google site links for wildlife news

Getting sitelinks in Google search results

A lot of web site owners ask questions about how to get site links displayed in Google. They can be a real help in boosting click-through rates. They also take up more screen space that a normal result and this makes you more noticeable. Sitelinks can also add a feel of authority for your site to searchers.

The first thing to say is that there is no sure-fire way of getting success. What Google uses to determine if site links are suitable is only known by Google. In fact, with machine learning now part of Google algorithms I’m not sure that even Google employees know what produces site links.

What seems to be needed for site links is that the link needs to meet 1 of 2 requirements;

  1. The link has been determined by Google to be a popular web page for your site
  2.  The link needs to be an important ‘hub’ page of your website.

There’s not a lot we can do about the first requirement. It’s determined by Google and you need a decent amount of traffic to that web page for it to be picked up as a potential link.

The second requirement though is something we can do something about in order to encourage Google to decide on picking up that page as a site link. Our category and tag archive pages are ‘hub’ pages. They are pages that lead to a different section of our site.

Making a Woocommerce archive site link friendly

how to get site links for your search resultSo let’s examine a category page at Wildlife News which has some very good and regular SERP placements with site links. Let’s have a look at what I’ve done to try and encourage Google to mark up the Wildlife Gardens category as a potential site link.

The Wildlife Gardens archive is a Woocommerce parent category archive. The shop is an Amazon affiliates site shop. People shop as in a normal eCommerce site and when they check out their chosen products are fed to Amazon and customers pay on Amazon.

There are some issues with WooCommerce ‘out of the box’ which means it is very difficult to get Google to recognise an archive page as a hub page. By default, it is not very search engine friendly. One of the biggest issues is that the product links are set as h2 headers. This means a default Woocommerce product archive page is not SEO friendly – it is a page that consists of 1 h1 header tag and the rest of the content is included within h2 tags. It looks very spammy to Googlebot. Indeed, seasoned SEO experts will tell you that Google explicitly warns about the overuse of header tags.

Remove Woocommerce h2 tags on archive pages

So the first thing to do is get rid of those h2 links and turn them into normal text. You can do this by changing the code of Woocommerce product-archive page or you can use one of my plugins – Woocommerce h2 remover. If your theme has standard Woocommerce calls then this plugin will swap the h2 tag for a div id tag. You can still style it up as you want but the header tags are gone. This means you now have a page with 1 h1 header and a page of normal text. Much more Googlebot friendly. And because there is only 1 header tag it is much easier for Google to determine what the archive page is about. You are not diluting the SEO benefit of an h1 tag with lots of h2 tags.

Once I’ve dealt with probably the major issue of too many header tags I needed to spruce up the standard Woocommerce product archive page. This, of course, called for Category Editor Pro.

Search optimisation of Woocommerce product archive

Firstly, I set up a product-archive file in my child theme. I then removed the normal call to the h1 page header. By default, it is called at the top of the page and I wanted my image to show first. I also wanted to style up my own page header. There’s probably a plugin that can remove the page header or you can use CSS to hide it.

So working down the archive page. The first thing to do is set a nice image for the product category. This gives a great user experience and also helps with the search. Google is known to like pages with mixed media such as images. You can also use the image alt tag to help support keywords.

Below the main image, I have the page title. I prefer page titles to be under category images, it’s just a taste thing. But I think people respond better. I’ve used an h1 tag for the main page title. There is then a normal horizontal line that has been styled with CSS. Below this are a few words of supporting keywords in h3 tags. 

Those are the only header tags I have on the page. This makes it easy for Google to determine the topic of the page. All those links are now just normal text content.

Display child categories in parent archive page

Below the page header, I have an image-based menu of sub-categories. For this, I used my Woocommerce sub-category plugin. You can set this up using standard Woocommerce shortcodes by naming individual product categories. But this means that you have to edit it every time you add or remove sub-categories. My plugin does that automatically. By displaying links to child categories Google recognises the main Wildlife Garden as a major hub for your site.

After the child category menu, I’ve added a few short paragraphs of text as an introduction to the product archive listing. You don’t want to add too much because people want to get to the products without too much scrolling.

