If as to prove right the old saying, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” Google took to their Webmaster Blog at 4:36am this morning to announce that webmasters would no longer have the option of demoting featured sitelinks within Google Search Console. Prior to this morning, SEOs and webmasters had the option to remove (by “demoting”) specific links from showing up as Featured Sitelinks in organic results. This was done by submitting the URL to be demoted, and for which URL it should not show up to Google via Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). The feature launched in 2007, and was a popular tool among SEOs for past 9 years.
Google’s announcement, made via Webmaster blog in the wee small hours of October 13, stated the reason for the change was Google’s improved algorithmic system for picking good sitelinks. Any poor sitelinks still showing up, it was suggested, were the fault of the site and not the Google algorithm.
“Over the years, our algorithms have gotten much better at finding, creating, and showing relevant sitelinks, and so we feel it’s time to simplify things,” the announcement states. It continues:
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. This process is completely automated. Sitelinks have evolved into being based on traditional web ranking, so the way to influence them is the same as other web pages.
Many webmasters and SEOs have responded to the announcement directly, commenting on the post itself that even with excellent SEO best practices in place, there are plenty of poor sitelinks still showing up in results.
Google’s new recommendations for managing organic sitelinks revolves around three best practices:
1. Provide a clear structure for your website, using relevant internal links and anchor text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.
2. Allow Google to crawl and index important pages within your site. Use Fetch and Render to check that they can be rendered properly.
3. If you need to remove a page from search completely, use a “noindex” robots meta tag on that page.
If you are still seeing poor sitelinks in Google SERPs for your website, they officially recommend visiting the Google Webmaster Forum for help.
Gee, thanks, Google.