audit, read Casey Meraz’s dynamite post.)

Like my BBB tip, it’s just a potential time-saver.  As Nyagoslav pointed out when I mentioned this to him, this won’t uncover all the listings you might need to find on a given site.  No single method can, and some listings don’t even get indexed.

Not every local-business directory site you need to check has the sitelinks search box (yet?), though.  The main data-aggregators – ExpressUpdate, LocalEze, Acxiom – don’t have it.  So those sites are still a PITA, and you’ll still have to go to those sites to check your listings.

Still, most of the big sites – like Yelp, CitySearch, and YP – already have the sitelinks search box.  So do at least some of the bigger industry-specific sites, like HealthGrades and Avvo.

I expect the sitelinks search box will get even handier over time, as more sites latch onto it.  Unless Google does with it what it often does with features that have lots of potential.

 

Know of any sitelinks search box hacks for auditing citations?  Do you find it easier?  Leave a comment!

New Inequality in Google Places: Sitelinks in "Blended" Local Search Results

I’ve just seen what I believe is a new competitive edge that some businesses can wield over others in the Google Places “blended” search results: sitelinks.

For example, here’s a screenshot of how one of my clients shows up in Google Places—notice the 3 little links under his Google listing:

I’ve never seen sitelinks show up where they do now in Google Places.

Sitelinks have shown up in non-local (organic and paid) search results for several years.  In terms of how they’ve appeared in the local search results, it’s been the case for quite some time that if you search for a business by name and see its “one-box” appear in Google Places, typically you’d see any sitelinks that Google has given it.

(By the way, here’s a post I did on how you can get sitelinks from Google.)

What’s different about these sitelinks is they’re showing up for some businesses (and not others) in the cutthroat arena known as page one of Google’s local search results.  Some businesses get to show their sitelinks to customers, even when those customers don’t search for those businesses by name.

What’s more, I’ve only seen the “blended” sitelinks for the businesses that are already ranked at the top of the heap.  The above example of my client is one such example (hey, I’m not complaining).  Here’s another example:

It’s possible this is a test.  But I’d say that’s unlikely, based on the fact that sitelinks have appeared in more and more areas of Google over the years.

In any case, this isn’t an earth-shaking change, but it does change the local-search landscape a little (is that too many L’s?).  Mainly it’s a force-multiplier for businesses that are the top of Google Places for some search terms.  The sitelinks push the other local businesses down the page just a little bit, and the sitelinks are likely to boost click-through rates for local businesses that have them.

The moral of the story?  Try to get sitelinks.  An optimized, Google-friendly site can help your Google Places ranking big-time, and the process of trying to get sitelinks can help you tighten up your site and give it a boost in this way.  Plus, if and when you’re at the top of the local search results in your market, your sitelinks can be an even greater advantage over lower-ranked local competitors.

Have you noticed more sitelinks in your local market than you noticed before?  Is it only the top-ranked businesses that have sitelinks?

How to Score Google Places Sitelinks

What’s are “Google Places sitelinks”?  They’re these:

Google Places sitelinks

Little links in the search result for your website–links that lead to several specific pages in your site.

Sitelinks have appeared in Adwords ads and some organic search results for a long time.  But only recently have they started showing up in the local search results.

More specifically, they show up in Google’s “blended” local search results–that is, when you have a bunch of local business / Google Places search results mixed up in with a standard “organic” search results–as in the picture above.  In any given local market, customers will see either this “blended” layout, or they’ll see the slightly more common “7-pack” search results (which we’re a little more used to seeing in Google Places.)

If you have a website–and you absolutely must have one unless you’re a barber shop in Mayberry–you want it to rank as highly as possible in the organic search results.  Duh.

To the extent that the “blended” local search results (above) appear when you type in a local search term that you want to be found for, you want your site to be as visible as possible in those “blended” local search results, too.  You get maximum local visibility by doing two things:

1.  Ranking as highly as possible in Google Places, AND

2.  Hogging as much territory on the blended search-results page as you can.  This is why you need to try to get Google Places sitelinks.  They take up an extra line of space on the page, and they draw attention the themselves.

You can use the resources on this site to accomplish #1.  But how about #2?  How can you get the sitelinks to show up under YOUR site?

Google won’t say, exactly.  According to Google, your site has to be “useful” to the visitor, and it has to be easy for Google’s bots to find your pages.  It’s an algorithm that determines whether you get sitelinks: as with a box of chocolates and everything Google-related, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Fine…but how do you get the sitelinks?

I suggest you follow 5 main steps, which are in rough order of importance:

1.  Feature helpful, informative, all-original content that’s highly relevant to the services you offer, for which you’re trying to get visible in Google Places.  Content is still King.  Sure, there are plenty of princes, jesters, and eunuchs who also occupy the court to a lesser extent.  But none wields the influence over the great land of Google that King Content still wields.  It’s also how you’ll get other sites to link to yours spontaneously, and good relevant content helps your Google Places ranking big-time.  If you’re not sure how to create good, relevant content that your customers will actually find useful, I suggest you take a look at CopyBlogger.  It’s a superb source of ideas.

2.  Use a simple page structure.  Don’t have your “Services” page, your “Contact Us” page, and your articles pages nested in a bunch of other pages.  The structure should not be “www.yoursite.com/locations/2011/page-you-want-a-sitelink-for.html”.  It should be more like www.yoursite.com/page-you-want-a-sitelink-for.html”.

3.  Make sure your page names are concise.  Google looks at this.  If you want your “Specialties” page to get a sitelink, make sure it’s called “specialties.php” or something.  Ideally, make the menu button match the page name.  If your page name is too long, Google won’t give you a sitelink, based on what I’ve seen.

4.  Get Google Webmaster Tools set up on your site (if it isn’t already) and then use it to submit a “Google Sitemap.”  This will help Google crawl your site.  Plus, it’s free.

5.  Keep grinding away at your link-building campaign.  Getting good content on other sites, with links back to yours, is still a great way to show Google how “useful” your site is.  This probably isn’t news to you; I’m just saying don’t forget to keep up with it.

IF the “blended” local search results show up in Google Places in your local market (as opposed to the “7-pack”), these 5 steps should not only help get your business visible there in the first place, but should also help you snag some sitelinks, more on-page territory, and more local customers than your competitors have.