Google’s New Scroll-to Sitelinks, How They Differ, Impact on SEO & More

By Brodie Clark

November 12, 2021
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new type of sitelink in googles search results

Key Sections: The New Sitelinks TestHow They CompareInfluence on SEO StrategyFinal Thoughts

Google is currently testing a new type of sitelink for standard web search listings, which I believe we are going to see a lot more of in the near future. I first discovered this on November 11th and added to my SERP timeline.

The new test that I’m seeing differs from what Google has displayed for web pages in the past. With the new variation representing a big change in how sitelinks could be displayed for organic listings.

In my post, I’ll be taking a look at how the sitelinks operate to create more clarity around this change for SEO professionals. With the primary distinction being how “jump-to” functionality works.

The key areas that I’ll be digging in to include details on the new sitelinks test, how the new test compares to existing sitelinks variations for organic listings, their impact on your SEO strategy, and more.

Scroll-to-text has historically been a feature of Chrome that allows users to click a link in Google’s search results which then enables the browser to scroll to and then highlight text that exists on a web page.

Google’s scroll-to-text is a feature that I’ve written about a fair bit in the past, with particular interest around how scroll-to-text operates for featured snippets on Google – the initial in-SERP use case of the feature.

Since scroll-to-text first became visible in featured snippets, there was then slow expansion to other organic SERP features. Appearing for some knowledge panels, for images, some free product listings, and more.

The newest iteration of the scroll-to-text expansion can now be seen for standard web search listings within sitelinks. Here’s an example of what this looks like when exposed to the test for the query “best gaming mouse”:

In the example above, Google has decided to show 3 different sitelinks for the PCMag web search listing. Each sitelink has scroll-to-text parameters added to the URL, signifying the text that is represented in the sitelink.

There are some key differences among this sitelink test and what Google has historically shown as sitelinks for web pages. With this test being more so at Google’s discretion in terms of algorithmic intervention.

The Different Types of Standard Web Page Sitelinks

There are 3 different types of sitelinks that can appear for standard web search listings that are important for SEO professionals to be aware of. Here’s a breakdown of what is involved with each:

  • Internal Sitelinks: the first is the most common out of the 3 variations. When Google can see that there are related pages on a site, an internal page on a site can appear as a sitelink. There is the short-form version of this which can appear for generic queries, along with the long-form version which can appear for branded searches. The branded search variation has historically only shown when ranking in the top position, but I have seen tests in the past where Wikipedia can have this treatment even when not ranking in the top spot or being for a branded query.
  • Jump-to Sitelinks: the jump-to variation is one that is of interest to many SEO professionals. By adding a table-of-contents type section of content to your page with links to other internal headings (through using # in the URL), you then have the ability to get a similar treatment to the short-form sitelinks mentioned for the internal URL variation, but linking to a section of the existing page rather than another page on the same site.
  • Scroll-to Sitelinks: the final variation is the test that I’m currently seeing. Working very similar to the jump-to URL variation, Google now has the ability to add scroll-to-text parameters to sitelinks which are generated algorithmically, with less control from the site owner. This means that if you have a heading on your web page that doesn’t use a jump-to link embedded in the content, Google can essentially do this for you but adding the “:~:text=” inclusion within the URL.

A great example of how each of the different sitelink variations operate can be seen for the query “seo” when being exposed to the Scroll-to Sitelinks test. Here’s how each sitelink variation is being represented for different results that all appear together:

Each of the different types of sitelinks are algorithmic, meaning site owners don’t have direct control over how each variation operates. As mentioned, it is my experience that the Internal Sitelinks variation is the most common out of the 3, and has the greatest chance of appearing for your web page if there is internally linked and related content.

Now that we have an understanding of each of the 3 variations, how does the entry of the Scroll-to Sitelinks variation impact our SEO strategy? Let’s take a closer look at how this new sitelink variation operates.

Influence of Scroll-to Sitelinks on SEO

While I’m a big believer in using Jump-to Sitelinks in content (this blog article has them at the top), the recent change with Scroll-to Sitelinks actually means Google may create their own jump-to links anyway.

While scroll-to-text isn’t perfect yet, it can be a useful aspect of the Chrome browser for users by not only scrolling to the important text, but also highlighting that text in purple (previously a yellow highlight in older versions of Chrome).

As an example of this, if a searcher wanted to find out how to “make a pizza” through a Google search, they are presented with recipe URLs in Google’s search results. Based on Google’s knowledge of this query, they will be aware of the importance of the nutritional information for searchers.

For this query, Google has created Scroll-to Sitelinks for users to click on. If you were to click on the ‘Nutrition’ sitelink for the web page, you would then be directed to that section of the web page to read the nutritional components involved in the recipe.

With the increasing influence of algorithmic intervention, this can be worrying to some SEOs. In this case, I believe this change is inevitable, and should be a useful feature of Search for users once released from the testing phase.

Because SEOs would previously prefer to add jump-to links to content, this is no real difference in how the snippet appears for users, so Scroll-to Sitelinks won’t hurt your SEO efforts. And I would continue to add jump-to links to content for users of the web page anyway, with Google then having the ability to use them as sitelinks, or they may generate their own based on inputs to their systems.

Final thoughts

Overall, I see this as the continual evolution and roll-out of scroll-to-text in Search. We’ve seen similar for featured snippets throughout 2021 with the ‘also covered on this page’ variation (which is quite similar), and now this expansion has made it’s way to standard web page listings.

There were some important elements in this post that are worth reiterating. So in summary, here are some the important points that were covered with respect to the new sitelinks treatment:

  • Scroll-to-text is the technology behind the new sitelinks treatment. Scroll-to-text has been visible within Google’s search results for some time, with the most frequent appearance being via featured snippets, along with various other SERP features.
  • There are now 3 different types of sitelinks that can appear in the short-form variation for standard web page listings. These include Internal Sitelinks, Jump-to Sitelinks, and the new version which involve Scroll-to Sitelinks.
  • The Scroll-to Sitelinks remain algorithmic (same as the other variations), but are instead not controlled through embedding links on a web page and can be inserted at Google’s discretion, with the purple highlight then appearing for the text for the relevant content.
  • Scroll-to Sitelinks shouldn’t be of concern to SEOs. They are in line with other changes we’ve seen in the past which users like for the most part. A big difference among Jump-to and Scroll-to Sitelinks is the data input: the first being manually created and the other being algorithmically created.
  • My opinion is that creating jump-to links in a table-of-contents is still a good approach outside of the impact of Google influencing Sitelinks more with the scroll-to-text variation, Google just might not use these manually created jump-to links for your Search snippet.

This variation of sitelinks represents a big change for how they are generated for pages in Search. While the scroll-to-text variation is still in testing phase, I have a good feeling that we will see more of this in future.

If you see this test and see anything of interest that wasn’t covered in this post, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and let me know what you’re seeing.

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