Breadcrumbs 101 : Understanding Basics of Breadcrumbs
I am enjoying my holidays over at my hometown. Meanwhile, what do you think about Breadcrumbs ? … No, I am not talking about your bread-loaf leftovers. Breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail is a navigation aid that is used in a website to improve user interface.
Apart from websites and blogs, these trails are also used in some software such as ~ Windows explorer (windows vista onwards). To provide a better picture for you to imagine, below is a picture of breadcrumbs being used (on website as well as in windows explorer navigation).
Breadcrumbs help the users know where they are in your website. Take it as your house address. It goes in a standard format like ~ your house name / street name / city/ town/ country. This way anyone reading your address would be able to know where you exactly are.
Additionally breadcrumbs are also used in several websites, software for marking progress. You might have seen breadcrumb trails in several websites or software. These trails are often referred as “progress bar”.
In general Breadcrumbs are hierarchical trails placed on websites or software which helps readers know where they are in the website or what progress they’ve made.
How important are Breadcrumbs?
Breadcrumbs are both human and bot friendly. This means you have two-folded advantage. For humans breadcrumbs it makes your website more friendly and easy to navigate. They have the option to navigate easily within the website. Like between categories, taxonomies etc.
On one hand these breadcrumbs are human friendly, and on other they’ve got amazing seo benefits too. In my last article “introduction to on-page SEO” , I mentioned that having breadcrumbs on your page will decorate your URL beautifully in search results.
- Breadcrumbs works as yet another trick to highlight keywords in the search results.
- In my previous article I mentioned that they provide on-page SEO emphasis that highlights specific anchor text linking to internal pages.
- They encourage higher CTR from searchers when seen within search results
Breadcrumbs let google dive in through your complete website. If breadcrumbs are showing properly in google searches, it is a positive sign that google has indexed your website a bit deeper.
These organized sections displayed in search results makes your website stand alone from the list of websites being displayed in SERPS.
Google officially announced that they are now including breadcrumbs as a part of tools to decorate URL in search results. Other search engines such as yahoo, bing etc, don’t have any problems with breadcrumbs.
You might have noticed breadcrumbs on my blog as well. They look like “ You are here – Home ( Homepage link ) – Category name ( Link to category ) – post name. They tell you where you are in my blog, additionally you can easily navigate through other articles within the same category through the trails. The crumbs have helped me decrease bounce rate somewhat.
When you owe you a thing, you want to work it according to you , or your needs to be specific. You can customize breadcrumbs in the way you want. Different websites use different layouts and colors for breadcrumbs.
The looks can be customized as per your website’s color scheme with .css (cascading style sheets).
Their functionality and trails can be customized too.
A large number of blogs (including mine too) use simple category based trails. But e-commerce websites use breadcrumbs in a slightly different manner. Their trails make it easy for users to select products within category, its sub-category or further more. Products are classified as per breadcrumb navigation.
Breadcrumbs, based on their functionality are divided into these three categories ~ 1. Location based 2. Path-based and 3. Attribute based.
Breadcrumbs and Google
Google is no doubt the most used search engine. Majority of the web-masters prefer optimizing the website according to google. Google allows you to decorate your URL and provide more value to your readers with couple of tools like schema markup, authorship, and breadcrumbs.
If your breadcrumbs are placed ideally in your website’s <head> section, google might pick it up and reflect them in search results as well. This makes your website stand out in the crowd and look well organized too.
From the statements above it can be concluded that overall adding breadcrumbs in your website is beneficial. Breadcrumbs have to be added with care. Below are some suggestions to get the most out of these trails ~
- Make them visible – This is not something serious, breadcrumbs should be clearly visible to your readers. They are meant for making navigation easier for your user. Don’t make it too much complicated by placing it somewhere that it looks awkward, or isn’t visible at all. Take special care that your breadcrumbs don’t mix with your website’s color scheme.
- Don’t link the current page to itself – It can be pretty confusing if the link last step of breadcrumb ( current page ) to itself. Doing so can let your readers feel confused. Instead of linking you can style it with <italics> tag or <bold> tag to make it stand out from the rest of the trail.
- Add breadcrumbs to all posts/pages – Don’t add these trails to specific pages. Add them to all posts/pages so that readers get a better idea about how your website is structured.
- Don’t use it increase anchor text – These crumbs are meant to benefit user first. Yes, It has some good SEO benefits too. But don’t add it just for sake of increasing anchor test percentage.
Breadcrumbs and WordPress
If you are a blogger and need an introduction about wordpress, then you are wasting time on the internet.
Plugins are truly helpful in wordpress and make the life a lot easier. If you are using wordpress , breadcrumbs can be integrated in your blog easily. There can be quite a lot of plugins in the wp plugin directory, but I’ve sorted out the two best plugins which can be used to integrate breadcrumbs.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – This plugin is in the recommended list of plugins by me. It comes bundled with quite a lot of features. Adding breadcrumbs is one of the exciting feature this plugin offers. Breadcrumbs can be configured in the internal tools from plugin dashboard. However it won’t add trails on its own. You’ll be provided a php code which needs to be placed directly in theme template. The yoast team also published a plugin called yoast breadcrumbs which comes with amazing feature to automatically add breadcrumbs in some selected theme templates.
- Breadcrumb NavXT – This is yet another plugin which can be used for adding breadcrumbs. Because this plugin was primarily aimed for breadcrumbs, it provides far more options than wp seo by yoast.
Extra words ~ If you are using genesis theme framework, you can add breadcrumbs without adding any code or messing up with theme files. In Genesis, there is a default option in the theme customization menu in every theme for adding breadcrumbs. You can select where breadcrumbs will appear ( home, posts, pages etc. )
I am used the same method for integrating breadcrumbs on my blog.
Final words – In my opinion, breadcrumbs are beneficial. They provide you two fold advantage. On one hand it will ease navigation for your readers and secondly it has added SEO benefits too.
This article was written on request of Joy healey, one of my most valued readers.
If you have any suggestions, questions, let me know in the comments below.