In 2014, Google announced the addition of an improved search box integrated within the SERPs. Users could refine their search results to focus on content from one website to get the best results possible. This is commonly known as Google’s sitelinks search box and it represents an opportunity for every internet marketer to better shape the click path of their domain.
Despite the multiple benefits of the sitelinks search box, few companies have implemented it over the past four years as effectively as posisble. Here’s how you can set up this tool to get the most out of your SEO efforts.
What is the Sitelinks Search Box?
You have probably seen Google’s sitelinks search box before, and even used it without thinking about it. This box only shows up for brand terms, so if you search for “Barnes and Noble,” or “Bed Bath & Beyond,” you will see the search box, but not if you search for “book store,” or “shower curtains.” This tool utilizes the same autocomplete option found in the main search bar, helping to guide your search results by serving up popular terms that helped users in the past.
There are two options that pop-up when you type in your query in the search box:
Google will direct you to the brand’s website with the narrowed results available.
Google will refresh the page with information limited to that website.
The main difference is Schema markup. Brands that install Schema data to their websites will have a greater chance of seeing a “Search” bar in the SERPs and will drive more users to their on-site search options.
To see both of these options in action, use the examples above. The Huffington Post will keep the results within the Google search, while Barnes and Noble will redirect you to its website.
Pro Tip: Use Google’s Search Command for Better Results
In the “results from,” search bar, Google uses a simple command to search your website, one that you can use on other websites if the sitelinks search box doesn’t pop up. Use the search: keyword site:websiteURL to filter the results exactly how you want.
For example, Orlando site:huffingtonpost.com brings up all of the top news from the city of Orlando from the past year (and some news about Orlando Bloom).
Even though Barnes and Noble redirects users to its website with its search bar, you can use this hack to keep the results on Google through the main bar. The search phrase Yaa Gyasi site:barnesandnoble.com is a great example of a Barnes and Noble site search that keeps you on Google’s SERPS.
How to Add the Google’s Sitelinks Search Box to Your Website
There are two steps you need to take to increase the chances that Google will show a search box under your brand.
First, you need to have a working search tool on your website.
Next, you need to add the SearchAction schema data to your homepage.
These are the most basic steps you can take to increase the chances that Google shows a search bar in your brand name SERPs.
There is a catch; however, Google does not show a search box for every brand. Your on-site search function is more important than the schema markup. John Mueller recently explained in a Google Webmaster Office Hours session that a schema markup won’t make a search box magically appear. Brands need to have a commitment to their on-site search improvement and treat it like a valuable customer tool before Google will start showing a search box. The schema data serves in a support role.
If you invest in schema data but lack a strong on-site search experience, then Google might not show a search bar under your brand.
What Value Does This Tool Provide?
The search box itself does not provide any SEO value alone; however, there are multiple benefits to implementing Google’s sitelinks search box by setting up the schema data on your website:
- If your website has a poor on-site search experience, you can use this tool to hone the results, reducing your dependency on a poorly-functioning tool.
- Your audiences can find exactly what they need, increasing the chances that they convert rather than bouncing in frustration.
- Your website can take up more real estate in the SERPs, decreasing the chances that your customers click on a different link below yours.
As a data-driven marketer, you may notice some changes in your website metrics and user behavior as a result of the sitelink search box. Some of these metrics might be alarming at first but point to a better experience as a whole. A few of these changes include:
- Increases in your conversion rate and organic search traffic. More people are finding what they want by honing keywords in the SERPs.
- Decreases in the average number of pages per session and time on site for organic search. With an increased conversion rate, this shows that customers are finding what they want faster and taking action sooner.
- Decreases in traffic to your homepage as customers land on category landing pages and even individual product pages.
Some companies experience more dramatic changes that others when they implement the sitelinks search box schema data. Taking note of when you make the change can help you understand the results you see in Google Analytics.
Make the Most of Your SEO Opportunities
When it comes to SEO, you don’t want to leave anything on the table. Why would you ignore certain opportunities that could increase your SERPs exposure and organic traffic? Take advantage of Google’s sitelinks search box to help your customers and your bottom line.
Want to discover other SEO opportunities you’re missing out on? Use our SEO page auditor tool to see how optimized your website is and where you can improve. You can also add competitor URLs to see how you stack up against them. With a few changes, you can start to rise in the SERPs and hit your organic traffic goals.