In the Hansel and Gretel story, Hansel takes a slice of bread and leaves a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow home. However, they find that the birds have eaten the crumbs and they are lost in the woods. I’m sure that in 1812 the Brothers Grimm had no idea that part of the story would be translated into a piece of SEO lexicon 200 years later.
Breadcrumbs add another form of navigation for visitors to find their way around your Web site. They build out a logical path of what pages have been visited and where they are in relation to the site flow.
Breadcrumbs are important in two areas of site development; SEO and usability. From a usability standpoint, breadcrumbs can reduce the number of clicks for users to get back to a higher level page that they were on previously. For this blog, we are going to focus on the benefits of breadcrumbs at an SEO level.
- Types – There are 3 main types of breadcrumbs.
- Path (History) based breadcrumbs: These lay out the visitors’ path as they traversed your site. These breadcrumbs are dynamically generated and build your click path as you get more granular into the site. Below is an example from Best Buy:
- Location based: These pages are static and show the location of the site visitor in relation to site structure.
- Attribute based: Breadcrumbs that give categorical information before diving into details. These are generally used on large shopping sites with a lot of products.
- Benefits – Breadcrumbs provide many advantages from a SEO level.
- Keyword Density – Breadcrumbs add focused keywords to your page building density.
- Emphasis – If programmed correctly in your CSS, the Search Engines will recognize the keywords as being most important on their page. Amazon has its breadcrumbs set up to be H1 tags.
- Indexation – Google is integrating breadcrumb navigation into its search results creating a relevant link deep into the site.
- Best Practices – Breadcrumbs can be a wonderful addition to your site but follow these best practices before following the crumbs:
- Usage – Do not use as purely as an SEO tactic. Breadcrumbs should only be added if you have the type of site to support it. They should be dynamically generated and add to a user’s experience.
- Navigation – Breadcrumbs are an ADDITION to your navigation, not a replacement.
- Keywords – Be short and concise with your breadcrumbs. Do not stuff with keywords and make unreadable (see point a).
- Consistency – Dynamically generated on every page is the best way to build.
- Linking – Utilize good anchor text and allow the user to click to previous pages in the crumb trail. The last/current page the user is on should not be clickable.