Breadcrumb SEO Navigation Guide

Breadcrumb SEO & How they Help Create a User-Friendly Website Navigation Strategy

By
James Gibbons
Breadcrumb SEO Navigation

In the age of digital interfaces and online user experience, your website is more important than ever. It's one of the first things potential site visitors see, and if it doesn't appear professional or is hard to navigate, they won't stay long enough to see if there's anything else that piques their interest.

With interactive breadcrumbs, your site visitors can quickly and easily find what they need. Breadcrumb navigation is one of the critical factors that affect website user experience. Good website navigation helps users find specific information faster, eases general browsing, and makes it more enjoyable.

A website's navigation can take many forms and reside in various locations, such as tabs at the top or bottom of every page, drop-down menus, or a sidebar. Navigation can be visible or hidden — no matter what you choose, it needs to be intuitive and help users get around your site faster.

Our Breadcrumb SEO Navigation Guide will discuss internal website navigation with breadcrumbs and see why they are so helpful when exploring sites quickly. Follow along and learn how to use them on your website today!

What is Breadcrumb Navigation?

A breadcrumb is a link trail showing where you are on a website. Breadcrumbs usually appear at the top of a web page, below a page title or site logo, and above the site's primary navigation. They typically arrange the links in a reverse path style, starting with the home page and ending with the current page.

Here's an example:

Home > Products > Computers > Laptops

Breadcrumbs help SEO navigation because they help users orient themselves on a website and easily find their way back to the home page or any other page on the website.

A breadcrumb is a UI design pattern that has become an essential element of modern web design. It is a sequence of visual items that display the user path on a particular website.

In many cases, a breadcrumb is a trail of menu options. In addition, it could be a trail of other visual representations, such as dots, numbers, or icons. A web page's footer typically contains breadcrumbs. Sidebars, headers, and titles can all have them.

Origin of Breadcrumbs Navigation

Breadcrumb navigation is a part of the much broader topic of IA (information architecture). IA is all about structuring information, be it on a website, in a mobile app, in a digital interface, or in a print publication.

The roots of modern IA go back to the '80s when hypertext and hypermedia were introduced to the world when researchers were trying to find ways to navigate the information stored on computers.

So, breadcrumb navigation is a thoroughly modern UI pattern that evolved from the effort to make navigation on websites more intuitive and helpful. "Breadcrumbs" were first used on websites in the early 2000s.

Breadcrumb navigation dates back to the early days of the web when websites were starting to gain popularity. One of the earliest websites to use breadcrumb navigation was Amazon.com, which started using the pattern in 2001. At the time, breadcrumb navigation was a relatively new concept, and many were skeptical about its usefulness.

 

breadcrumb navigation example
Amazon's Breadcrumb SEO Navigation

However, today SEO breadcrumbs are a standard feature on many websites and are considered an essential part of good IA. Breadcrumb navigation is not limited to websites. You can also use breadcrumbs on mobile, desktop, and other interfaces requiring navigation.

 

Breadcrumbs are especially useful in mobile apps, where screen space is limited, and users need every bit of help they can get to find their way around. 

Breadcrumb navigation is a beneficial UI pattern that can apply in various contexts. It's been around for a while and has proven to be a valuable tool for helping users navigate websites and other digital interfaces.

Breadcrumbs Assist User Navigation

Breadcrumbs are a graphical control element allowing users to navigate a website or application. The breadcrumbs consist of a list of links in reverse order, starting from the current page and going up to the homepage. They provide a way for users to keep track of their location within the website or application and quickly return to a previous page.

Breadcrumbs allow visitors to understand where they are on your site and the route they follow to reach a web page. Breadcrumbs allow users to retrace their steps, so they don't get lost and can quickly jump to other areas of the site.

For instance, when you click a link on a blog post, you may see a breadcrumb that indicates where you're currently at (blog post) and where you came from (home page).

Breadcrumbs are essential to website or application design. Every page of a website or application should include breadcrumbs. They make it easy for users to find what they are looking for and navigate through the website or application.

