Google and other search engines love websites which are easy to navigate.

If users have to spend a lot of time and effort in finding content once they are on your website, that is not the right user experience. While search engines can find content by crawling links from elsewhere or looking into your sitemap file – normal users cannot find all the content of your website if it is difficult to navigate.

Hence, it is a good idea to ensure your website is easy to navigate and one of the best ways to do this is to support breadcrumb navigation on your website.

What is Breadcrumb Navigation?

Simply put, a “Breadcrumb” is a secondary navigation which shows where the user is on a given website and allows the user to go backward and forward easily by clicking links placed in the Breadcrumb navigation. A Breadcrumb navigation is a “Path” to a specific page from the home page and the user can follow the trail to go “Up” a section and find his way around the website for more content or to find information that might otherwise be useful.

Usually, large websites with lots of sections, content, product pages and category items are present use breadcrumb navigation to clearly categorize all the content pages, all the product pages and all the other pages together, so that the user can easily jump from one section to another and does not get lost trying to find his way inside the website.

Breadcrumb navigation ecommerce store

In the above example, the navigation element highlighted is a perfect example of breadcrumb navigation for an eCommerce Store.

Let’s see how this breadcrumb navigation helps the user navigate and why this breadcrumb navigation is being placed, although the website has the main navigation at the top which segregates products by “Men”, “Women”, “Home and Furniture”.

However, since the website is big enough and houses thousands of products, it is not really effective to have only one navigation for every page on the website. This will make the navigation really cluttered, cumbersome and difficult to use.

This is when the navigation breadcrumbs is really useful and enrich the user experience of a given page, depending on the product or content the user is currently seeing.

The main navigation lists the main sections of the website while the breadcrumb navigation provides a guided path to the user on that specific category or product which he is currently browsing. This helps the user navigate to other pages of the website which may have similar products and not necessarily use the main navigation to get to one top-level page.

So if I am browsing “Shoes” on a website and only interested in “Shoes” and nothing else, I will find the navigation breadcrumbs extremely helpful since it helps me navigate to those pages of the website where my interest lies and ignore all the other pages listed in the main navigation. This is a good user experience, saves the users time, the user can find the content in just a few clicks and it also encourages the user to browse multiple pages before making a purchase decision.

Benefits of Breadcrumb Navigation – How Breadcrumb Navigation Affects SEO of a website?

Now you may wonder what are the SEO benefits of implementing Breadcrumb navigation on a website.

While there are no direct SEO benefits of having breadcrumb navigation on your website, there are some indirect benefits which help improve the overall user experience of a website if it has many pages, sections and the user finds it difficult to navigate through all the content just from the main navigation menu.

Following are some of the benefits of implementing Breadcrumb navigation on your website

  1. Good User experience and Usability:Navigation breadcrumbs enhance usability and improve user experience of a website. It encourages the user to click on those links to discover more content which is similar to the one he is currently reading. It helps in making the user “Stick” more to your site, “Discover more” and not abandon your website just after browsing one page.
  2. Better SERP StructureHaving breadcrumbs implemented the right way sometimes leads to breadcrumbs in Search results, which results in more clicks and improves the click-through rate.Breadcrumb Navigation SEO

Does Having Navigation Breadcrumbs Influence Google Search Rankings?

Does Having Breadcrumb Navigation Gives Your Website a Ranking Boost? The answer is – NO it does not give you a ranking boost.

Having Navigation breadcrumbs on a website does not mean that it will automatically rank higher or better than it’s competitors. However, it is a common observation that websites that have Navigation breadcrumbs tend to do better in the long haul since the user experience of users is better and long lasting, compared to a site that does not support navigation breadcrumbs.

That said, if your website does not have navigation breadcrumbs and you do not want to enable it on your site, that is totally fine. Google and other search engines understand that not every website owner would want to show navigation breadcrumbs to users for their own reasons, and not having navigation breadcrumbs on your website will not hurt the SEO of your website or reduce the rankings in any way. It is not exclusive and you are completely okay if you don’t want to have it on your website.

Multiple Breadcrumbs on the Same Page?

