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Breadcrumb Structure for SEO Success: Types, Benefits, and Tips to Reap Maximum SEO Benefits

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What is the first thing you do when you lose any object, such as car keys, documents, or any other object? You probably think back to when you last had the opportunity to retrace your steps. For instance, if you lost your phone, think about where you were using it last. Did you forget it on a table? Did you drop it in the car? This way, you connect the dots to locate the object. The same thing is what breadcrumbs do for you. They help you connect the dots on a website to quickly navigate back to your starting point or previous pages.

Let’s understand how breadcrumbs do it, why they are important for SEO, and what the best practices are for breadcrumb structure to make your site easier to navigate.

What is a breadcrumb?

Breadcrumbs navigation is a secondary navigation system that shows the user’s location within a website hierarchy, usually displayed as a horizontal trail of links to the user’s current page at the end. This makes it easier for users to track their current location on a website or interface.

A breadcrumb trail is a group of links that normally appear at the top of a page, each of which represents a different level in the structure of the website. This trail shows the page the user is currently on and its relation to the pages visited before it or the hierarchy of higher-level parent pages above the current page.

Each link in the breadcrumb trail points to a different level of the website’s hierarchy. The home page is consistently the first link in the breadcrumb trail. The current page is always the last link in the breadcrumb trail. The links between them serve as a representation of the various categories the visitor has visited in order to get to the current page. This trail instantly shows you where you are. Every step of the trail is clickable, making it easy to return to the homepage.

In, the path to our marketing blog is Home > company > marketing blog> How MarTech (Marketing Technology) Has Evolved Over the Years – A Look at Key Insights and Statistics

Types of breadcrumb structures

Breadcrumbs can be created in various ways. Your choice of the breadcrumb trail model will depend on the type of pages and information on your site and the common search habits of your users. There are prominently three types of breadcrumb structures used in websites.

Attribute-based breadcrumb structure

Attribute-based breadcrumbs are based on the attributes of the page or the products listed on the page. For example, if a website has a filter function, most likely it is based on attributes of products or content.

• If you can divide your pages into categories based on their attributes, it would be the best bet for a breadcrumb trail.

• The majority of attribute-based breadcrumbs are based on tags or categories rather than parent-child hierarchies.

Attribute-based breadcrumb structure

Path-based breadcrumb structure

These breadcrumbs show the visitor the exact path they took to get to their current location on the site. It is also regarded as a history-based breadcrumb because it is based on visiting the history of the user. Instead of listing out the whole path, a path-based breadcrumb is implemented in the form of a back button, something like this:

Path-based breadcrumb structure

These breadcrumbs are not helpful in many situations and merely serve the same function as the back button in your browser. It is the reason why they are not a popular choice among user experience designers.

Location-based or hierarchy-based breadcrumb structure

These breadcrumbs are based on where visitors are currently in the site’s hierarchy. These breadcrumbs follow the site architecture (or “hierarchy”) of your website. It is the most popularly used breadcrumb structure in website design. The reason is the simplicity and transparency it offers to its users. It is also very useful for people who have landed on your website from Google search results.

Location-based or hierarchy-based breadcrumb structure

On-site breadcrumbs vs. schema markup breadcrumb

Breadcrumbs displayed on the website and schema markup breadcrumbs are different from each other. If there are breadcrumbs on site, it doesn’t always mean the presence of breadcrumb-structured data. Onsite breadcrumbs are a navigation trail that appears at the top of the page and is visible to the users. Users can click it to navigate back to the previous page. For instance, a breadcrumb for an eCommerce site dealing in electronic goods may look like this:

Home > Home Accessories > TV > Sony

Schema markup is a form of structured data that can be used to mark up onsite breadcrumbs. It is used to provide more information about a web page to the search engines. When it is implemented correctly, search engines can show breadcrumbs instead of the page’s URL in the search results. Onsite breadcrumbs are used for navigation, whereas breadcrumbs with schema markup are used to provide information to search engines.

The fastest way to know if your site has valid breadcrumb schema markup is to check the breadcrumbs report in the Google Search Console. This report will show the number of pages on your site with breadcrumb with schema markup. It will also show any errors in the breadcrumb schema markup of your website. If you see errors in it, review the breadcrumb list of structured data.

For maximum benefits, it is recommended that both on-site breadcrumbs and schema markup breadcrumbs corroborate each other’s messages about site structure. It will lead to better indexing and ranking in search results. It may also assist in organ performance by changing the URL path to a breadcrumb path in the SERP snippet. However, it is important to know that the mere presence of schema markup doesn’t guarantee that Google will display your breadcrumbs in the SERP snippet.

Google may choose to display your breadcrumbs, or it may choose to display the URL path instead. The length of your breadcrumb trail can also impact whether Google displays it in the SERP snippet, but for most sites, breadcrumb structured data is considered the best practice.

How does breadcrumb navigation help improve SEO results?

