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Breadcrumbs-Not Just for Meatloaf Anymore

Sounds like a good fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel) … but isn’t that what Google is all about, helping the searcher tell a story?

As many of these posts speak about, what is good for the visitor in making a better experience to your site,  is often good for the Google Spider – that robot computer that wanders the web and looks at websites to determine how to return results for our searches.

So part of making a better visitor experience is to have breadcrumbs as part of your website’s pages to make it easier for a visitor to know ‘where they are’ relatively speaking on your website.  This also will improve your search engine ranking.

A Breadcrumb definition from Wikipedia-Breadcrumb (navigation):

Breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail is a navigation aid used in user interfaces. It gives users a way to keep track of their location within programs or documents. The term comes from the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel in the popular fairytale.

These navigation aids are typically near the top of the page just below the ‘navigation bar’ that map out how you would ‘logically’ get from the home page to the current page in a very structured ‘top-down’ fashion.

Typical breadcrumbs look like this:

  • Home page > Section page > Subsection page

This may seem redundant since the navigation bar or the back button may also let you follow that same path if you came in from the home page and followed the top-down structure.  But more and more, traffic analysis (using Google Analytics, WebTrends or others) show that visitors do not prefer to walk through your site in the same fashion as you design it.  This lets them wander around and still facilitates them not getting ‘lost’ in the site.

These breadcrumbs also let Google know how to relate your pages to each other and what makes your site have some coherence.  This helps it index well, because it can also define what the different mean by defining each link (not just ‘home’ but ‘main page for Evanston IL Handyman with 20 years experience’) by have a descriptive ‘crumb’ that has a clear ‘TITLE’ tag in the HREF line describing the links back to the ‘parent’ pages. For example:

<div id="breadcrumbTrail"><a href="/" title=”Schaumburg Books”>Home</a> &gt; <a href="index.shtml" title=”Sell Books and make money”>Sell Books</a> &gt; Inventory Solutions </div>

Use this layout ‘trick’ to take the opportunity to tell Google exactly what each page is about, and have your site rank higher for the description you want, not what the witch wants.

Unless of course you have the new AT&T iPhone with GPS, but that is another story.

A good article on implementation of breadcrumbs is at http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/17/breadcrumbs-in-web-design-examples-and-best-practices-2/

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June 29, 2009 - Posted by | How To, HTML Issue, Uncategorized | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Nice post! I’ve had the question of breadcrumbs come up in classes recently, and wasn’t exactly sure how Google interacted with them. Thanks for the info!

    Comment by Sandra Elliott | July 1, 2009 | Reply


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