All About Content

Google’s One-Line Sitelinks Explained

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 8:12 am

Last Thursday (April 2), Google unveiled new shortcuts in their SERPS, displaying a single line of four links that take search engine users deeper into a site, bypassing the page shown in the results. These new shortcut links are being called “One-Line Sitelinks”, or alternatively “Mini Sitelinks”.

(I prefer One-Line Sitelinks, as I think it’s more descriptive. While traditional Sitelinks often contain 8 links displayed across 4 lines, I’ve seen a number of sites that have only 3-7 links listed, so those could theoretically be called as “mini Sitelinks” as well.)

Among the most obvious differences between these so called One-Line Sitelinks and the regular Sitelinks we’re already used to:

  • Display of this abbreviated version of Sitelinks is not limited to “branded” searches
  • One-Line Sitelinks are not just reserved for the #1 result and can appear in results at the bottom of the SERPs
  • One-Line Sitelinks are appearing on more than one result at a time
  • A single domain can have more than one set of Sitelinks per page

Mini Sitelinks Chosen Similarly to Regular Sitelinks

Below is a screenshot of One-line Sitelinks (aka “mini sitelinks”) in the #1 position, followed by an indented position, and then again in the #3 position:

The above example hints at an algorithm for pulling One-Line mini sitelinks that matches the full-fledged Sitelinks usually displayed for “brand matches”, except One-Line Sitelinks pull only four links — and as far as I can see, not fewer than four.

In the case of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) (the first result in the screenshot above), the One-Line Sitelinks match the first four links displayed in the regular 8-link version of the full-size Sitelinks. These four links are not necessarily the main navigation items, and the titles come from a combination of anchor text and page titles.

In the case of KidsHealth.org (result #3 in the screenshot above), the main page is an unfriendly Flash page with three main buttons: Parents, Kids, Teens. “How the Body Works” is one of over a dozen submenu items within the “Kids” subdirectory. These four links, in this same order, are the first four Sitelinks in the full-size version of this site’s Sitelinks when you do a query on [Kids Health]. It’s not entirely clear at first glance where exactly the Sitelinks names are pulling from, since they are not an exact match for on-page anchor text, page titles or alt attributes. Most likely it is using a combination of those factors, but then stripping out “stop words.”

For my previous observations on how Google is determining which Sitelinks to display and what text it uses to describe them, please see: What Info is Google Using to Display Sitelinks?

Sitelinks Near Bottom of Page

One-line Sitelinks are not just reserved for the top of the results. The screenshot below shows One-Line Sitelinks as low as the #7 position:

It really makes you wonder why the results displayed in positions #1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are good enough to outrank KidsHealth.org, but not good enough to get a line of Sitelinks.

How Many Sites Will Show Sitelinks On a Single SERP?

I’ve seen up to 3 results displaying these inline sitelinks for a single results page. In this example for a search on [find a job], results #1, #2, and #3 all show the set of four links below the snippet:

Given that Google is displaying these links on multiple results on a single page and on results near the bottom of the page, there’s no reason to think that it couldn’t theoretically include One-Line Sitelinks with every result.

Sitelinks are Query Dependent

Here you can see that One-Line Sitelinks are not site-specific. InsureKidsNow.org gets the new One-Line Sitelinks in the #1 spot when you search [children health coverage]:

… but gets the four-link, two-line version on the search query [children health insurance], where it also occupies the #1 spot:

In both cases, the site is in the #1 position for the query and in both cases the Sitelinks listed are the same (they match the four links displayed for a “brand query”: [Insure Kids Now] — In this case, the site does not have a full 8-pack of links, even when searching on the site’s exact name).

Interestingly, when you further refine your search to include any of the keywords mentioned in the Sitelinks, the Sitelinks disappear. (E.g., a search on [children health insurance state's programs] does not pull up any results with One-Line Sitelinks, even though that keyword was part of the InsureKidsNow.gov result previously.)

