If you’re looking for a delicious crispy chicken recipe or a literary review of Hansel and Gretel…
I’m talking website navigation, structure and digital breadcrumb trails. Not the kind that gets eaten by birds, leaving you lost in the woods at the mercy of some old witch who’s probably just misunderstood and lonely since her grandchildren never visit anymore.
Anyway, I’m getting off track here.
Flash forward to the digital era where all your website visitors are just like Hansel and Gretel, stumbling around on the World Wide Web just trying to find their way home.
In order to help your visitors make their way through the wilderness, you need to understand the way they seek out information on the web. The first step they usually take is entering a query into Google or another search engine. This is your first chance to signal to a potential visitor that your website has the information they need. (How can you do this? With your meta title and meta description. But that’s a different story.)
A top-funnel search will likely land a visitor on your homepage. And it’s from here that we begin our trail of breadcrumbs.
Hold up. What even are breadcrumbs?
Glad you asked. Breadcrumbs are a visual aid at the top of your website that allow visitors to:
- See the pages they have come from
- Understand where they are on your website
- Return easily to previous pages.
Here are some examples of what breadcrumbs can look like:
Why You Need Them
With good breadcrumbs, all your Hansels and Gretels can move backwards and forwards with ease. This makes for a better user experience and can even help lower your website’s bounce rate.
Oh, and there are other SEO benefits for your website too. For example, breadcrumbs can play an important part in improving:
- Website usability
- Internal linking structures
- Dispersion of link juice.
These elements can all boost your website’s organic rankings.
Breadcrumbs also help explain to search engines exactly what your web pages are about. And, more recently, they can even show users in mobile search engine result pages exactly where they will be taken if they click on a search result.
The Other Side
There are some arguments against the use of breadcrumbs (from those who would have rather seen Hansel and Gretel die). Some argue that there is no SEO benefit from adding breadcrumb navigation to your website and that it’s not worth the effort of adding additional website functionality.
However, I disagree.
I believe breadcrumbs can aid in conversion.
Take an e-commerce site, for example. A user may land on a product page from their search results but then determine it’s not the right match for their search. If you have breadcrumb navigation, a user can then choose to broaden their search to find what they are looking for on your website.
This will mean that more time is spent on your site as well as more pages looked at, which will then help to decrease your bounce rate. And since bounce rate is a ranking factor in organic search results, that’s absolutely a good thing.
It’s true: breadcrumb navigation isn’t necessary for all websites. As a rule of thumb, you should never put SEO before website usability. But if you can make it easier for people to move through your website then it should definitely be done.
Now, you might be asking yourself:
- Well, which am I?
- Does my website actually need them?
- Can Hansel and Gretel survive without my digital breadcrumbs or not?
I suggest visualising your site’s navigation as a diagram. Then assess if breadcrumbs would improve the user’s ability to navigate across different web pages. Finally, ask yourself if your users will benefit and, if it’s yes, get to crumbling up some bread. Or get in touch and we’ll give you a hand.