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SEO & Sitelinks: How to Get Google Subheadings in Search Results

Posted by Kara Anton on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 @ 06:01 AM

By Kara Anton, Managing Consultant

The goal of this tutorial is to make your website's search engine result look like this:

Google Search Result with Sitelinks

Note: #1 points to your main URL (ex: and #2 points to the important internal links from your site (ex:, otherwise known as the sitelinks

Sitelinks & Why You Want ‘Em!

The tiny subheadings (aka internal links) that are shown below a website’s main URL in Google's organic search results are called SitelinksThese links serve as shortcuts to the most important pages of your site; they help prospective visitors easily find the information they need and navigate your site in a timely manner. Sitelinks not only provide insight into your site’s structure and bring information and options up front to users, but they also expand your search engine real estate and click-through rates. Here are some more key benefits:

  • Higher link visibility, which leads to more traffic

  • Decrease in bounce rates, since users can zero in on specific pages

  • Push competitor sites further down the page

While other results are shifted below, each of your sitelinks showcases more meta description text (about 48 characters of bonus advertising!).

What You’ll Need to Set Up

First of all, you’ll need to sign up for a Webmaster Tools account. While you’re at it, I recommend setting up a Google Analytics and Google Adwords account as well. Even if you’re already using another SEO/keywords service, these tools are free, so take advantage of them as backup analytics sources.

How You Get Sitelinks!

First you’re going to need a Sitemap (.XML). If you already have a sitemap for your website, you can usually find it by typing in your browser. If you don’t have one, you can create a sitemap manually or by using third-party tools. A simple solution is to use this XML generator: Follow the instructions on the site to create your map.

As an example, here's a portion of Relish Tray Media's sitemap: 

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!-- created with Free Online Sitemap Generator -->

Also, if you do not comprehend the frequency, priority, or modification settings, here are some Sitemap tag definitions.

Sitemap Tag Definitions 

Once your sitemap is complete and downloaded from, upload the sitemap.xml file to your site (in the FTP or your site’s file manager). By now, you should be able to type in your browser and see the sitemap you just created (note: there may be a few additions to the URL, if your file is hosted in a CMS portal or FTP subfolder). Now, follow these easy, Google instructions for submitting your sitemap into Webmaster Tools: To quickly summarize, go to Webmaster Tools and click Optimization > Sitemaps. In the upper right corner, click "Add/Test Sitemap," and enter the sitemap URL, like this:

Add Test Sitemap Webmaster

Note: Test the Sitemap before submitting it.

Go Forth & Conquer … but Read This First

Here’s a couple things you should know: As of now, Google automatically generates your sitelinks using an algorithm – you do not have direct control over what links appear below your main URL. However, you can demote sitelinks in your Webmaster Tools account if you don’t feel a specific URL is a good "shortcut" candidate. For demoting a link, go to Webmaster Tools > Configuration > Sitelinks and enter the URL in the second text box.

Demote Sitelink Webmaster

Again, there's no guarantee that your sitemap will generate search engine sitelinks. You need to make sure that your "site's internal links,...use anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition” (Google). Many theorize that sitelinks are generated from a combination of website authority (i.e. inbound links), traffic, and branded keywords. At the very least, make sure that your site’s link structure is clean and sensible. Also, take time to mark up the contents of your pages to help Google decide which internal links to showcase.

Here are some other helpful SEO/Webmaster tips:

  • Index your current webpages, if you haven't already, here

  • Submit any new webpages for indexing here


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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Search Engine Optimization

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