There are plenty of things that website owners should be doing to optimise their pages for SEO. If you’ve got a website and you’re not seeing the traffic you should be, then building your site for mobile, keeping your copy concise, and optimising your design are all things you should be doing. However, there’s one underrated SEO practice that can actually boost your profile significantly, and that’s breadcrumb navigation.
What is breadcrumb navigation? Well, in a nutshell, if you’ve ever been to a site and seen a sort of “tree” view of the pages you’ve been to in order to get you where you are, that’s breadcrumb navigation. It lets users quickly revisit pages they’ve already visited and trace their path back to where they started, hence “breadcrumb”. There are different versions of it, too.
So why is breadcrumb navigation good for SEO? There are a number of reasons. Of course, breadcrumb navigation is great for the user experience, which in turn impacts SEO, but there are other things it adds to your site from an SEO perspective as well. Here’s our rundown on breadcrumb navigation and why you need it to make sure your site is SEO-ready.
First, let’s take a look at the three main kinds of breadcrumb navigation.
- Hierarchy-based breadcrumb navigation shows users where they are on your site based on an overall hierarchy. You might, for example, see “(site name) > Articles” as a hierarchy-based breadcrumb group. This is probably the best form of breadcrumb navigation for SEO because it’s a fixed hierarchy that’s easy for Google to understand (and for users to understand as well).
- Attribute-based breadcrumb navigation is often used by ecommerce sites, grouping pages based on attributes rather than categories. You might see “(site name) > Shoes > Timberland > Men’s” as an attribute-based breadcrumb trail.
- Path-based breadcrumb navigation shows a user the path they’ve taken to get to the page they’re on now. This isn’t a great form of breadcrumb navigation for SEO because it’s not agnostic; it’s entirely dependent on where users have been, so it’s not static for Google to crawl. It can still be a good option if your website has a lot of layers, though.
So, with all that in mind, why would you want breadcrumb navigation on your site?
Crawling is better
If you have breadcrumb navigation on your site, then it means Google will be able to crawl that site more effectively. Think about it; if you’re making every aspect of your website visible to users, then it’ll also be more visible to Google when it’s crawling your pages, so those pages will be added to the index more efficiently. You can use Google’s inbuilt analytics tools to help you see whether Google is crawling pages effectively, and if it isn’t, then it might be time to implement breadcrumb design.
Internal linking is stronger
One of the biggest ways Google crawls pages is by using internal links. If Google can more effectively get from one of the pages on your site to another, then it will recognise those internal links more clearly, and that’s a great way to ensure that Google sees all of the pages on your site. This will also help with SEO; because Google uses internal links to determine a website’s efficacy for crawling, you could also rank much higher if you use breadcrumb navigation.
The user experience is better
Right now, Google is strongly emphasising whether a page’s user experience is worthwhile or not rather than whether it’s strictly optimised for search engines. That means you should be doing everything you can to bolster your site’s user experience, and breadcrumb navigation very much achieves that. It gives users an easier time working their way around your page, which could mean you’ll get more visitors and thus rank higher on Google.
Indexing is easier
The way Google indexes websites is to try to understand how links work within a site’s hierarchy. If Google can’t easily read that information, it’ll get confused and won’t know how to index content, which can mean that your site gets incorrectly displayed on search engine results (or not displayed at all). With that in mind, breadcrumb navigation helps Google to establish a hierarchy for your site, which means it doesn’t have to rely on a confusing and complex sitemap.
Bounce rate is reduced
When someone lands on your website and then leaves, that’s called the “bounce rate”. Measuring how much time someone spends on your site is a great way to know whether your page has any actual value or not; if people click and then leave straight away, it indicates that they’re not getting what they want from your site.
When you’ve got breadcrumb navigation, it reduces your site’s bounce rate, because people won’t need to exit the site to get back to where they were. Instead, they can simply click the category or page that brought them to where they are now, and you’ll keep them on your site for a little longer.
Are you familiar with the concept of SERPs? If you’re not, then you should be. SERP stands for “Search Engine Results Page”, and it effectively refers to how your page is viewed when a user searches for a related query. It should go without saying that you want your result on SERPs to be as efficient and optimal as possible.
With that in mind, breadcrumb navigation helps here because it actually shows up on SERPs. If you’ve ever seen a result with a site underneath it that points to a category, that indicates the page has breadcrumb navigation. This is good because not only is Google able to better index the page this way, but users can see the breadcrumb navigation before they even click on the site.