There are instances when you may want to include multiple navigation breadcrumb elements on a given page. It is possible that a particular product in your e-Commerce store belongs to two different categories and you want the user the option to choose which breadcrumb he wants to use. There can be other typical corner cases for using multiple breadcrumbs on a given page, especially for large sites with lots of pages

Google suggests that it is best to have only one navigation breadcrumb element on a page since it will most likely pick the first one and ignore the others

However, there are situations when Google may learn more about the site through multiple breadcrumbs placed on a page. Most people do not need to use multiple navigation breadcrumbs on a given page. that said, it won’t hurt if you use multiple breadcrumbs as long as you are doing it right, not cluttering up the whole page with breadcrumbs alone, not lining up 20 different navigation breadcrumbs on top of the page which makes it difficult for users to read the actual content of the page.

Navigation Breadcrumbs May Not Show Up In Google Search Results

There are situations when you have implemented Breadcrumbs schema in your website correctly but they don’t show up in Google search results. So what can you do to ensure Google shows Breadcrumbs in search results for your website or eCommerce Store?

There are two things that you should check on your side

  • Do you have the correct markup for Breadcrumbs implemented on your site?
  • Check the source code of other sites who have Breadcrumbs showing in Google search results for their snippets. Do you see any difference in their source code and yours?

That’s all you can do on your side. It takes Googlebot time to understand the navigation and Breadcrumb structure on your site, so it may not show up for a while until Google has fully understood the breadcrumb navigation on your website.

Another reason why Breadcrumbs don’t show in Google search results is when Google has less amount of trust in your website and they don’t consider your website as an authority website. You should focus on creating high-quality content, getting good backlinks, removing low-quality thin content and create a super useful website first so that Google and other search engines have a high amount of trust in your website first. Once that happens, the breadcrumbs will show up in search results if you have done everything else right.

If you still do not see Breadcrumbs in search results, it is indeed a good idea to seek help in Google webmaster help forums and see what other people suggest could have been gone wrong on your website. Sometimes, particular use cases are picked up by Google employees and they do offer very good advice on a case by case basis.

Best Practices with Breadcrumb Navigation

Here are some best practices with respect to indicating breadcrumbs on a website

  1. Keep Navigation Breadcrumbs short, simple and to the point. Don’t add too many URL’s with endless hierarchies which creates a bad user experience. Remember, the goal of Breadcrumb is to improve the user experience and not create a negative UX issue.
  2. Keep Navigation breadcrumbs close to the content, just above the main heading of the page.
  3. Ensure it is easy to click the Breadcrumb link and the font size is not too small. Don’t make the font size that small that it becomes hard to click the link, especially on a mobile device with a small screen.
  4. Don’t hide breadcrumbs with CSS code. Sometimes, people keep breadcrumb in the source code but hide it from real view thinking that search engines will see the breadcrumb code while users will not. This is not good and should be avoided.
  5. Begin the breadcrumb with the home page link of your website, followed by all the sections of the trail and end it with the current page.
  6. Breadcrumb navigation should not be the only navigation on a page. It should be an accessory, and it makes sense only after you have a primary navigation on the website which supports site-wide navigation first.
  7. Don’t place ads next to breadcrumbs and encourage users to click on Ads.
  8. Don’t place breadcrumbs in a pop up windows.
  9. Don’t place breadcrumbs at the end of the article. A Breadcrumb navigation link should be placed above the fold in a highly visible area which anyone can see right after the page loads.
  10. Do not nofollow links in a Breadcrumb. Search engines should be able to follow the links in a breadcrumb to discover category pages and other content, so keep it dofollow.
  11. Don’t use image-based Breadcrumbs. Keep it text and avoid using fancy items around Breadcrumbs, multiple separators, weird font style or color to attract unnecessary attention. Make it appear like a normal navigation link and you should be in good shape.

Personally, I do not use Breadcrumb navigation on this website because this is a content website with less than 500 pages in it. Once I have more than 500 pages, I will implement Breadcrumb navigation so that people coming to read the content on the site can use that navigation to discover other pages of interest.

However, if your website is fairly big has more than 500 pages in it, I would strongly suggest you implement Navigation breadcrumbs and improve the overall user experience of each landing page on your website.