You Have Two Options for the Google Sitelinks Search Box. And Doing Nothing Isn’t One of Them.

Wikipedia Sitelink SearchboxYou’ve probably read about or noticed the search box option on branded queries (e.g. YouTube, BestBuy, Moz…). Or perhaps you’ve read the message Google sent out to webmasters via their Webmaster Tools accounts (message shown below). There have been many discussions about the pros and cons of this feature, especially for retail brands. If you get one thing from this post today it should be this: Whether or not you decide a sitelinks search box is good for your brand, you need to take an action. Otherwise, Google may choose to show it anyway – the only difference being your competitors’ ads might show up in the results when someone who searched for your brand uses the search box feature.

Some Background from Google:

“When users search for a company by name—for example, [Megadodo Publications] or [Dunder Mifflin]—they may actually be looking for something specific on that website. In the past, when our algorithms recognized this, they’d display a larger set of sitelinks and an additional search box below that search result, which let users do site: searches over the site straight from the results, for example [ hitchhiker guides].” Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Further from Google Developers:

“With Google sitelinks search box, people can reach your content more quickly from search results. Search users sometimes use navigational queries—typing in the brand name or URL of a known site—only to do a more detailed query once on that site. For example, suppose someone wants to find that video about the guilty dog on YouTube. They type YouTube, or you-tube, or into Google Search, follow the link to YouTube, and then actually search for the dog video.

A sitelinks search box removes the extra step. A query for displays a site-specific search box in the sitelinks section, so the user can immediately search for an article or topic without going to the TIME website first.

So What’s the Big Deal?

The big deal is that unless you’ve marked up your page to Google’s specifications (or added a meta tag to opt out) they may unilaterally decide to add this box, which will use their search engine instead of yours. When that happens, you lose control of the user experience and they may end up on someone else’s site instead.


Ads in Google SERPs


It really boils down to the following two options:

  1. Set up Sitelinks search box schema so Google sends visitors directly to your site instead of delivering search results that show competitors’ ads.
  2. Set up the nositelinkssearchbox meta tag so users don’t have the option to use the sitelinks search box at all.

If you do not want the searchbox to appear in the SERPs you can add the following meta tag to the HTML header of your home page:

No Sitelinks Searchbox Meta Tag Code

If you DO want the sitelinks searchbox to appear in the SERPs (and don’t want competitor’s ads to show up) you must mark up your homepage as a entity with the potentialAction property of the markup. You can use JSON-LD, microdata, or RDFa. Check out the full implementation details on Google’s developer site for more information. Below is an example email from GWT, which explains what needs to be done form a high level:

GWT Sitelinks Message

Click here
to visit Google’s Developer website
and learn more about implementing the markup discussed above.
If you don’t do either of those things there is a chance that Google will give your site the search box anyway, but instead of sending users to your internal search results pages they will send them to another Google search result that could include advertisements from your competitors.
Either way, you have something to do in order to respond to this development.

 Have you seen an impact on any of the sites you work on since the September implementation of the sitelinks searchbox? Tell us about your experience and what you’re advising.