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SEO for numbered list menus with no anchor text?

     
4:17 pm on Jun 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have a website divided into topics.
Each topic has 5 to 8 primary pages.
Each page addresses a slightly different issue.
Each page stands alone and doesn't necessarily require reading other pages.

Historically, so to bring attention each topic's additional pages, I've used a "menu" that's just a numbered link to each page. 1|2|3|4|5|6
This menu hints that there are other pages to read. And if someone did read all of the pages, that would be the preferred order. This type of menu seems to work pretty well for me.

I'm now redesigning the layout of my pages, and I considering a form where that menu is now shown in the form:
1|2|3|4|5|6|Menu
(With the Menu link jumping to a descriptive page-bottom index of all of the topic's pages, both primary and accessory.)

The problem I see here is that in the order found in the HTML, the first link to all of the topic's primary pages will just be this menu, which only contains numbers and absolutely no anchor text.

I'm assuming this is horrible for the site's SEO? (It would have been years ago, do the same rules still apply?)

As possible solutions:

I could add title attritributes to each anchor. This text does show when you mouseover each page's number. But I'm not sure that Google will pick up this title text and assign it as the anchor text when they evaluate the page.

I could show each number as a graphic, and then use descriptive text in the Alt attribute, which I think Google would assign as the anchor text. (It's just that just plain text for the numbers works so well - link, hover, visited, etc...)

I've seen mention of using text-indent methods to place large amounts of descriptive anchor text outside of the viewport. But I'm not so sure this isn't frowned upon by Google.

I've also seen mention of CSS methods that limit the amount of anchor text shown. In my case, a solution like "1 How cars are made.", with only the "1" part of the anchor text actually showing. But once again, I'm not sure doing so is OK with Google.

I guess I could show the line in the order:
Menu|1|2|3|4|5|6
Where instead of just a link to a new location, the Menu button triggers a dropdown menu, which could have full page descriptions for each of the topic's links and would be first in the HTML. But that adds a level of complexity to this project that I didn't really want to get involved with.

I could place the code for the 1|2|3... menu at page-bottom in the HTML, below the descriptive page-bottom complete topic menu, and then use CSS to position it at page top. But this method relies on thinking that Google's 1st link to a page is determined by the position of the anchor in the HTML, instead of how the page renders. I don't know if that is still true.

Do I have a problem, in regards to SEO with just the 1|2|3|... at page top both in the HTML and the way it renders?
If I do, what are the better solutions?
4:47 am on June 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Broadway... that's a dreadful problem to have. As a site visitor, I dislike numbered list menus more than almost any other form of navigation. I assume that Google dislikes them for the same reason I do. Numbers are not substitutes for topic titles... and, if your list gets very large, you really want a hierarchical structure with named topics.

Numbered lists are semi-OK in forums to indicate groups of posts, since users at least know that they indicate a chronological progression.

To use them in an article site as a substitute for topic names is IMO a mistake, particularly if you've got very many choices. Possibly, including an excerpt from the note following each number might be workable. If you look at this as a usability issue, the SEO will take care of itself.

Numbered notes also work as footnotes, with specific numbered references in the article guiding you to them. .

But if these are more than long comments, IMO, it's not a good arrangement. Pretend you're a first time visitor to the site and are trying to find information. If a user can't find it easily, there's no way of tricking Google into thinking it's user-friendly.

9:03 pm on June 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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PS:
I could add title attritributes to each anchor. This text does show when you mouseover each page's number. But I'm not sure that Google will pick up this title text

Google does not use the title attribute. It's hard to say whether they make note of it, but both according to spec, and by tests I've run, the title attribute is not useful for SEO.

9:37 pm on June 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Where instead of just a link to a new location, the Menu button triggers a dropdown menu, which could have full page descriptions for each of the topic's links and would be first in the HTML.

I would do the drop down menu, it is the most conventional method.

But that adds a level of complexity to this project that I didn't really want to get involved with.

Maybe we have a different standard for what one considers complex, but a drop down menu can be easily be built with only CSS. Its is relatively simple and straight forward and there are plenty examples and how-to tutorials available.
3:33 pm on June 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Advise taken. Thank you both.
 

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