The Importance of Breadcrumb Navigation

 Admin    26 Nov
 None    Web Development

by Jody Nimetz

by Jody Nimetz

We have had a few questions about breadcrumb navigation as of late. The timing is uncanny as we were one of the first who reported the fact that Google is now displaying breadcrumb navigation in the organic listings of their search results.  For e-commerce sites or sites with clear navigation paths, this may prove to be extremely beneficial from an SEO perspective.

Putting the “Bread” in Breadcrumb

So what exactly is breadcrumb navigation?  Well simply put, breadcrumb navigation is a series of links that show the user a navigation path that they have chosen to arrive on a given page.  In essence it is like a “trail of breadcrumbs” that allows you to return to a previous page or a page higher up in the hierarchy of a website.

From a user’s point of view, breadcrumb navigation can be key in helping users navigate a website.  According to usability expert, Jakob Nielsen, “…User testing shows many benefits and no downsides to breadcrumbs for secondary navigation….”.  We could not agree more.  Breadcrumb navigation is extremely useful when guiding users through your site.  The importance of breadcrumb navigation can be seen by examining the many benefits of using breadcrumb navigation on your site.

5 Benefits of Using Breadcrumb Navigation

1. Breadcrumb Navigation makes it easier for users to navigate a site – just as we expect to find when traveling on a major highway, breadcrumb navigation acts as a type of signage to tell the user where they are on a given site.  As you drill down through a site with breadcrumb navigation, at any time you are one click away from the homepage or higher up category page via breadcrumbs.
2. Breadcrumbs show the user their current location on a site – ever get buried deep within a site and you wanted to go back to a precious page that you had looked at?  Breadcrumb navigation allows you to do this in one click.  There is no clicking the “back” button in the browser, just refer to the breadcrumb navigation and click to the page that you are interested in.
3. People in fact use breadcrumbs – Breadcrumb usage has grown over time as a lot of people actually look for breadcrumb navigation when they navigate a website.  This is especially true for e-commerce sites and sites that have elaborate site structures.  Let me give you an example, I have a four and a half month old son.  So quite often I am looking for baby toys and supplies.  As a result I often visit sites like Toys R Us where I can look for things such as stroller and cart seat toys.  As I drill down through their site, because they make use of clear breadcrumbs I can navigate their site with ease.  Their breadcrumb is logical and makes sense to me the user as as seen in this example: Home > Baby Toys > Stroller / Car Seat Toys
4. SEO Benefit – breadcrumbs are a great way to interlink your site pages with keyword rich anchor (linking) text.  Couple this with Google’s ability to display breadcrumb links in their search results, a well optimizes breadcrumb navigation can provide some great SEO benefit.
5. Ease of Use / Easy to Implement – breadcrumbs take up very little real estate on a page.  Yet they are quite often highly engaged by the user.  Breadcrumbs are easy to implement and are easy to follow.  People understand breadcrumb navigation.  It is easy to operate a breadcrumb trail.  It does not get any easier than having a horizontal line of related links to help users navigate a website helping guide the user from higher level pages into deeper site pages (actual product pages in most cases).  A couple of key reminders about implementing breadcrumb
  • Breadcrumbs should work from higher level to lower
  • Breadcrumbs should feature relevant keywords
  • Breadcrumbs are usually separated by a single character such as an arrow “>” or pipe “|”
  • Breadcrumbs should originate with the homepage and end with the current page
  • Breadcrumbs should reflect the site hierarchy not necessarily the user’s overall history

With these recent developments in Google, if your site does not currently utilize breadcrumb navigation, you should consider implementing it in the near future.  Users do engage with breadcrumb navigation and frankly if you are not leveraging breadcrumb navigation, your competitors probably are.

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