In an old German fairy tale known as “Hansen and Grettel”, two kids get thrown into the forest by their parents due to the threat of starvation. The kids outwit their parents by leaving pebbles and breadcrumbs which they use to follow back home. This is exactly how breadcrumb navigation works. Breadcrumbs are secondary navigation schemes used as a tool by web designers to allow users find their way back to their point of entry or to the home page. Breadcrumbs are often used in large websites that have a wide variety of content set in pages arranged in a logical hierarchical manner or grouping.
Designers usually use glyphs such as > or » as hierarchy separators to guide users in navigation within the website or web application. An example of a simple breadcrumb navigator design may look like this:
Home Page » Sales » Electronics » Stereos
This denotes that the user entered the website through the Home Page, the navigated to a section page (sales) which is one level below the home page, and to a sub-section page (Electronics) which is two levels in the hierarchy below the home page before landing on a fourth-level page (stereos). It does not make any sense to use breadcrumb navigation in single-level websites. Breadcrumbs usually appear at the top of the webpage, just under the title bars and the address bar in your browser. They are classified into three distinct types.
These are dynamic breadcrumbs that trace the path a user has taken to arrive at a particular web page.
These are static locaters that simply indicate where a web page is located in the particular website’s hierarchy.
These breadcrumbs provide information and attributes of the current displayed web page.
Breadcrumbs and Search Engine Optimization
Are breadcrumbs important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Of course they are. They make a website easier to find and increase the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings of the page according to its content. Search engines like google use algorithms that identify breadcrumb trails, especially those closer to the top of the page source code. This in turn makes sites that integrate the use of SEO in their breadcrumbs look professional, attractive, and trustworthy. However, there are a two key points to consider when using breadcrumbs as SEO tools.
- Keywords and anchor words should not be too focused in the text of the page. It will look strange to users and may even be confusing.
- Never sacrifice site usability at the altar of SEO. This will just lead to poor reviews and potential clients moving on to other sites that may look more relevant to their needs.