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Breadcrumb navigation by category - best practice

     
11:56 am on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm adding a sitewide breadcrumb navigation in order to more effectively link my pages together and to make it easier for users to jump 'up' to a previous page or 'down' to the next category.

Would this be a sensible way to link:

widgets home >> previous category >> Red Widgets >> next category


<a href="/">widgets home</a> >> <a href="/widget-category-1.html">previous category</a> >> Red Widgets >> <a href="/widget-category-2.html">next category</a>


.. or would you folks do it another way?
3:08 pm on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Are the breadcrumbs going to be static or dynamic? In other words some of your pages probably have multiple ways to drill down to them. Are you going to display dynamically generated breadcrumb links that change based on how the user drilled down into the site or are you hard coding navigation links that never change?

Either way breadcrumb links tend to be devalued by Google since they are not embedded within the content. This is not to say they are useless just that they tend to be worth less than a link embedded in a relevant keyword rich article.
3:17 pm on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the reply goodroi,

The links are going to be static / hardcoded and I will check every single one as I add them to make sure they link forwards and backwards to the correct pages within a given section.

I've also just started to link back to the homepage with links embedded in relevant keyword rich articles :)
4:05 pm on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I dunno, my sites with breadcrumbs show up differently in the SERPs; for example the URL displays as

example.com > Category Name

Which I kind of like.

That said, they're there for the user, and not for Google.

Personally, I don't think I'd put <next category> in a breadcrumb - that's a different type of navigation.

Breadcrumbs are... well, think Hansel & Gretel. It's a trail so you can get back, not a map to go forward.
4:17 pm on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Would highly suggest that the breadcrumbs not be dynamic (in that they include a back/next reference).

A strict hierarchy is best (in fact with google everything with your website should be sorted in an hierarchical fashion as IMO this is how google thinks). Perhaps Widgets Home >> Red Widgets (then perhaps floated to the right (previous category | next category).

Google actually does like breadcrumbs and gives a guide of how to add rich snippets to googlebot can officially recognize them:

[google.com...]

Even without rich snippets, I've add luck with google crawling my breadcrumbs and then displaying my breadcrumbs in the SERPs (so a little bonus exposure in the SERP's for good breadcrumbs). I suspect good breadcrumbs can help google theme and organize your website as well. It's not a 100% consistent that they will show my breadcrumb, so I'm not exactly sure how this works though...
4:23 pm on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've decided to hardcode each breadcrumb manually so that there are no mistakes with the navigation.


This seems logical:

widgets home >> previous category >> <strong>Red Widgets</strong> >> next category

[h1]Best Widgets[/h1]
4:17 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't see how you can put the next category in a breadcrumb, as it's likely there's more than one possibility, and you don't know which one a user will pick.
10:37 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm basing it on existing menus, from top to bottom:

Red widgets
White widgets
Blue widgets

So a user on the Red widgets page clicking 'next' will find themselves on the White widgets page.

If they don't like what they find, they can then click 'previous' to return to where they were on the Red widgets page .. or 'next' to skip to 'Blue widgets'.

Surely giving the user - and indeed Google - that kind of clear navigation is a plus?


Also, would it be a good idea for the breadcrumb links to include the h1 tag as 'current landing page'?

<a href="/">Widgets home</a> >> <a href="/red-widgets.html">previous category</a> >> <h1>White widgets</h1> >> <a href="/blue-widgets.html">next category</a>


or perhaps even:

<a href="/">Widgets home</a> >> <a href="/red-widgets.html"><h2>Red widgets</h2></a> >> <h1>White Widgets</h1> >> <a href="/blue-widgets.html"><h3>Blue widgets</h3></a>


Or would that be overdoing the keyword bit and abusing the h tags?
2:34 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't think this is a breadcrumb; doubt it will be treated as one by Google.
2:38 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Don't overdo breadcrumbs, I'd suggest not using them unless you have a complicated internal link structure(such as forums with long threads). If you can jump back from an article to a category via category link, e.g. in a sidebar, then you really don't need breadcrumbs.

