Breadcrumbs are secondary elements of website navigation. A breadcrumb is a text path, located at the top of a page, which reflects the site structure of the website. It tells users where they currently are on the site and helps search engines to understand the structure of a website. You can find breadcrumbs on websites that have content which is organized more hierarchically.
Here is an example of a Breadcrumb Trail Menu
In this image, you can see that the breadcrumb’s trail starts from the home page, and then it displays the category page and existing page (that is, the page where the user currently is) at the end.
In this post, we have listed the different types of breadcrumbs, their benefits and some best practices which need to be considered while implementing breadcrumbs on a website.
When to use breadcrumb navigation?
You can apply breadcrumb navigation to large sites and sites in which information is arranged category wise, such as e-commerce websites. Avoid using breadcrumbs in single-level sites that do not contain a logical hierarchy or groups. But how can you find out whether a website could benefit from breadcrumb navigation? An effective method is to create a sitemap or diagram that represents the site’s structure, and then assess whether the breadcrumbs would improve the visitors’ experience while navigating within and in-between categories.
3 Types of Breadcrumbs
Location-based breadcrumbs are also known as hierarchy-based breadcrumbs. They show users the path to easily navigate to the higher-level pages of the website. Location-based breadcrumbs are popularly used in blogs and websites that have a hierarchical structure. Breadcrumb trails look like this:
Home > Category Page > Sub Category Page > Product Page
Attribute-based breadcrumbs are dynamically formed as per the user’s click path. Attribute breadcrumbs are applicable to service and product category pages, where users select options from available filters. Once the attributes are finalised, they become a part of the breadcrumb trail. They usually show the list of attributes that users have previously selected. Attribute-based breadcrumbs are commonly found on e-commerce websites.
You often find that navigation routes are a combination of locations and attribute-based breadcrumbs. Attribute-based breadcrumbs look like this:
Home > Product page > Attribute 1 > Attribute 2 > Attribute 3
Path-based breadcrumbs are also known as history-based breadcrumbs. They provide users with the path taken by them to arrive at a particular page.
Such breadcrumbs are not popular and can be replaced with a back button which is recommended by the website developers.
How to Optimize Breadcrumbs?
Breadcrumbs Should Be Mobile-Friendly
Once added, the breadcrumbs should make navigation across the website as easy as possible for the users. To achieve this, you will have to ensure that the breadcrumbs are in a usable format on mobile screens. If the font size is too small, it will be difficult to click on an individual page name. If the breadcrumbs are wrapped in lines, it will be challenging to locate them. Some designers choose to put out breadcrumbs as buttons. While this may simplify the navigation, you must A/B test the impact of such a design from an SEO standpoint.
Breadcrumbs Should Be Visible
The breadcrumbs have to be visible to both your users and the search engines. Some designers are of the opinion that breadcrumbs do not match the theme. However, you must ensure they are well-integrated into the on-page elements. As your website expands and you keep adding more categories, sub-category, and specific pages – your users will need navigation tools.
This will materially impact the SEO results as well. Make sure the breadcrumb schema mark-up is enabled for your website. This is a mechanism for highlighting specific parts of your website when crawlers analyze it. You can use structured data as recommended in Google’s documentation to ensure the breadcrumbs are visible, alongside using the mark-up schema.
Benefits of Breadcrumbs
Here are some benefits of implementing breadcrumb trails:
Enhanced user experience
Breadcrumbs offer a direct way to the users to navigate to higher levels of category pages quickly. They are mainly helpful to the users that come through search engine page results (SERPs). Typically, these users don’t have an idea of the website structure.
Compelling Google search snippets
Breadcrumbs provide Google with another way to identify the structure of the website. Google has now replaced URLs with breadcrumb trails on the search results to provide users with improved search results. If you don’t use breadcrumbs, Google will decide the breadcrumbs on its own, based on the URLs. To make sure Google shows your breadcrumb in the search snippet, add breadcrumb list schema on the website. You can go through the steps on how to implement structured data as per your requirements.
Improve internal linking structure
Along with the top navigation, breadcrumbs help to improve the internal linking structure across the website.
Small size and horizontal oriented
Breadcrumbs are usually short, horizontal oriented, and written in plain text so they don’t take too much space. Also, breadcrumbs do not create any negative impact in terms of content overload.
Reduces clicks / action to return to top-level pages
Users can avoid clicking the Back button, as they can reach the higher level page with a single click using a breadcrumb link.
Decreases Bounce Rates
Confusing navigation frustrates visitors who will immediately leave a website if they do not find what they are looking for. With breadcrumb navigation in place, you can effectively reduce your bounce rate as it helps visitors have a better user experience navigating the website. This provides a second chance to a website to retain its visitors.
Improves Website Ranking
Navigation plays a pivotal role when it comes to the overall user experience. With breadcrumb SEO navigation, you can provide site visitors with a smooth user experience by helping them figure out how to reach high ranking pages. Help them move around the website with the least number of clicks and see your site rankings soar.
Keeps Users On-site for Longer
Breadcrumb navigation can create a great experience for users who can browse through a website using the least number of clicks. Finding high ranking pages and reaching their desired page easily keeps visitors engaged, invested, and enthused.
How to Add Breadcrumbs?
Here’s how you can add breadcrumbs to your website navigation:
- Yoast SEO Plugin and WordPress: Some WordPress themes support pre-installed Yoast SEO Breadcrumbs navigation. For such themes, you just have to enable breadcrumbs on your dashboard and you are done.
- Using a Block Editor with Yoast SEO and WordPress: You can add breadcrumbs to specific pages without coding. Click on ‘+’ and go to Add Block. Search for ‘Yoast SEO breadcrumbs’ and enable it.
- Using Google Structured Data: Read this documentation to find out how to use structured data to add breadcrumbs for search engines.
Common Mistakes In Breadcrumb Implementation
Using them when Not Required
Breadcrumbs are not required in websites that do not have a huge number of pages or a complex hierarchy. Using them on simple sites may be counterproductive and might overwhelm the visitors by offering too many navigational options.
Using Breadcrumbs As Primary Navigation
As stated in the section above, breadcrumb navigation is a secondary navigation aid and should not be used as a primary method. This will frustrate users as they will have to hit the “Back” button to return to the main page.
Using Them When Pages Have Multiple Categories
Breadcrumbs have a linear structure. So, if a lower-level page is present in more than one parent tab, breadcrumb trails turn out to be redundant, inaccurate, and frustrating to the visitor.
While implementing breadcrumbs, consider these practices
- Use breadcrumbs for websites that have multiple levels of hierarchy. This helps users to navigate to higher-level pages quickly.
- Use appropriate keywords related to the targeted URLs. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) point of view, using relevant breadcrumb anchor improves the relevance of the page.
- Avoid linking the existing page in the breadcrumb trail; simply mention the breadcrumb text.
- Place breadcrumb at the top left corner, above the content section that gives direct visibility to the users.
- Separate the breadcrumb link using the arrow, slash and vertical bars. To keep it simple, using an arrow is the best option.
- Treat breadcrumbs as secondary navigation; they can never replace primary navigation.
Breadcrumbs are useful to enhance user experience. Breadcrumbs are most useful when a site has a complex structure. They can help users navigate to higher-level pages easily. Breadcrumbs help search engines understand the internal structure of your website and this can have a positive impact on SEO. To make your website SEO friendly, find the top SEO agency in India that strives to offer high-end SEO services to acquire desired results.
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