A breadcrumb trail is a tool that helps users navigate a website and appears in the form of a menu or single line at the top of the page. Breadcrumbs notify the user of the structure of the website, enabling them to return to the homepage after exploring the site’s pages.
Different Types of Breadcrumbs
There are three main types of breadcrumbs.
1. Location Based Breadcrumbs
Location based breadcrumbs or ‘hierarchy’ breadcrumbs inform the user of where a page lies in the hierarchy of the website. These breadcrumbs allow a user to go to another page in a similar category to the one they are visiting.
2. Attribute Based Breadcrumbs
Largely in the same vein as location based breadcrumbs, these breadcrumbs (otherwise known as ‘keyword’ or ‘dynamic’ breadcrumbs) use attributes or keywords to represent the page. These types of breadcrumbs are typically used for navigation on e-commerce pages.
3. Path-Based Breadcrumbs
The third type of breadcrumb, and most unpopular also known as the ‘history’ breadcrumb, simply shows the user the path they have taken to arrive at their current page.
These breadcrumbs are seldom used as they can become confusing to users and seem unnecessary when the 'back' button is a more efficient way to retrace steps.
When Should You Use Breadcrumbs?
Breadcrumbs are used as a helpful navigation tool on most websites; however, they are especially helpful for the following types of sites:
Sites that are complex in nature
E-Commerce sites that have a vast array of products that are organised into categories
Sites that have many internal pages
Blogs with lots of content divided into categories
Why Are They So Important?
Breadcrumbs are important because they impact UX (User Experience). They enable a user to simply, quickly and efficiently navigate a website, without bombarding them with complicated choices.
Breadcrumbs are easily understandable due to their simplistic nature, and that lends itself to more positive actions. This is where SEO comes in.
Positive actions reduce bounce rate because a user is less likely to leave the web page. This can lead to higher rankings.
Breadcrumbs also allow Google’s crawlers to gather more information about the website.
And because Google views breadcrumbs as an enhancement tool, they are now included below permalinks in SERPS.
This means that users can get an understanding of a website’s hierarchy before even clicking the link.
How Do You Optimize Breadcrumbs?
When incorporating breadcrumbs into your web page, there a few things to bear in mind.
Make sure that the breadcrumbs are located at the top of your web page.
Create breadcrumbs that don’t show the history. This is why path-based breadcrumbs are unpopular, because if users need to navigate back, they can use the back button.
As a secondary navigation aid, the breadcrumbs should not overwhelm the primary navigation aid. Be sensible with size.
Ensure that the breadcrumbs are aesthetically pleasing. They should not dominate the page, keep them simple.