Having 1-Line Sitelinks appear underneath your results for one search query, does not guarantee that you’ll see 1-Line Sitelinks for your site on other search queries, but it’s logical that similar search queries would improve the odds.

Check out this example where Google is perhaps trying to calculate just how close to a “brand” fit, the site might be.

1. A search for [health care] brings up the full set of eight Sitelinks plus an internal search box:

2. A slightly longer-tail search phrase ([kids health insurance]) brings up traditional Sitelinks, but this time with only four links instead of all eight, and no site search box:

3. The long-tail search phrase [kids health insurance program] brings up One-Line Sitelinks (in the #2 position):

Mixing Regular Sitelinks with One-Line Sitelinks

So now we’ve seen queries that bring back traditional Sitelinks and queries that bring back the new abbreviated Sitelinks. But will Google show both traditional and abbreviated Sitelinks together? Yep.

Here you can see that Google is mixing regular Sitelinks and One-Line Sitelinks in the same results:

(The fact that the first result has only 5 links, rather than the usual 8 is not related to One-Line Sitelinks. That particular results hasn’t displayed a full set of 8 Sitelinks in many months. How or why Google is deciding to display “regular Sitelinks” with fewer than 8 links is probably worthy of a separate blog post. It’s also worth noting, while we’re on the subject of Sitelinks for All-About-Content.com, that for a while the first link was actually called “Washington DC SEO”, thanks to a few choice inbound links with that anchor text. It then reverted back to using the predominant anchor text to the page from within the site’s template.)

One-Line Sitelinks Not Just for Domains

In fact, not only is Google mixing regular Sitelinks with One-Line Sitelinks, but in rare cases it’s doing so for the same domain:

It’s surprising to see a single domain get two sets of Sitelinks here, as you’d expect there to be overlap (thus wasting valuable SERP real estate), but in the above screenshot, only one link is repeated, and that’s because the Sitelinks for the second result are specific to the subdirectory.

In this next example, you can see One-Line Sitelinks for a subdomain in the #2 position:

As you can see, much like the examples I posted previously of Sitelinks showing up on subdomains and subdirectories, these new One-Line Sitelinks are not reserved just for “homepages” or domains; One-Line Sitelinks show up at the folder and subdomain-level as well.

Parting Observations

Based on what I’ve observed so far, it’s hard to predict where these One-Line Sitelinks will show up, but the same rules seem to apply as getting regular Sitelinks: a site needs to have some amount of authority for the query (although clearly not as much as before) and also have strong internal navigation/site architecture that Google can use to determine which links get displayed; Sitelinks links frequently are those high-level pages most prominent in the navigation.

But then there’s always the exception that proves the rule (h/t to Terry for this example):

One thing’s for sure, Google is always testing these SERP enhancements, so don’t be surprised if you see fluctuations and tweaks in the coming weeks. If you want to improve your chances of getting additional links into your SERP listing, work on building strong internal navigation with optimized internal anchor text, and get high-quality inbound links to your internal pages with anchor text that matches your target keywords. Since Google is tracking those links, I’m probably not going out on a limb by saying that it doesn’t hurt to drive traffic to those internal pages either ;)

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Category: Google

Yahoo Enhanced Results Allows Embeds Directly Into SERPs

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Last week, Yahoo announced on its Y! Search Blog that publishers can now embed multimedia content directly into the search results. Had Google announced such a move, it would have been impossible to avoid the buzz. But since its “only Yahoo”, I didn’t see any mention of this latest Enhanced Results innovation — even though it looks wicked cool!

Basically, by adding a small bit of markup around an embedded object in your web page, you enable Yahoo “to extract the necessary structured data to display it as an enhanced result”. The enhanced result is first displayed as a thumbnail next to your search result; if your embed object is a video, then when a searcher “click[s] on the thumbnail image, an expanded video drops down so they can watch the video clip directly on the search results page.