Breadcrumbs help search engine bots and human users understand the structure of your website and improve its visibility in search results. They play an important role in improving the user experience and guiding search engine bots towards the context and hierarchy of a website. Let’s explore the benefits of using breadcrumb navigation:

Improve the usability of the site

As search engines are now more concerned about the usability of a website than ever, working on the user experience can help you get faster SEO results. One of the many benefits of using breadcrumbs on a site is improving its usability. Breadcrumbs make it easy for users to navigate the site. They provide a clear indication of the location of the users, so they can get easy access to previous pages.

Users who have arrived at the site from search results usually have no idea about the structure of the site. Breadcrumbs help them to understand the structure and follow the right path to get the information they need from the site and to easily navigate back to previous pages. Let’s take an example. If you are looking for curtains and you clicked on a Google snippet and want to explore the store’s additional options, breadcrumbs make it easy for you to get to the entire curtain catalog or check other products of the same brand with just a single click.

Home > Home & Garden > Curtains & Drapes > IKEA Curtains

The better the usability of your site, the greater your chances of reaching and staying at the top of search engine results pages.

Ensure smooth browsing experience and reduce the bounce rate

Breadcrumbs help in organizing the content of a website and make it easy for users as well as search engines to understand it. When a website is easy to navigate, users are more likely to stick to it.

Let’s say a user is looking for black shoes on an e-commerce site, so they will navigate in the given way

Home >Mens> shoes >colours> black

However, if the buyer want to buy brown shoes instead of black, they simply have to go back one step and change to Brown instead of going to a different website to look for brown sneakers.

Breadcrumb makes it easy and quick for users to navigate your site and find the content they are looking for. When a website is easy to navigate, users like to stick to it. However, if the navigation is confusing, users will instantly leave the site as there are plenty of options out there.

Reduce the number of steps in hierarchy

Breadcrumbs reduce the number of steps that need to be taken by users to go back to the site’s hierarchy. If you are browsing a site without breadcrumbs, you may end up hitting the back button multiple times to go back up in the hierarchy. However, with breadcrumbs, you can reach any page with a single click by simply clicking a link in the breadcrumb trail. It will take your time and efforts, and it will also have a good impression on the site visitors. By impressing users and enriching the user experience, your site will ultimately have better chances of ranking higher on the top serps.

Better chances to appear in search results

A page with breadcrumbs could attract more clicks in search results than a page without breadcrumbs. It helps search engine crawlers better understand the structure of your website and helps improve website SEO rankings. For instance, the key terms for an e-commerce fashion store might include

Home > women’s accessories > belts > black belts

Studies have shown that having breadcrumb navigation increases your chances of appearing on Google’s first page.

Note: Make sure to implement a breadcrumb-structured data markup in the breadcrumb trail. Once you add it to your site, you can use the ESL Ranks Pro tool to check whether your implementation has any errors.

Showing your position in the hierarchy

A user will reach your current page by following a certain path. Breadcrumb displays the user’s path as a list of links, with each link representing a level in the hierarchy. These links are usually separated by a greater-than sign (>) or a forward slash (/).

For example, consider the following breadcrumb navigation:

Home > Products > Fashion Accessories > Bags > Bags by Brand > Louis Vuitton

This breadcrumb navigation shows that a user is currently on the Louis Vuitton page, which is a sub-page of the “Bags by Brand” page, which is a sub-page of the “Fashion Accessories” page, which is a sub-page of the “Products” page, which is a sub-page of the “Home” page.

When the full navigation path is included in the breadcrumbs, it helps users better understand their current location on the website. It also makes it easier for users to go back to previous pages and even improves the website’s overall experience.

Improves the site accessibility for varied users

Breadcrumb websites make websites easily accessible to users. For instance, people with disabilities using screen readers can easily use the breadcrumb trail to navigate back to previous pages without having to use the back button.

Breadcrumb navigation provides these users with an easy way to navigate back to previous pages. Similarly, it can be difficult for people with cognitive impairments to remember how they navigated to a specific page on a website. Breadcrumb navigation can provide a visual cue to show them their location within the website hierarchy.

It also makes website browsing a smooth experience for users who struggle with decision-making or have difficulty processing multiple options at once. In this way, breadcrumb navigation improves the accessibility of a site for a variety of users.

6 Cs for mastering the art of breadcrumb navigation for SEO success

Breadcrumb navigation is an important element in SEO, significantly impacting users’ experiences and search engine rankings. However, many sites get it altogether wrong, or they don’t have any breadcrumb trail at all. Here are some tips to successfully implement breadcrumb navigation on your website.

  1. Crucial

Use breadcrumb navigation only if it is required

Breadcrumb navigation is valuable for enhancing user experience and improving your search engine results but they must be used only if it is needed to use them. Keep in mind that breadcrumb navigation is useful only when there is a deep site architecture.

Breadcrumb navigation is useful only when there is a deep site architecture.

However, breadcrumb navigation is not useful for a single-level, flat website architecture, where every page of the website is just one click away from the homepage.

For instance, if you have a small website with just few top level pages, breadcrumb navigation may not be needed. In such a case, main navigation covers everything that site offers.

In the given landing page template, businesses is primarily offering accounting experts and simple software and only contain a few essential pages such as Accounting, Ecommerce, Register a company, Resources, About. There is no need to implement breadcrumb navigation in it as everything is just few clicks away from Home Page.

