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Website Navigation

Website Navigation

Contents

Website Navigation

Website navigation is the gateway to your website’s content and as such is a critical component to the success of any website. Poor website navigation can impact the user experience significantly and in some instances can prevent robots from effectively crawling the site. Hence, proper and effective navigation can impact rankings and website performance on almost all levels.

Website navigation should reflect the site’s structure and hierarchy promoting the most important pages and providing a great user experience to site visitors.

This article looks at best practices and optimisation recommendations that apply to all website navigation. This article is a part of a wider range of guides on website navigation which we have linked below:

Breadcrumb Navigation

A breadcrumb trail is a set of links that can help a user understand and navigate a websites hierarchy. Breadcrumbs provide a great opportunity to provide additional structure and hierarchy to a website, even if the URL structure is flat breadcrumbs can be used to provide the structure missing in URL’s.

This has a significant impact on user experience and when implemented with mark-up data this can also have an impact on how a site appears within the SERPs.

This is discussed in more detail in another article in our Knowledge Base specifically about breadcrumb navigation.

    • Ensure that breadcrumb navigation is implemented for all pages on the site (except the homepage). Breadcrumbs should follow the folder hierarchy of the site and include the page name / menu link.

Navigation Accessibility

Arguably the most important component of navigation (certainly from an SEO perspective) is accessibility. Using JavaScript or Flash menus could make the site inaccessible by robots through the menu. Google cannot read JavaScript or Flash, so if a menu is entirely composed on JS of Flash, Google will not be able to follow or identify the links. Using JavaScript to control a menu will be ok given that the links are HTML.

Google cannot determine what Images are either, so using images instead of text as links can lose some of the benefit of using HTML text links. If images are used, ensure that they have Alt attributes that reflect the pages that they are linking to.

Images may not display properly, Flash and JavaScript may not load on some devices hence it is important to test whether a site’s navigation works properly with these components disabled.

  • Ensure site navigation and access to all critical content is possible with JavaScript, Images and Cookies disabled. To check this, click on the settings icon, select "Set User Agent" and choose "Googlebot". Reload the page and analyse the results.

This is one of the most common of the issues that can cripple a website and is something we have seen on many times. Typically the impact of this has been that website accessibility has been crippled and consequently all pages have been removed from the index.

This may not be immediately obvious as from a user perspective links work and the site functions. It is only when traffic nose dives that the problem can come to light.

Navigation Link / URL Consistency

When linking to internal pages from the main navigation, ensure that the links are all working and that they are not linking to pages that are being redirected to another page.

Ensure that the navigational links match the actual page URL, as to ensure that there no unnecessary redirections taking place.

Ensure that URLs are constant with the canonical versions that are being forced by redirections or used on the target page’s canonical tags.

Navigation Consistency

Ensure site navigation is consistent throughout the site to maintain a consistent core linking structure. This is to limit the potential for ‘section orphaning’ whereby a section of a website becomes isolated and inaccessible from most of the site.

Consistency also impacts upon the user experience, when a user clicks through to a page and menu changes or is removed they may leave the site or be unable to navigate to where they are trying to go.

Footer Links

These are discussed in more detail in the Footer Links article on the Knowledge Base.

Number of Links

Best practices for any given webpage used to be that a page should have no more than around 100 links (as the total number of internal and external links). This is no longer a recommendation by Google and hasn’t been since around 2008, however there are some other factors to consider.

For example a page divides the link authority it passes on by the number of links it has on the page, so having 50 links rather than 100 would mean that twice the amount of authority is passed on to those 50 pages. Linking out to a lot of pages (especially high up on a page) will leak a larger percentage of that authority to other websites.

Another consideration is the user experience; if there are 500 links on a page, it may be hard, without great navigation, for them to find what they want but also for the site to funnel them to where you want.

If a site is particularly spammy and has thousands of links on hundreds of pages, it may be another indicator to Google that the site is in need of a penalty. This is very unlikely and requires some work to achieve!

Optimised Anchor text

Try to use the target keyword of the destination page as the anchor text in a text link. Avoid the use of “Read More” or “Click Here”. Using “Read More” or “Click Here” is not preferable to keyword rich anchor text most of the time. However some website use these anchor texts to avoid unnatural anchor text ratios.

Varying anchor text throughout the site is now a very important component to your internal linking strategy. Read more about internal linking by clicking the link.

Multiple links to the same page

Check for instances of multiple links on one page pointing to the same page, as only the first link (and its anchor text) are counted. The only exception to this is where a link that exists in the main navigation is also present in the main body of content.

More is covered on this topic in the previously mentioned, internal linking guide.

Absolute URLs

It is best practice to use ‘absolute’ rather than ‘relative’ links, meaning that the complete URL should be used when linking to a page, for example:

http://www.example.com.au/page.html - Absolute link

example.com.au/page.html – Relative link

Whether a link is absolute or relative is not a direct ranking factor, the primary reason for using absolute links is that relative links can cause certain problems for the SEO of your site, also discussed in the internal linking guide.

Homepage Authority

To ensure that the homepage is viewed as the most authoritative page of the website according to Google, undertake a site:

Search "site:example.com.au" in Google (using your domain name) and ensure that the homepage is ranked in the #1 position. If it is not this may indicate a major problem with the website’s structure and hierarchy as seen by Google.

Product Page Authority & Relevancy

Similar to the above, to ensure that a specific page is viewed as the most authoritative & relevant for a particular keyword, undertake a site: search and include a keyword (e.g. "site:example.com.au keyword1") and ensure that intended page is ranked in the #1 position.

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