In September 2014, Google rolled out new support for sitelink search markup in search results which got a lot of brands in a tizzy. What at first appeared to be a way to enhance user experience and engagement by letting people make site searches directly from Google without having to hit a homepage first turned out to had a very ugly side.

Brands not executing the markup found that the sitelink search was enabled anyway, but all it did was trigger a site: parameter search on Google, leading users to a normal SERP complete with normal competitor advertising waiting to steal their traffic.

Example of Sitelink Search SERP For ASOS

Suddenly, semantic markup had become a requisite for brand traffic defence rather than a “nice to have.” Fortunately the sitelink search markup was relatively easy to implement. 4Ps published a guide to doing this with microdata and have been experimenting with it since.

Our findings, from a combination of internal testing and the involvement of several progressive clients (this is yet another reason we love our clients – so many of them are always up for trying something new!) reveal that Google’s assurances of support for microdata, one method of implementing the markup, appear to sadly be empty.

Implementing Sitelink Search Markup

Given our findings, In order to ensure that your brand gets the right results from this new code, we’re updating our recommendations to suggest that everyone makes use not of the microdata but instead the JSON-LD script implementation.

To do this, place this script inline in the <body> tag of your homepage (it only needs to go on your homepage, not any other pages on your website):

Test the target by replacing {keys} with an example search term and pasting the URL into the browser – it should return a search results page for the website. Note that the value for the name attribute of the query-input property must match the string that is inside the curly braces in the target property.

Bear in mind that the URL should be the canonical of the homepage.

Not easy enough? We’ve been doing some research in 4Ps Labs and found that you can even deploy this markup as a custom HTML tag in Google Tag Manager – pretty amazing as it means you don’t even need to get a developer involved. In theory it will work with other tag management technologies as well – just keep a close eye on your firing rules to make sure the custom tag containing the JSON will always fire on the homepage regardless of who visits it. If Googlebot can’t see the script running, it won’t pick it up!

Don’t want sitelink searches appearing? Well, when executed properly this markup is incredibly slick and offers a great user experience to prompt engagement with brands straight from the SERP, but if you’d prefer not to have a sitelink search at all then you can add a meta tag to your homepage instead which asks Google not to show the search box for your site.

Take a look at Google’s Developer Guide for this functionality for more info, or if you’d like help implementing semantic markup on your website then give our team a call and we can have a chat about it over a cuppa at a <span itemscope itemtype=””> beverage establishment </span> of your choice!

4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how content, search and technology are evolving together to meet new demands from brands and customers alike, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels.