Navigational Site Links in Search; Semantics of Schema

Written and Published:
by Wayne Smith

Navigational Links in search should not be confused with site links search box schema, which is a different schema under a potential action. The search box appears in the description and allows people to search the site before getting to the site by using the site's site search.

Navigational links appear under the site's description

Generally, speaking for sites large enough to have a search engine -- Google has already determined a few navigational links that can be used for the site. There is little ambiguity about which pages on the site are consistently used for navigational search intent.

Google has been updating the design and style of its search result pages. Site links come in two styles the traditional panel under the site, which is most noticed. An additional form is site links as part of the description.

The description-based site links are new and have somewhat of a cleaner design style. While the panel shows up on a search for the brand, the description-based links can show up for other search terms. The style is like that of the TOC snippet but these links are built from the hasParts schema, not headline tags.

There are no semantic tags to indicate to Google what pages should be considered as the navigational links. Google tries to unambiguously determine which pages should be used based on traffic patterns; What pages have the most links pointing towards them on the site; Are the pages in the main navigation panel of the site; and external factors of what people are searching for. When a site gets large enough Google is generally able to get enough signals as to which pages should be navigational. The best semantic signal is the main nav bar, but judging from the number of webmasters who are not getting the correct site links, the signal is ambiguous for many smaller or new sites.

Schema is unambiguous

In a perfect world, Google would be able to determine if a site is a business and what kind of business. Plumbers are a professional service, and depending on the area are licensed. Plumbers do not have a retail office and may work non-standard hours. Attorneys are a professional service, but do have an office are licensed, and are by appointment with a consultation before a price can be determined; et la.

Google is not trying to make things difficult. It has a Google My Business where most types of organizations can fill out all of the information Google needs to assist their visitors with finding the service, product, et la; that they are looking for. The information can also be provided via schema.

Navigation links however are not part of the Google My Business data.

Schema can send an unambiguous, straightforward, signal to Google about what pages are the main navigational pages for the site. Google may or may not use the site's intended navigational links as the information Google provides is to answer the query intent. In an ideal world, Google will match the intent of the user with the site.

When schema is used Google is happy to use that signal to create the site links. It still may second guess which are the best site links to use, but on a new site, it may have little idea beyond what it is given.