The breadcrumb trail also allows search engines to better understand your site's structure and improve your ranking. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Breadcrumbs

There are pros and cons to using breadcrumbs as navigational aids on a website. Breadcrumbs are a great way to help users orient themselves on a website. They provide a clear path back to the homepage and show users which pages they have already visited. Breadcrumbs help users avoid getting lost on a website and make it easy to return to pages they have previously viewed.

Breadcrumb SEO benefits your website by creating links to indexable pages, which can help boost a website's ranking in search engine results pages.

 

However, breadcrumbs can also have some disadvantages. They can clutter a website's navigation bar and confuse some users. Breadcrumbs take up valuable space on a website's homepage, which can be problematic if the page already uses many elements.

Different Types of Breadcrumbs Navigation

While breadcrumbs may seem like a straightforward navigation style, there are various routes you can take. There are three types of breadcrumbs: location-based, attribute-based, and path-based.

types of breadcrumb navigation
Different Types of Breadcrumb Navigation

Hierarchy or Location-based Breadcrumbs

Location-based breadcrumbs show the user's location in the website hierarchy, typically as a list of links starting with the website's root URL and ending with the current page. This type of breadcrumb architecture is helpful because it allows users to quickly and easily navigate to any page on the website.

An example of what a location-based breadcrumb would look like is:

Home > Products > Widget A

Search engines prefer a hierarchy-based breadcrumb architecture over others since it allows them to crawl and index the website's pages easily.

Path or History-based Breadcrumbs

Path-based breadcrumbs show the user's browsing history, typically as links starting with the current page and ending with the website's root URL. You can see your current location in the website's path, beginning with the home page and ending with the current page.

History breadcrumb architecture is helpful because it allows users to quickly and easily return to any page they have visited. An example of what a path-based breadcrumb would look like is:

Widget A > Product Details > Widget B

A path-based breadcrumb is not preferred by search engines since:

1. It replicates the back button functionality of the browser.

2. It can be difficult for search bots and spiders to parse since each session will generate a unique string of breadcrumb threads.

3. It can confuse users when they are deep into your website.

Feature or Attribute-based Breadcrumbs

Attribute-based breadcrumbs show the user's current page's attributes, such as the page's name, parent page, and ancestor pages. These breadcrumbs show the user's current location in the website's attribute hierarchy, such as product category, brand, or price.

Feature-based breadcrumb navigation is helpful for websites with a complex attribute hierarchy, such as e-commerce.

These characteristics do not follow a logical hierarchy. It is unclear in what order websites should display the breadcrumbs. For example, the breadcrumb trail can be either.

Home > Product > Product Type > Color > Shape/Size

Or

Home > Product Type > Product > Shape/Size > Color

Or some other combination.

Breadcrumbs & SEO

On top of their usefulness in helping visitors navigate your site more efficiently, breadcrumbs can also increase your SEO. Breadcrumbs that are visible on every page are essential for improving your SEO, while those unseen can still help your site's SEO to a certain extent, depending on the structure and depth of your site map. However, if you want to take full advantage of SEO-friendly breadcrumbs, you must use the proper system.

Importance of Breadcrumbs in SEO

There are a few reasons that search engines love breadcrumbs and SEO together. First, breadcrumbs help organize a website's content and make it easier for search engines to understand. Breadcrumbs assist users in finding the pages they are looking for on a website as they direct the user to them. Third, breadcrumbs can help improve website rankings, as search engines see them as a sign of a well-organized and user-friendly website.

A breadcrumb trail provides a user with guidance and offers a one-click link to relevant, higher-level pages. The importance of breadcrumb optimization is even greater if the visitor lands on a page deep within the website hierarchy, for example, after clicking on a long-tail query or Google search results on a product page.

But it's more than just website usability. Breadcrumbs aid and assist every step of the SEO process.

1. Improved crawling & indexation: The presence of breadcrumbs signals that a website is well-structured with a clear site hierarchy, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index all its pages.