This works for videos and will soon work for games and other documents … apparently it also works with something called Facebook Share markup.

If it’s been a while since you’ve used Yahoo for search, you may be surprised that Yahoo has been rolling out enhanced results for all sorts of things. In other words, this isn’t just for tricked out multimedia content like Hulu videos (the example used on the above Yahoo Search blog). Simple things like images and internal anchor links could be displayed as enhanced results. Although Yahoo is handpicking which sites get this special treatment for now, the blog does encourage publishers to use the mark up so Yahoo can crawl it as soon as possible.

Check out this Wikipedia listing displayed as an enhanced result. Not nearly as sexy as being able to watch a video right from the SERPs, but tell me this isn’t going to be more compelling to searchers than a plain vanilla listing:

The shortcut links directly below the title correspond to internal anchors on the Wikipedia page. (We saw Google testing similar internal anchor links directly within the SERPs a while back as well.)

Take a look at the Yahoo results for a search on my name:

Clicking on these Facebook shortcut links just sends me to a login page. Terrible usability, but I still bet that enhanced listing will get more clicks than the surrounding results.

Obviously there are a questions: How many sites will eventually get to have enhanced listings? Will too much of this make the Yahoo SERPs look cluttered? Will embedding multimedia content in the SERPs cause users not to visit the hosting page, thus impacting page views?

While Google’s stranglehold on market share is not likely to be upset by Yahoo’s latest SERP enhancements, I do find it exciting to see this kind of product improvement by the second biggest search engine — features aimed at helping users, not simply getting more user data or serving up more ads in more places.

(On a side note, as more evidence that the whole cult of “nofollow” has reached ridiculous proportions, those shortcut links are nofollowed. Why? Links in SERPs aren’t going to be passing PageRank (or the Yahoo equivalent) and they aren’t any more or less vetted editorial content than the rest of the links on the page – if you’re disavowing those links, why not nofollow every single result?)

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Category: Yahoo

Back to Basics: Finding Flickr Explore Photos

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Although it’s been a while since I’ve been active on Flickr, my posts on Flickr Explore and the Interestingness algorithm still get steady daily search traffic. People want to know what Flickr Explore is, why photos got dropped from Explore, and what the secret to Flickr’s Interestingness algorithm could be.

But a consistent percentage of traffic seems to be asking the very basic questions: How do I know if my photo got into Flickr Explore? … and, How can I tell which of my photos are in Flickr’s Top 500 list?

If you’re trying to find out if you made Flickr Explore, the easiest way is to go to Flickr Scout, a tool created by Big Huge Labs.

Enter your username and click “Apply” to see which of your photos (if any) made the cut.

The default view shows you which of your photos is currently part of Explore. Click the link “Include dropped” (underneath the line of drop down options) to see ALL your photos that have ever been deemed worthy of Interestingness in the past.

And there you have it, the easy way to find if your photos got into Flickr Explore.

Then What?

Once you’ve identified which of your photos made it into the Top 500 of any particular day, you can tag them with ExploreDDMONYR, where DD is the day, MON is the 3-letter month abbreviation and YR is the two-digit year the photo was uploaded (example: Explore16jul07) and Interestingness###, where ### is the position your photo achieved (example: Interestingness86).

You can also add your photo to the plethora of Explore photo pools (e.g., Interestingness – Top 500, Explore Top 20, etc.)

And don’t forget to check your stats (you have access to stats if you have a Flickr Pro account) to see if which photos are drawing eyeballs and where traffic is coming from.

So what does getting into Explore/Interestingness mean? Hmm… nothing really. You might be able to monetize your Top 500 photos status somehow, but if you figure out how to do that effectively, please let me know because in my experience the attention you get on Flickr is fickle. The amount of effort required to get into Explore is really only worth it if you enjoy being active in the community, not if you’re trying to leverage Explore for some other agenda — which is exactly as it should be. Achieving Interestingness is really just about idle bragging rights and nothing more. ;)

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Category: Flickr

Are Behavioral/Interest-Based Ads More Relevant?

