The design and position of breadcrumb navigation on a webpage is typical and has become an established practice for a long time. However, as the world shifts to a mobile-first web environment, many website designers are getting it wrong or forgetting to include it in their navigation. Doing this can be a blunder because it is well established that breadcrumb navigation is useful for boosting usability and SEO when it is implemented optimally for mobile devices. For people in the dark, breadcrumb navigation refers to the line of contextual links pointing out to the user where he is on the website. Breadcrumbs represent another method of website navigation and allow the user to trace the site hierarchy.
Breadcrumb Navigation Caveats
As useful as breadcrumb navigation, it is not necessary for all websites. Typically, websites with many nested levels of navigation do not possess a logical grouping of pages or hierarchy and have a liner design. Breadcrumbs offer very little value in websites with a flat structure because most of the content sits on the same level or, at the maximum, spread over only a few levels. On the other hand, breadcrumbs are imperative for websites that use complex hierarchical page structures, typically found in e-commerce sites. According to experts, there can be three types of breadcrumb trails. These are path or history-based breadcrumbs, attribute-based breadcrumbs, and hierarchical breadcrumbs. As far as SEO is concerned, only hierarchical breadcrumbs are useful. In hierarchy-based breadcrumb navigation, the depth of the site architecture counts. It starts with the broadest category at the topmost level and progresses down to the more specific sub-categories going right up to the page the user is on currently.
Hierarchy breadcrumbs are the most common, well-understood, and effective for SEO. They represent an essential component supporting way-finding in a website since they orient the user while offering single-click access to relevant pages on a higher level. According to the Search Engine Journal, breadcrumbs help site navigation and also assist Google to categorize and navigate the website.
Breadcrumb navigation comes to the fore, especially when the user is on a page deep inside the website hierarchy. However, more than boosting the website’s usability, breadcrumbs support the SEO process at every step. Some of the main reasons why breadcrumbs support SEO include:
More opportunity for crawling: The breadcrumbs generate internal links that expose all the hierarchy levels to the search engine bots. It is especially vital for the lower levels that may be out of reach of the Google bots or they may not get the priority in the crawl queues they deserve. You can measure this benefit by the extent of reduction in exclusions of “discovered – currently not indexed” in Google Search Console and an increase in the frequency of crawls.
Better indexing: The hierarchical links in breadcrumbs assist Google put a proper context to the content and associate pages in the modern website design structure. It is important to appreciate if Google cannot understand the relationship between page URLs if it only sees them on a sitemap file. Google will experience difficulty in understanding the relevance of a web page in the site’s context. By using breadcrumbs, it is easier to form topic silos that are becoming important with indexing focusing on entities. You can measure the improvement in indexing by an increase in the indexing speed and in the number of valid URLs.
Higher ranks and more SERP clicks:
Breadcrumbs help to improve search engine rankings by strengthening the internal link structure. It allows the link equity to flow uniformly between pages with a thematic relationship. One of the most effective methods is to include keywords above the fold. While it can make a difference for long-tail queries, it is not likely to have any effect on highly-competitive SERP search queries. You can measure the benefit by the decrease in the number of impressions in Google Search Console and in average position. The boost in rank will naturally increase the number of clicks.
Best Practices for Breadcrumb Implementation in Mobile UX
Because of its simplicity, breadcrumb navigation is used consistently as an interface component. While the hierarchical links separated by delimiters worked well for conventional websites, the scenario got disrupted with the arrival of mobile devices with their much smaller screens. It demanded the modification of the historical best practices. Some of the most important best practices for the use of breadcrumbs on mobile-optimized sites include:
Consistency of availability: You need to have breadcrumbs present on every relevant page since they add significant way-finding value.
Logical placement: You need to place the breadcrumbs between the primary navigation menu and the H1. The position is a matter of convention, and users may not readily locate it and use it if you place it somewhere else. Additionally, if it is placed low on the page, it will decrease the internal liking power.
Clear journey: The breadcrumb trail should clearly show the user’s journey from the home page to the page he is on now. The homepage serves as an anchoring point to provide orientation to the user. The last item on the breadcrumb that’s visually distinctive and non-clickable tells the user of his current location.
Size it right: It is important to keep the design and size of the breadcrumb simple but large enough to be easily read and tapped. The font style should be consistent with that used in other text links on the website. Make it crisp without including unnecessary text.