They add links per page which dilutes pagerank through those links(supposedly) and they reduce the effectiveness of other interlinking efforts, if you have any.
4:04 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If the homepage has a menu on the right hand side:

Red Widgets
White Widgets
Blue Widgets

.. and the user clicks on White Widgets there is no option to go forward to the next category without the breadcrumb.

So the user HAS to click 'Home' before being able to select a different category.

Other than putting the homepage right hand menu on every page on the site, surely breadcrumbs are the best way to enable simpler navigation for the user?
5:54 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like you've already made up your mind, so good luck with it.
6:44 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No, I'm still having my doubts due to the lack of a consensus on best practice.

Would a sitewide sub-navigation menu be a better option?

At least that would link all main pages together sitewide with little effort.


HOME - MAIN PAGE1 - MAIN PAGE2 - MAIN PAGE3 - MAIN PAGE4
widgets - red widgets - white widgets - blue widgets - green widgets
8:36 pm on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What's this got to do with Google? Wouldn't it be best to ask it in one of the Webmaster web developer fora?
9:42 am on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Breadcrumbs are a great way to interlink your site pages with keyword rich anchor text, a well optimizes breadcrumb navigation can provide some great SEO benefit.
1:51 am on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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HOME - MAIN PAGE1 - MAIN PAGE2 - MAIN PAGE3 - MAIN PAGE4
widgets - red widgets - white widgets - blue widgets - green widgets

Sounds like you're confusing breadcrumb links and pagination links just a little bit. Main categories really aren't numbered.

On WebmasterWorld, for instance, from the home page of this forum, this is the breadcrumb....
Home / Forums Index / Google / Google SEO News and Discussion

Once you're on the Google SEO News page, though, no one can predict what page you're going to go to next. The options to continue within the Google SEO News subcategory you're in are available to you via links elsewhere on the page.

But you are right... there is no global navigation to other sub-forums of /Google/ ...eg, to AdWords or to Google Finance... from the Google SEO News home page. For that you'd have to go back to the "Category: Google" page. This helps keep the navigation focused for the user and for Google. The purpose of the Google SEO News home page is to send visitors to one of the Google SEO threads here... not to send them to another sub-forum.

And here are pagination links from within a thread...
This 124 message thread spans 5 pages: 124 ( [1] 2 3 4 5 ) > >

In a thread or an article, the numbers do suggest a "next" page, because the posts of the thread have an order. But, once you're in a thread, as with the above example, you don't have direct navigation to all the other threads in the forum. You have to go back up to the Google SEO News home page. That keeps the user and Google from getting overwhelmed by too many choices.
1:52 am on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What's this got to do with Google? Wouldn't it be best to ask it in one of the Webmaster web developer fora?

Sid... this has got everything to do with Google, particularly when you've got a big site.
2:05 am on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Robert,

I actually figured out a great (for my industry) interlinking scheme which actually ensures that just about every page links to a fixed percentage of other pages.

I rolled it out onto some new pages only - just 5 brand news URLs with major content on a 400 page site.

Then - just my luck - my homepage vanished from the index the next day! I'm not linking the two events, but I'm not going to make ANY more changes whatsoever until that darn homepage returns.
3:38 am on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google's got a whole page in Webmaster Tools Help on breadcrumbs where they give examples of mark-up using Microdata and RDFa. I use them where I can because I think the enhanced listing encourages more clicks from the users I'm targeting.
3:55 am on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm curious, SERP's aside, does anyone find that people actually click on the breadcrumbs while on your site(s)?

With a lot of the tests I've done/seen, hardly any of the visitors use them on info sites. (Maybe it's different for ecom vs. info sites)
2:28 pm on Nov 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yep. Try a heat map analysis some time to see if they'll work for you (we always use them on ecommerce)
 

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