2. Easier categorization: Breadcrumbs also help search engines categorize pages more accurately, which can help improve search results. They help Googlebot know what page belongs where within a site's information architecture and how it correlates with other pages.

3. Enhanced site usability: In addition to helping users navigate a website, breadcrumbs can also help improve site usability by providing precise and concise location information for each page on a website.

4. Improved website rankings: Breadcrumbs can help improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), as they strongly show a well-structured and easy-to-use website. They are also a significant factor in assisting sites to rank for long-tail queries.

How to Add Breadcrumbs to Your Website?

Adding breadcrumbs to your website is a simple process that takes a few minutes. There are a few methods to add breadcrumbs to your website.

1. Using your CMS: 

If you are using a CMS like WordPress, the process is straightforward. You can install several plugins that will add breadcrumbs to your website. For example, the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress will add breadcrumbs to your website automatically.

2. Inserting the code yourself: 

You can add the code yourself if you are not using a CMS. Adding code involves some HTML or CSS, which can complicate beginner knowledge. The code for breadcrumbs is straightforward and is available online. Follow the steps found here.

3. Using a third-party service: 

Suppose you don't want to add the code or know how to use a third-party service to add breadcrumbs to your website. Several services offer this for a small fee.

SEO Best Practices when Implementing Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs optimize your website for search engines (SEO) by following various best practices. Make sure to do the following to improve the SEO of your breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumb SEO Best practices

1. Organize your content:

Before you consider including breadcrumbs in your site design, ensure you have a clear and organized content strategy and have structured your site content appropriately.

2. Choose logical paths:

When setting up your breadcrumbs, consider how your visitors move through your site. A line of questions and path creation will help guide your breadcrumb path breakdown strategy.

3. Use a consistent breadcrumb sequence: 

The order in which you display your breadcrumbs should be the same on every website page. Avoid shifting the order or changing it from page to page, as this can confuse users.

4. Use keyword-rich breadcrumb titles:

The titles of your breadcrumbs should be keyword-rich to help improve your website's search engine ranking. Use descriptive and short words that are easy to understand for users.

5. Verify breadcrumb links are crawlable:

Ensure your breadcrumb links are crawlable by search engines using text links instead of image links.

6. Avoid excessive breadcrumb usage:

Too many breadcrumbs can clutter your website's navigation, confusing users and hurting your website's search engine ranking. Use only as many breadcrumbs as are necessary to help users find their way around your website.

7. Test your breadcrumbs:

Test your breadcrumbs to ensure they are working correctly before launch. You can use the Google Search Console to test your breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs for User-Friendly Internal Navigation

Breadcrumb navigation is critical for SEO and usability. Users can easily navigate your website with breadcrumb SEO navigation.

 

When websites have hundreds of pages, users can get lost in their way. Breadcrumbs assist users by showing them their location on the website and the path they need to take to get back to the home page.

Breadcrumbs also play an essential role in SEO. They are a valuable source of information for search engines, which can help them understand your website’s structure. When you add breadcrumbs to your website, you also provide search engines with valuable data to help them rank your pages higher.

There are several ways to add breadcrumb navigation to your website. Regardless of your route, breadcrumbs are critical to ensure a user-friendly website and success with search engine rankings.

Breadcrumb SEO Navigation FAQs

What are Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are a navigation tool used to help users understand the structure of a website. They are tiny text-based links typically located at the top of a page that links back to pages higher in the hierarchy.

Is Breadcrumb Navigation Necessary?

No, breadcrumb navigation is not necessary. However, it can be a valuable addition to a website as it can help give visitors a better understanding of its structure and make it easier for search engines to index a website.

How does Google use Breadcrumbs for SEO?

Google uses breadcrumbs in search result snippets to display a website's hierarchy in search results. This can help searchers find what they are looking for more quickly and indicate how each page is related. In addition, breadcrumbs can help Google to better understand the context of a page and can even be used as a method of categorizing content, making it easier to rank in relevant search queries.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 9 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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