The sitelink search box is quite familiar to big brands who’ve been active in search marketing for a while – search for a brand and if the Google algorithm determines that your query could benefit from a little refining within that brand you’ll likely see something like this…

Sitelink Search Box

At first this seems like good news for the brand – it makes the snippet in SERPs really stand out, it makes the user journey a little smoother and it even forms a kind of call to action for users to dive right in and engage with your site. In fact it is only when you try out this sitelink search that the downside becomes apparent: all this really does is add the site: operator to the subsequent query, which means that organic results are served alongside Adwords and competitors get a useful chance to steal click traffic.

Sitelink Search Ads

With this in mind, Google’s new enhanced sitelink search snippet, which ties directly into your website’s onsite search facility and uses it to produce results rather than Google’s own algorithm restricted by domain, is a welcome change for many brands. The addition of the correct semantic markup, whether using Google’s suggested JSON-LD format or more widely-utilised microdata from schema.org, is relatively simple as it is only required for your homepage, and it helps protect your brand from sneaky ads stealing clicks.

You’ll need your developer to edit your homepage template – first by indicating that it is a Website object. The simplest way to do this is to insert the itemscope into the opening body tag on your homepage so you get this:

This then allows the nested potentialAction for the search itself to be added to the onsite search box. Make sure this is only added to a free text style search – that’s all the SERP supports at the moment, so advanced tickbox or filter-style searches won’t behave if you try to include them. Look for your main search form – on the majority of sites you’ll see something like this:

You’ll need to add a few things in, including a couple of meta itemprop tags which are used to provide semantic information that is not explicitly stated in the page itself.

  1. Add the potentialAction itemprop along with the itemtype SearchAction to the form tag (or the div which encapsulates the entire search form)
  2. Add a meta itemprop for the URL of the homepage.
  3. Add the itemprop query input to the input field which users put their search query into.
  4. Add a meta itemprop for the target URL for the search. Note that here you’ll need to specify the search string as the name attribute as the input field.

Make sure this goes on the canonical version of your homepage and give it a roll – it might take a little while for Google to pick up, but you too could end up with a slick direct engagement from SERPs like Marks and Spencer or John Lewis. Don’t be afraid to tweak and experiment if you need to – many onsite searches have their own peculiarities that will necessitate adjustments to this method. Google have thoughtfully put together a Developer Guide which contains more in-depth information so if your site search is more complex, or you’d prefer to implement with JSON-LD than microdata, give it a look.

There are still queries around how this implementation will affect site search data in analytics – will Google encrypt or not, and will we see a rise in Not Provided for onsite search where sites have implemented the searchAction markup? 4Ps are experimenting now so keep an eye on the blog to see what we discover, or give us a call if you’d like to talk more about this style of markup and the future of the semantic web.

Note February 2015 – 4Ps has been experimenting with sitelink markup and have updated our recommendations.

4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and web development are evolving together in order to keep pace with changes in search algorithms and technology, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and behaviour across all inbound channels.