Landing page template

However, if there is an e-commerce website with multiple product categories, it may benefit from using breadcrumb navigation so that users can easily find the product they are looking for. For example, the breadcrumb trail for a product page might look like this:

 Home > Products > Clothing > men’s clothing > jackets

This will make it easy for users to navigate back to the home page, the products page, the clothing page, the men’s clothing page, or the jackets page simply by clicking on the relevant link in the breadcrumb trail.

Pro tip: It is best to use breadcrumb navigation only if a website has a complex hierarchy, and it will help users navigate your website easily. If you are not sure whether or not you need to use breadcrumb navigation, it is always best to tread cautiously and omit it.

2. Compact

 Choose a reasonable size for breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumb navigation is used to support the main navigation on your site. In practice, it is preferred that breadcrumb navigation must be smaller in size than primary navigation and it is placed somewhere below it. If your breadcrumbs appear too large, it will distort the visually appeal and may confuse users while navigating from one to another place. It will overwhelm the users and make it difficult for them to quickly find the information they need. Breadcrumbs should have a simple design and a reasonably sized font used in a style consistent with text links on the rest of their website.

  • Use font size smaller than the rest of the text on your Page,
  • Use content in a way that it is blended into the existing content and not distract from the main content of your page
  • Avoid cluttering the line with unnecessary text such as “You are here” or “Navigation
  • Breadcrumb trail should be kept two or three levels deep. This will make it easy for users to see where they are in the website hierarchy and to navigate back to previous pages.
Reasonable size for breadcrumb navigation

3. Clutter free

Create simple and complete navigational path

Create simple and complete navigational path

A lot of visitors are likely to discover the pages on your site via search results instead of starting at the home page and navigating through. If you leave out certain level, it will confuse the users and they won’t find it useful. Your goal when creating the breadcrumb navigation structure should be to make it very easy for users to explore your site from the beginning. It is also equally important to use clear and concise text for your breadcrumb links.

  • One must avoid using jargon or technical terms that users may not understand.
  • Position the breadcrumb trail directly below the primary.
  • Make breadcrumb trail read left to right in a way that the home page link to your website, followed by all the sections of the trail and end it with the current page.

4. Consistent

Make sure breadcrumb title are consistent with your page titles

breadcrumb title are consistent with your page titles

Breadcrumb title is text labels appearing in the breadcrumb trail. These titles must be consistent with page titles, so that users don’t feel confused.

In the example given below, breadcrumb trail matches the page title exactly

Page title: Women’s Accessories

Breadcrumb trail: Home > Products > Women’s Accessories > Bracelet

Here is another example where the breadcrumb trail is slightly longer than the page title, but it is still consistent. However, it includes the brand of the shoe, which is not included in the page title. This is because the brand of the shoe is an important piece of information that users may want to use to narrow down their search

Page title: men’s Jordan shoes

Breadcrumb trail: Home > Products > Shoes > men’s Jordan shoes

It is important that breadcrumb trail are consistent with the page title as it helps users to understand where they are on the website and how to get back to where they came from. It also helps search engines to index the website more accurately and to rank the page higher in search results.

5. Creative

Get creative with breadcrumb structure design

creative with breadcrumb structure design

When creating breadcrumb structure design, it is advised to think beyond the traditional list of text links.  You can use icons or symbols to represent each breadcrumb item. For example, instead of using the text “Home > Products > Shoes > Sneakers”, you could use a home icon, a shopping bag icon, a shoe icon, and a sneaker icon. Not only it will save your space, but it will also make it easy to scan your breadcrumbs.

Another innovative way for breadcrumb structure design can be using a breadcrumb trail that is shaped like a path or trail. This can be a fun and creative way to make your breadcrumbs more engaging for users. For example, you could use a winding path to represent the different categories on your website.

Keep in mind

  • Make sure a consistent design throughout the breadcrumb trail.
  • Create a breadcrumb trail in a way that visually connects the different pages but can be easily differentiated from one another.

6. Connect

Connect with different web pages

A breadcrumb trail should be created in a way that visually connects the different pages, while making it easy for users to differentiate them. For instance, you can use a dotted line or an arrow to connect the items in a breadcrumb trail. It will help users to understand the relationship between the different pages.

A separator symbol such as a greater-than sign (>), is popularly used to separate the breadcrumb links. It will help users to quickly understand the breadcrumb trail and know where they are in the website hierarchy.

There other options as well such as slashes (/) or pipes (|), but they are not effective in denoting hierarchy. While options like as » and -> take up unnecessary space in the trail.

Keep in mind

A separator symbol such as a greater-than sign (>) should be used to separate the breadcrumb links

Final thoughts

Breadcrumbs are vital for navigation and can be easily implemented using various plugins and modules. If your website has a multi-level structure with lots of pages, there’s no excuse not to have breadcrumbs. This navigation trail will be of great help to your users both on your website and in the SERP. So what are you waiting for? Get started on creating a breadcrumb trail for your website the right way by going back in and reading this article again! Follow each step closely and witness a noticeable improvement in your rankings over time!

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