So that is the top description area covered. We then have the product listings themselves. My preference is to go with 10 rows of 4 columns, so 40 products in total. Because they are no longer in header tags they are now normal content supporting the main Wildlife Garden keywords. And because all the products are related to wildlife gardening the product titles themselves provide ample semantic terms supporting the main keyword phrase.

Now we can move down to the bottom content area which you get with Category Tinymce Pro. Here I can get on with providing extra support for search optimisation and provide additional information for web visitors.

Using rich snippet schema in Woocomerce SEO

Google loves rich snippets, they love microformat data. This is the data Google displays as rich search results in the SERPs. It’s not great for websites as it keeps people on Google and reduces click-throughs. In 2018 43% of search resulted in NO clicks to websites. This is because Google now tries to display the answer to questions within the search results itself. 

Getting into the rich search results can benefit though as it promotes your shop and helps to give authority to your site. And it does generate clicks and help build traffic, it just doesn’t have the same click-through rate as a normal search placement. That said if you’re not taking part in what Google loves then you’re going to miss out completely.

The first thing we have in the bottom description area is a micro-format FAQ section. I use the Structured Content plugin for this. There are lots of different FAQ plugins available for WordPress, the important thing to check is that it delivers valid schema structured data. You can use the Google microdata testing tool to check. 

FAQ microformat schema 

You can set up microformat data to not display on the web page and only be served to search engine robots. I don’t see the point of hiding the information as it can be important and useful content. Having the content displayed on your page means it gets indexed and used for general search results. If you hide the schema data then it only gets used for rich snippets.

A useful FAQ can have as many questions as you can dream up but I tend to find between 4 and 6 questions to be the most beneficial. Remember that the more questions you have the longer your content and the longer it takes for your page to download. With mobile-first indexing, page speed is an important consideration.

You need to choose which questions you have in your FAQ carefully and how you answer can be important. 

Finding relevant questions is fairly straight-forward now. Search for your major keywords and look for the section headed ‘People also ask… ‘. This is a good start for questions and most search result pages will feature this.

Try and answer the question in a list type format. One thing that you will find is common amongst most rich search snippets is that they feature a list type of approach. Wherever follow this format, it’s what Google likes. 

Finally, at the bottom of the archives, I have embedded a video about wildlife gardens. Again this helps to support mixed media pages that Google likes. I’ve chosen a Wildlife Trust video because they have good authority on wildlife topics. 

Optimising product categories to encourage sitelink inclusion

As I said at the start, there are no guaranteed ways of getting site links in the Google search results. But this is how I modify a standard Woocomerce product archive page into a search engine optimised page. One that helps to encourage Google to pick out the page as a ‘hub’ page to display as a site link.

If you have any techniques for boosting site links on your eCommerce web site drop them in the comment section. My next task is to try and encourage Google to display a site search bar in my site links section.

Recap on getting sitelinks in Google

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There are no guarantees on getting Sitelinks for your website. Site links are automated but you can improve your chances with these 5 techniques for WordPress and Woocomerce.

  1. Have a good structure for your website. Site links are produced by Google depending on popular pages or important pages. You can not impact the first aspect but you can influence the second. Have a good structure with categories, sub-categories and tag pages.
  2. Don’t overuse header tags. As an example, a default Woocommerce archive page is packed with h2 links. This is spammy and doesn’t help Google determine a product category page importance or content.
  3. Optimise your category pages, don’t have a lot of products or posts in multiple categories. Use tags instead. Categories are easier to optimise for being picked up as site links than a tag page.
  4. Use good internal linking to your category pages and optimise your anchor text of the link.
  5. Make your page or category titles short and relevant. Use h1 tags on very short product category titles of 2 or 3 words. You can add support for additional words using h3 – but use them sparingly to keep your page optimisation on topic.

There’s no guaranteed way of getting Google sitelinks but it’s worth the effort. You can get up to 10 extra deeper links into your site. Studies of sitelinks also show a boost of over 60% on click-through rates.


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Posted in Blog.

Blog postings from the developer of Y Praise Digital. some thoughts and wonderings of a web developer of over 25 years experience.

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