Google SiteLink Search Box – How to implement proper usage tracking

In my previous article I mentioned how broken Google structured data is and here we have another example where Google did not do a good job: it is impossible to track the usage of the Sitelink Search box.

When Google launched the Sitelink Search Box (I will call it SSB for the rest of the post) in September 2014, all webmasters jumped on it as the thought was to improve relevancy of branded traffic and to increase the organic conversion rate.

Sitelink Search comes with “gotcha’s”

  • Most of the webmasters have been incapable of implementing the simple LD+JSON markup. The implementation is not technically complex, and the markup is simple. Most webmasters either got the search URL wrong or their JSON did not validate.
  • There is no guarantee that the SSB will actually show (it is important to understand that it will only show in branded searches in the first place). It seems that small sites with insignificant traffic or indexed pages will hardly get a chance to be included. In the case of our company website, the SSB was included after about 2-3 weeks (initially it only executed a “site:domain.com {search_term}” search, but eventually it executed our own site search.
  • The SSB does not consider different country domains. So if you have websites for different countries (i.e. bidorbuy South Africa and bidorbuy Kenya) and then do a branded search via google.co.ke you will be out of luck finding the structured Knowledge Graph or the SSB within SERPs.
  • And the most important part Google left out is an easy way to track the usage. This should have really been out-of-the-box, but looking at our statistics, hardly anyone uses it anyway.

How to implement tracking of Sitelink Search

I would have thought that Google would automatically track via utm_source/utm_medium, but this was not the case. So to properly implement SSB with this tracking in place you need to adjust your snippet to the following:

SiteLink Search Box code

I am using the standard Google utm-variables, which allows me then to segment traffic properly via Google Analytics. I would implement the snippet on the homepage of your website within the <HEAD>-section. Once your content is live, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your URL. As a last step, go to GWMT and crawl & submit the page via “Fetch as Google” – I found that this step has helped some in getting the Sitelink Search Box to show within SERPs.

And no-one uses it

Google advertised the Sitelink Search Box feature as a “huge” opportunity as it will allow businesses to drive traffic to inner pages from within SERPs. It’s not really all that magical, as we tell Google via the LD+JSON snippet how to execute the search.

The flaw with the Sitelink Search Box is that it is only available for branded search and most brands will have paid branded Adwords – so guess what? Users will klick on the display ad or on the very first organic branded link (or on any item within the Knowledge Graph):

Google Sitelink Search Box

The usage of the SSB is a complete failure for us, as users do not use it (at least for me a referral of 0.2% via organic traffic is really meaningless). The only upside of SSB is that exit- and bounce-rate is lower compared to “regular” organic traffic and conversions within that segment are generally higher. It is also quite difficult to quantify those statements, as the sample rate is very low and in most cases a branded search will have a higher conversion rate, as the search itself originated from an offline event (radio ad, word of mouth) and as such created interest for the user.

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