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Thursday, 18 August 2011

New Look For Google Sitelinks

Google has made some changes to its sitelinks to make results more extensive and more prominent than ever before.

Even if you're not aware of Google's term "sitelinks", you've almost certainly seen them before. From a search engine optimisation point of view, they're not all that important. You won't see sitelinks if you search for a generic term, like "boilers" or "engines" or "carpet cleaning", but you will see them if you search for a specific company name, like "MTV", "Amazon" or "Microsoft" - where Google is more than 99% sure that it's found the best possible site to match your query, it gives you a miniature index of that site in two columns below the main homepage listing.

As of this week, that index has become a lot less miniature. In terms of sheer screen area, the sitelinks section for the Sherpa Van website (see below) has tripled from about 150 pixels in height to around 470 pixels.

So it's bigger, but is it better?

Well, not really. Again, in this example you'll see that some of the links that have been added are really not what you'd call top-level pages. There are literally hundreds of towns and villages in the Sherpa Van database and for some unknown reason Google has picked out links to three of them: "Shap", "Malham" and "Hethpool". These places are no more important than any of the others and indeed they're far less important than many. And you get a slightly different set of results if you alter the search terms slightly (for instance, "sherpa van" gets a different set of sitelinks to "the sherpa van project").

Fortunately, Google obviously recognises that some of the automated sitelinks are not going to be very useful, so it's given us the necessary tool to remove or "demote" unwanted links via Webmaster Tools.

So I have dived in and demoted Shap from the listings. Assuming you already know your way around Webmaster Tools (if you don't - call me) you just go to the Sitelinks page for your site and paste in the URL you want to remove:

Google Sitelinks: demote URL

The URL then gets added to a list of up to 100:

Google Sitelinks: demote URL

What does all this tell us?

If you're lucky enough to have people searching for your company or brand name, it's a massive enhancement to your top-of-the-page Google listing. If, like most of us, your customers are more likely to be searching for what you do rather than who you are, then you'll never notice the difference.


Here's a screengrab I took back on June 22nd this year:

New-look Google Sitelinks: example

And here's what you get if you do the same search today:

New-look Google Sitelinks: example

And just out of interest, here's what the sitelinks look like today:

New-look Google Sitelinks: example

Monday, 1 August 2011

Executive Guide to DNS

The first thing you need to understand about DNS is that for every website there is a registrar, a set of "nameservers", DNS records and a host. In some cases, these things can be provided by several different companies.


The registrar sells you the domain.

The nameservers are the authoritative source of your DNS records.

DNS records tell anyone who wants to know that your website is in one place and your mail server is in another. It's like an address book of IP addresses.

The host is where your website, email and any other internet services actually live. And again, you can have email and web hosted in different places.

When you register a new domain, the registrar will set the nameservers to its own. For example, if you buy a domain from 123-reg, you'll find the nameservers are and

You can then change these to different nameservers, either (in the case of 123-reg) using a web-based control panel they provide or by just contacting a customer services representative - it varies from one company to another. A registrar should never charge you for changing your nameservers.

The same applies for the individual DNS records. You can often control them yourself or in some cases you'll have to call or email tech support. If you find that it's difficult to make these sort of changes, then you should consider finding a more flexible and helpful company to handle your web hosting (hint, hint).