Monthly Archives: October 2007

Thoughts On Google Sitelinks Update

Google webmaster tools was updated on Thursday with some new features. The one that caught my eye was Sitelinks located under Dashboard > Links > Sitelinks. Here’s a screenshot showing the new feature, see if you can spot where I think another updated is needed.

Google Webmaster Tools Sitelinks

Hint: Hmmm… looks like the developer didn’t have English as his first language.

Ok, I’ll stop poking fun, on to some proper stuff:

From the blog post:

Selecting pages to appear as sitelinks is a completely automated process. Our algorithms parse the structure and content of websites and identify pages that provide fast navigation and relevant information for the user’s query…… occasionally you might want to exclude a page from your sitelinks, for example: a page that has become outdated or unavailable, or a page that contains information you don’t want emphasized to users.

1) If Google has not yet crawled the entire site, it’s choosing the sitelinks based on partial data.

2) How does Google define “fast navigation”? Is it referencing the time spent downloading a page? The number of clicks to that page, which is deemed to be relevant to the users’ query? Or perhaps this was just worded in a strange way and what it really means is that by providing the sitelinks they’re providing a faster way for users to get to the relevant information on my site from the SERP.

3) I like that I can exclude a page, but why can’t I add pages as sitelinks? This would be much more useful for webmasters and users, since site owners will most likely know where their traffic goes and more to the point, where they really want to drive traffic.

4) If pages become outdated, it also stands to reason that there may be some new pages which are more valuable, but haven’t been automatically chosen to become sitelinks. (Yet another Google algo to look into…)

5) If pages that are listed as sitelinks become unavailable, I’d hope that Google will automatically remove the sitelinks.

6) Since Google only displays 4 sitelinks in the SERPs but offers a bigger list in GWT, it would be nice to see some examples of queries that bring up different combinations of sitelinks.

7) The anchor text of the sitelinks uses the first 25 characters of the title tag of the page it’s linking to. I’d like to be able to edit that link text to make it more useful for users and ensure some of the links aren’t truncated.

This brings on an interesting point, is it worth optimizing the title tags of pages that are listed in sitelinks? Would it make any difference? All of the ones I’ve seen are pretty accurate and don’t need adjusting.

Google Analytics 404 Tracking And Downloaded Files

I was reading Bruce Clay’s September Newsletter and came across a couple of inaccuracies in Jim Sterne’s web analytics article, specifically this part:

Google won’t report on downloads of files like PDF’s, jpg’s of Flash. You want to know about server error messages? You have to look to the pay-to-play vendors.

Well Google Analytics may not give you those reports out of the box, but it’s not too difficult to put these two solutions together:

1) Tracking files downloaded from your site:
http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=27242

Caveat – this method only reports on people clicking links on your website which are tagged with this code. If someone remotely links to a file on your site, none of the javascript web analytics packages will report on that traffic.

2) Tracking 404 error pages:
http://analytics.blogspot.com/2006/09/tip-tracking-404-pages.html

This could also be used to create error pages and tracking for 5XX errors.

And on a side note, for those of you who use WordPress, here’s a handy way to create a custom 404 page:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Creating_an_Error_404_Page

If you have your Google Analytics code in a footer include file, you could create a second include and call it from the 404.php.