The breadcrumb trail is a series of navigational links that has emerged as a useful tool for web designers, SEO experts, and users. It is an effective visual aid that helps users in going through a website with ease and track their location. It helps Google to understand the website hierarchy in a better manner and segregate the inner navigable links to the main site’s clickable link, that adds as an optimal solution to easy navigation. It helps in letting the users know about their current position on the web page, plus the preceding and proceeding connected links to the current term in question.
On the other hand, a website with widely dispersed structure and improper content segregation is not apt to use with breadcrumbs.
The three types of breadcrumbs are-
Location-based or hierarchy-based breadcrumbs-
They signify the overall structural design of the web page and help users to perceive the site’s hierarchical structure for an enhanced experience while navigating to different topics. If a user has entered the website to a deep inner link, this breadcrumb provides an easy way to make the user aware of the structure of the website and related search components.
Let’s consider someone googling a movie name, say ‘stone’ and opens the first web page. Now, there is a possibility that the user is not satisfied with the deep search result, then the user will get an option to choose another related movie title, say ‘pebble’. Also, there is no re-traceable link routed to the current page content. After landing to specific search content, a user can access the content’s further sub-categories one by one.
They appear when certain content filters are applied on location-based links. They group the contents under various categories and a single link to that grouped category is provided to the user.
The use of attribute-based breadcrumbs can be understood from the following example- A user searches for sports equipment and uses a filter for selecting a sport say ‘Cricket’. The search can then be filtered by selecting equipment say ‘Bat’, and further narrowed down by filtering results basis attributes related to Bats such as size, weight, and rating.
The breadcrumbs for such a search would appear as follows:
It provides the users with the path of all the page instances since the web page was opened and the very first deep search began. Though this type of approach is not considered very user-friendly in the sense that a user doesn’t necessarily follow a logical sequence while navigating through different web pages of a website. History-based breadcrumbs also offer nothing more than a pair of dedicated back and forward buttons, with which the same actions could be achieved, but they are used to save user’s time in looking for previously visited pages. As the previous pages are not refreshed, the content viewed earlier is available without any changes.
So if a user searches for an anniversary gift and types ‘Couple Watches’ and moves on to the section ‘Men’s watches’ and then ‘Women’s watches’ but doesn’t find anything interesting enough and would like to consider going back to the section ‘Couple watches’, the breadcrumb trail will help save time and effort in doing so.
The breadcrumbs in such cases appear as:
Home > Previous page > Previous page > Previous page > Current page
Best Practices followed while using breadcrumbs-
A page should be in a convenient and logical format with clear, distinctive and appropriate content that could be grouped into well-defined categories upon filtering.
Content on navbar should be a collective representation of all categories and further subdivisions of these should be planned to be included in breadcrumbs. The navbar’s heading content should not be the same as the breadcrumb title.
Breadcrumbs shouldn’t be overused, and the structure followed should comply with the content thus enhancing user experience.
Google using breadcrumbs-
Google uses breadcrumbs to figure out all the content headings that are related to a particular website. A match between the user’s search term and structured contents of the website is performed. This affects how one’s website is ranked on Google when a search for a particular term related to that website is made.
Google also uses breadcrumbs in the actual search results, appropriate SEO can increase the chances of a website’s breadcrumbs appearing in Google search results.
Google’s ranking of a site also improves as breadcrumbs provide users an easy-to-understand overview of a website, increasing the ease of use.
User experience is improved considerably because switching between different content headings is easier as compared to pressing forward and backward buttons continuously to reroute to already visited pages. This may not make a great difference, but a user-friendly interface will always be favored by Google.
A person who performs a Google search decides the compliance of the website’s offering to his search term just by looking at the breadcrumbs. If they are properly listed, connected and defined, breadcrumbs alone can act as user’s entry point to the website which helps in gaining more users due to increased relevancy and lowering the bounce rate of the website.
Google Search recognizes three specific properties of a Breadcrumb List, which must be included to make the content eligible for display as a rich result.
The properties are The webpage URL, the title of the breadcrumb and its position in the trail.
As per Google’s announcement, it is transitioning to a mobile-first index and breadcrumbs in SERPs are vital for a site’s mobile version as they are horizontally oriented, short, and have a plain font.
Breadcrumbs can reap great benefits from an SEO perspective too if handled correctly, still using them isn’t really necessary. A breadcrumb trail can go about as an additional element, which can enhance the user experience, however, it can’t replace an ordinary navigation menu. Using breadcrumbs for websites that have a hierarchy of three or more levels, will provide positive user experience, reduce bounce rates and increase time on site stats. Despite the fact that this does not ensure any critical lifts to SERPs, breadcrumbs are useful to your clients and will enable you to become a favorite of both clients and Google.