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 11:01 pm

With the new buzz about AdSense going the route of behavioral targeting (or “interest-based advertising” in Google-speak), I felt a strange sense of deja vu. I went through some old blog drafts and found a note I had written, but never published:

When I search “melanie phung” and clicked through to my blog, I got a bunch of “Melanie B ringtones” [AdSense] ads on my site. When I get to my site via SEO-related terms I’m presented with search ads. The content on the site, in both cases, is obviously identical (and not at all related to ringtones or “Melanie B”).

I wrote that in October of 2007. At some point after I wrote that draft, I stopped seeing radically different ad units depending on the referring keyword so I completely forgot about it, but it really bugged me at the time — I didn’t want my site content associated with ringtone ads. (Eventually I just took AdSense off my blog because even the ads that were relevant to my content didn’t seem to reflect well on the site)

In theory, you wouldn’t appear in the results for search terms that aren’t aligned with your content — in which case, AdSense could match ads to either your content or the referring search query and it would be six of one/half dozen of the other — but we know that isn’t true in reality; often users find our pages using search terms that have nothing to do with our content.”Contextual ads” that place advertisements based on broad match keyword search terms rather than landing page copy can easily miss the mark and create message mismatches that could have advertisers annoyed and uncomfortable.

And that’s nothing compared to what could happen with this new behavioral targeting Google AdSense is rolling out. Donna just made some compelling observations about how Google’s behavioral targeting could be a nightmare for publishers and users alike over on SEO Chicks.

I always thought the beauty of AdSense is that it matches ads to content. Messing with that formula seems like a losing proposition – for users, publishers and advertisers alike.

What do you think? Would you, as a Web user, click on AdSense ads targeted at you, even if they aren’t relevant to what you’re currently doing? As a publisher, how do you feel about ads on your site that aren’t related to your content? Should advertisers on Google’s Content Network worry this will hurt their campaign performance?

Updated March 12: Also read Aaron Wall’s critique of grave privacy issues, and Bob Massa’s impassioned comment in response.

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Category: Contextual Ads

Revving Up with RedEngine Digital

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

When faced with scary economic times, the instinct is often to dig in, batten the hatches, hunker down and try to stay safe… in other words, play it conservative.

The other option is to seek out and embrace new challenges.

And with that by way of intro, I have some news to share: I’ve left New Media Strategies, the national leader in digital PR and word of mouth marketing for Fortune 500 companies, to go much smaller and deeper.

Starting at the end of the month, I’ll be joining the team at RedEngine Digital, an integrated marketing firm that specializes in online marketing for nationally acclaimed non-profits, associations and businesses. Offerings include SEO, paid search, A/B testing, online fundraising, membership acquisitions, and email marketing — all with an eye on running highly profitable campaigns.

As RedEngine’s new Director of SEO and Online Marketing, my responsibilities will include search engine optimization (naturally), strategic marketing and social media… and the RED website. I’ll be able to have direct, quantifiable impact against specific goals; there’s something exhilarating about being held accountable by hard numbers. Even better, clients include non-profits that advocate for issues and causes I can get passionate about.

What does this mean for this blog? Expect nothing to change. I’ll probably maintain the same erratic publishing schedule, with posts varying in quality from lame to surprisingly not terrible, on subjects ranging from the blog itself to banal observations about the state of the industry. ;) Keep in mind that the really juicy stuff doesn’t get published here. I still won’t blog about my clients, “amazing SEO secrets”, or industry news already being covered ad nauseum on other SEO sites, although I might start blogging more about issue-related or cause marketing.

For more frequent updates, your best bet is to follow me on Twitter, where I do drop a few nuggets of knowledge (usually from other people). And if you’re interested in what RedEngine Digital can do to turbo charge your marketing efforts, get in touch and let’s chat.

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Category: Navel-Gazing