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What does Breadcrumbs mean in SEO?

Breadcrumbs. What are they? Why should you have them? How do you make sure search engines understand them and what effect can they have on your SEO? A whole lot more than you think!

Breadcrumbs are a section of a webpage which helps users understand their location within the whole website. It is coded by the webmaster although platforms like Wordpress have plugins available. Breadcrumbs usually appears close to the top of the page.

An example could be:
Home > SEO Resources > SEO Glossary > What do breadcrumbs mean in SEO?

This states that the page 'What do breadcrumbs mean in SEO' is part of the 'SEO Glossary' on this website and 'SEO Glossary' is in the section 'SEO Resources'.

In other words they demonstrate the route from where you are now on a website back to the home page. The usage of the word Breadcrumbs comes from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale where the two children enter a forest but drop breadcrumbs as they walk assuming they will be able to follow these later in order to find their way home.

So - breadcrumbs - what is the route to the home page?

Breadcrumbs for your visitors


Breadcrumbs are extremely helpful to Internet users in very large websites and especially in shopping sites where they can confirm they are browsing in the right area. For example:

Home > Electronic Goods > Televisions > LCD > LG Model 655

By showing this on the product page of the LG Model 655 visitors get a sign that you have a wider range of LCD models available and they'll probably go deeper to look at what else you offer. This reduces your bounce rate and improves the changes of a visitor purchasing.

Breadcrumbs are just as powerful on blogs and content sites. The visitor is there to consume information, show them what they are reading is part of something even bigger and you stand a better chance of keeping them for longer.

Breadcrumbs and search engines


Breadcrumbs are a very powerful part of SEO but just because you can see them on your website doesn't mean search engines can. To a search engine crawler they are just a list of links unless you mark them up correctly using Structured Data Markup.

You can check if you are by plugging the url of one of your pages with breadcrumbs into Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.

If it finds no breadcrumbs then yours are not marked up. Some platforms like WordPress have plugins to resolve this issue. If you are coding your breadcrumbs should look something like this:


<span itemscope itemtype="https://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb"><a itemprop="url" href="https://howtoseo.link2light.com"><span itemprop="title">Home</span></a></span>

» <span itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb"><a itemprop="url" href="https://howtoseo.link2light.com/seo-resources.php"><span itemprop="title">SEO Resources</span></a></span>

» <span itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb"><a itemprop="url" href="https://howtoseo.link2light.com/seo-glossary.php"><span itemprop="title">SEO Glossary</span></a></span>

» <span itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb"><a itemprop="url" href="https://howtoseo.link2light.com/what-does-breadcrumbs-mean.php"><span itemprop="title">What does Breadcrumbs mean in SEO?</span></a></span>



Why breadcrumbs help your rankings


Once a search engine understands your breadcrumbs as being breadcrumbs they instantly get a better understanding of your website. Remember they crawl pages one by one, not in 'sections'.

Giving search engines this information is known as Silo Structuring. They can now see which areas of your website, in other words which silos, have the most content. A page about 'subject A' that is on a website with a section that has a lot of information about 'theme A' is a strong signal to search engines that you will give users a positive experience and that's what they are interested in.

So I've got a page about Breadcrumbs in SEO and its within a glossary dedicated to SEO. Someone who wants to know more about breadcrumbs in SEO is also likely to find other useful SEO related information here. A good reason for a search engine to rank the page higher than someone who just wrote a random blog post on the subject when they normally talk about coffee!

Breadcrumbs for a better click through rate


If that all isn't enough for you to start implementing breadcrumbs yesterday there is one more asset. When search engines understand them they also show them in the search results. Someone who sees my SEO Breadcrumbs page in Google will also instantly see that I have a SEO Glossary Page and a SEO Resources page because they both make up my breadcrumb trail.

That's two extra reasons for someone to click through, get me more visitors and improve my Click Through Rate (CTR) in the eyes of search engines.

Summing up breadcrumbs


So what can breadcrumbs do:
  • Keep visitors on your site for longer by promoting other parts of your site - that'll improve your bounce rate and dwell time while reducing any pogo sticking.
  • Help search engines understand the structure of your site so they know in which areas you have really comprehensive content that will give their users a better experience if they rank you higher.
  • Improve the way your pages look in the Search Engine Results Pages which will help you improve your click through rate.

See what I mean? Breadcrumbs are critical. If you don't have them on your site with structured data markup get them added asap.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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