Back in the dark days of the web, not much thought was given to user experience. Web sites were conceived of as traditional pages with links between them and navigation was often obscure and confused. Times have changed: a great deal of thought goes into information architecture and user experience. That effort is driven primarily by financial motivations. Time and again studies have shown that improved user experiences lead to improved conversions and hence improved revenues.
But one of the simplest and easiest ways to improve user experience and navigation (with a side benefit of being good for SEO) is one that’s been in use for a long time: the breadcrumb. On a site of any complexity, it’s all too easy for the user to lose track of where they are and how the page they are on relates to other pages. They have the browser’s back button, so they can retrace their steps, but it doesn’t offer any obvious indication of their path.
For example, a typical eCommerce site journey might start at the homepage, then move to a product category page, then to another product page via a related product suggestion, and so on. Logically, after perusing the details of a product, the user will want to return to the category page, but doing that with browser buttons requires reversing the journey through a number of other products. The back button contains a history of the user’s journey, but it doesn’t have a hierarchical or contextual relationship to the site.
Breadcrumbs, on the other hand, are logically related to the site’s architecture so that, as per our example, every product page includes a link back to its category page or the search page.
Breadcrumbs work just as well for business sites, portfolio sites, blogs, and other sites where back and forth navigation with contextual awareness is useful.
Breadcrumbs are also great for SEO. Each breadcrumb link usually includes a relevant keyword to the page, which many pages would lack without breadcrumbs. Providing breadcrumb links allows Google to more efficiently crawl a site and understand the relationship of pages to each other.
Breadcrumbs on WordPress
Implementing breadcrumbs on a WordPress site is as easy as pie.
I usually choose to use the Yoast SEO plugin’s breadcrumb implementation, because I use a number of other features provided by that plugin. If you use a different SEO plugin or none at all, Breadcrumb NavXT is easy to use and highly customizable.
Breadcrumbs aren’t suitable for all sites: obviously, you aren’t going to need them on a one-page scrolling site, but for any site with a user journey more than a couple of links deep, breadcrumbs are helpful for both users and search engines.