We like to think of a website like we think of a house. You generally enter and exit a house through the front door or the backdoor. Websites, however, allow for people to enter and exit through any opening. You could have people crawling through the windows, the basement, or even climbing down your chimney. How can you get these visitors to get where they need to go after they’ve come into your website?
Through the use of SEO breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are just a fancy terminology to describe the directory path of a site where someone may have been. The design is, in fact, the exact same design that is used in operating systems today for file access. Let’s say that you have a file that needs to be found. Your directory path would look something like this.
Computer > Windows (C:) > Libraries > Documents > Filename.doc
SEO breadcrumbs create the same pathways, but they do so through the use of your domain’s page structures so that a visitor can always know exactly where they are on the site. This allows them to navigate to where they need to be after arrival because visitors can quickly get to the different pages that are available. Here’s an example of breadcrumbs at work.
Home > Electronics > Mobile Devices > Smartphones > Apple iPhone
Are breadcrumbs absolutely necessary for a positive user experience? Not necessarily if a site has been designed well. They do, however, provide users and search engines with the added data that they need to be able to get the information that is needed at any given time.
SEO Breadcrumbs Are Basically Just a Rich Snippet
Location factors for users are one of the primary reasons to install SEO breadcrumbs, but search engine crawlers like them too. It allows them to evaluate the overall value of a website through the user experience. If navigation is logical and straightforward, then the added value can give you a potential boost. Some websites even have their SEO breadcrumbs published directly into their search results.
In basic terms, breadcrumbs allow for more effective search engine results.
It’s also an effective navigation tool because it can allow a visitor to locate similar products, services, or information that is on your website. Maybe they clicked through a link to find something they wanted, only to discover that it didn’t meet their needs. With breadcrumbs available, someone can quickly click on the higher levels of site hierarchy and make their way over to the other items on your site.
It also means that a website is more likely to have extra pages that are viewed by every visitor because it becomes easier to provide access to other areas of a website. Whether a visitor comes through the front door or a skylight in the roof, the breadcrumbs are a trail that can be used to access the true data that is wanted instead of the tempting data that brought a visitor to come over and see you in the first place.
Do SEO Breadcrumbs Impact the Design Elements of a Site?
There are three basic ways to approach the inclusion of breadcrumbs into the design of the website.
Big and bold.
You make the navigation points very big and very noticeable. The font is huge, the colors are bright, and they just can’t be ignored.
Subtle and invisible.
SEO breadcrumbs can also be of a smaller font that fades into the background of a page. People who want to use them will know that they are there, but those who don’t know about them won’t be disturbed by them.
Putting the breadcrumbs up by the menu options so that it feels like a natural navigation component while using the same format for links as you do for your anchor text will give the site some extra continuity.
If you have a large website, you can’t afford to ignore breadcrumbs. When there are multiple levels of navigation that must be followed and someone might come into a website 12 levels deep, the breadcrumbs can provide that visitor with an elevator that will bring them up to the right level that is needed for their overall purpose.
Do SEO Breadcrumbs Help Smaller Websites?
The average domain isn’t going to have hundreds or thousands of pages. Many of them have 3-5 pages and are used for small business ventures. A local business might have their home page, a couple pages about their services, a booking calendar, and a blog. With 5 pages and no third or fourth level hierarchy to worry about, SEO breadcrumbs might seem a little awkward if they are seen on the site. After all, the furthest away anyone would be from the home page would be one level.
With that being said, there is a certain niche benefit to having an elevator that can travel between a first and second floor. Not everyone will use this elevator, but some people will. The access that it provides isn’t going to be a major benefit, but it will be a positive benefit to those who wish to utilize it. A few people might find small site breadcrumbs to be a little awkward, but the value that those visitors who want to use them will offset any negative vibes that people may have.
If you need a way to pass along link juice throughout your entire site and want to communicate clearly and precisely to search engines and visitors about how your site is structured, then you need SEO breadcrumbs. You never know where a visitor might show up. Instead of frantically watching your metrics to see if people are bouncing or trying to use internal links within your content, the breadcrumbs will help everyone see the complete hierarchy of your site and be able to understand it.
You could let people stumble around your site and find what they want, but that will eventually lead to lost customers and confused search engines. Incorporate breadcrumbs today and you will immediately enhance the user experience for everyone.