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For most people, breadcrumbs are merely the remnants of a quick lunch you ate at your desk that always land in the tiniest crevices of your keyboard.
However, if you are looking for ways to take your website’s user experience and organic search performance to the next level, breadcrumbs can be a powerful tool in your tool belt with a wide range of benefits!
What Are Breadcrumbs?
Breadcrumbs are links placed at the top of a webpage to highlight how a given page fits into the site’s overall structure. Breadcrumbs provide a quick visual way for visitors to understand the immediate context of the page they are looking at and an easy way to navigate to related pages on the site that may help them understand the bigger picture.
For example, a product category page on an e-commerce website that highlights bed pillows could have a straightforward breadcrumb path, like the example below.
In this example, we can see that the “Bed Pillows” category page is a subcategory of “Bedding Essentials” which is a subcategory of “Bed & Bath”.
Bed & Bath
→ Bedding Essentials
→ Bed Pillows
This allows a visitor to the page to easily understand where they are in the overall site.
Why Are Breadcrumbs So Important For SEO?
Breadcrumbs serve two main purposes for SEO:
- They help visitors to the site more easily navigate back and forth from categories to subcategories to product pages.
- They help search engines understand the hierarchy of the site and how the different pages connect to and relate to each other.
Easier site navigation for visitors
Using the pillow example above, without breadcrumbs, if a user searches Google for a specific pillow, navigates directly to the product page for that pillow, and then determines that the pillow they were initially looking for does not match their needs, they will have to utilize the main navigation to try to find the bed pillows subcategory to look at other pillow options that might better fit their needs.
In the example screenshot below, if a visitor to the site landed on this page and decided they were interested in exploring similar products, there is no clear next step for them to take other than attempting to find the right subcategory page using the main navigation.
By adding breadcrumbs, visitors to the site are immediately able to see the other pages that are relevant to this product and can quickly jump back and forth between category pages, sub-category pages, and products while quickly and easily understanding where they are within the larger structure of the site.
Improved context for search engines
Breadcrumbs are also important for SEO because they instantly add incredibly robust internal linking to your site. For instance, after adding breadcrumbs, product pages will now include internal links to all of their associated category and subcategory pages, subcategory pages will link to their parent categories, blog posts will link to the primary blog page, etc. This makes a site much easier for a search engine to crawl because all of the pages on the site are much more closely interconnected using internal links.
Breadcrumbs also help search engines understand the relationship between different pages on a site. Without breadcrumbs, it can be difficult for search engines to understand, for example, which product category a product is included in, or for informational content hubs, which page is the primary page on a given topic.
More visually appealing search results
Breadcrumbs can also impact how a page appears in Google search results. In most cases, Google will use them to simplify the URL displayed in search results to be easier to read and understand. In the example below, the URL shown in search results directly emulates the structure laid out by the breadcrumbs on the page.
This is especially useful if a site uses a complex URL structure that is not easily to visually understand, or if the URL structure does not reflect the actual folder structure in use on the site.
How Can You Add Breadcrumbs to a Website?
Adding breadcrumbs to a site will depend mainly on the type of site and the platform it is built on.
Many popular CMS platforms, such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify, offer built-in breadcrumb functionality or the ability to quickly and easily add breadcrumbs using SEO plugins like Yoast. These platforms and tools allow you to add breadcrumbs as easily as clicking a button.
If you need to add breadcrumbs to a custom site or a larger, more complex site, it may involve manually adding breadcrumb functionality. This will depend on the complexity of the site and the scale at which breadcrumbs need to be implemented. In many cases like this, adding breadcrumbs may require an experienced developer to implement breadcrumbs at scale across a site.
For more information on correctly implementing breadcrumbs for SEO, you can also read Google’s official guidance on implementing them in a search engine-friendly way!
Take Your Breadcrumb SEO to the Next Level With Schema
One way to take your breadcrumbs to the next level is to add breadcrumb schema. Schema or structured data is a snippet of code added to a page that follows a set format supported by most search engines. This allows you to directly signal the breadcrumbs in use on a page, to a search engine crawler, in a language the search engine can read and understand.
You can create and add breadcrumb schema to a site in several ways. If you have a small site and only need to create breadcrumb schema for a few pages, using a free schema generator for individual pages and manually adding it to the site is fairly straightforward.
For complex sites that require a more scalable option, plugins like Yoast are a great way to automatically add schema to any page with breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumb SEO FAQs
Does every website need breadcrumbs?
No, breadcrumbs are not a requirement for all sites, and many sites do not use them. In general, the larger and more complex a site is, the more it can benefit from breadcrumb SEO.
For example, a large e-commerce site with hundreds of product categories and thousands of products can be very frustrating to navigate and understand without breadcrumbs.
By comparison, a simple website for a small business with only 15 pages will likely not see significant benefits from adding breadcrumbs. While breadcrumbs are a great best practice to include on your website, they are not always necessary.
Will adding breadcrumbs improve my SEO?
No, breadcrumbs will not necessarily immediately cause your site to begin ranking better. While there are mixed opinions on how important breadcrumbs are for SEO, the consensus is that they are very valuable to add, as they can provide many benefits related to SEO.
Unleash the Power of Breadcrumb SEO!
In many cases, breadcrumbs are an easy way to improve the usability of a website and better align it with SEO best practices simultaneously. If your website struggles to perform well in organic search results without breadcrumbs, implementing them is an excellent way to improve your site’s usability and help search engines better understand your content.
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