Breadcrumbs, inspired from the crumbs that the characters Hansel and Grethel left for themselves in the forest in the classic Grimm fairy tale, have evolved into a very effective tool for search engine optimization. Just as the crumbs in the story attempted to lead Hansel and Grethel through the forest back to their destination, the breadcrumbs that you leave in conjunction with your SEO will attract the visitors that you are looking for online.

What exactly are breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are the pieces of information that you will leave behind in order to create a clear path through your website. These crumbs will help human visitors as well as search engine bots. Breadcrumbs give your site a sense of logic and structure, adding context to your deep pages and reducing negative factors against your search engine optimization.

Are there different types of breadcrumbs that I can utilize?

There are many different kinds of breadcrumbs that are meant for different situations. The main three types will be listed below.

  • Location breadcrumbs are breadcrumbs that provide visitors with a trace through the various layers of your site. If your users follow these breadcrumbs, then they will be able to visit a webpage that serves as a host to some similar pages that are in the same category.
  • Path breadcrumbs are representatives of the logical paths that a user can use in order to reach a certain page on your site. You can have many different paths of breadcrumbs that actually lead to the same place on your site.
  • Keyword breadcrumbs, also known as attribute breadcrumbs, are very similar to location breadcrumbs. However, they are different from location crumbs because their identifier refers to a keyword or an attribute. E-commerce sites or technical support pages are two ways in which this particular breadcrumb may be used to the benefit of your search engine optimization.

Most SEO professionals will tell you to choose the location breadcrumb if you have a choice to make between attribute crumbs and location crumbs. Duplicate breadcrumbs may actually have a negative effect, so do not have a single crumb that is identified by both attribute as well as location.

How do breadcrumbs help your users?

Breadcrumbs encourage your users to understand exactly how your site works. Users will want to look more deeply into your website if they see a crumb that points to an interesting topic. As your users find more of what they are looking for, your negative SEO factors will go down. For instance, your bounce rate will go down as your users flow between your pages.

Users will understand the ebb and flow of your website through your breadcrumbs. They will be able to navigate through higher and lower levels on your site while not losing their place. Crumbs are also completely optional for your user. They will never seem like an annoyance, so whenever they show up, they will be a welcome addition to the navigation of your site. They will never detract from your web page, as they are incredibly compact.

Crumbs are one of the only ways that will encourage your users to move more deeply into your website without getting lost. Crumbs are not hard to understand no matter what kind of education or technical knowledge that you have.

What are the advantages of using breadcrumbs for your search engine optimization campaign?

The search engines love the way that crumbs pass through information. Creating context with every step between pages, they help to index the entire site for the user as well as for the search engine.

Keywords from your crumbs can point to certain pages specifically rather than the site as a whole. When the crumbs are used in a hierarchy, the search engine optimization is improved on the deep pages as well as on the category pages.

The linking structure that is so important to your indexing is reinforced by breadcrumbs. Off site search engine optimization is improved when crumbs are paired with contextual linking to similarly related web pages.

Perhaps most importantly, schemas are often used to describe breadcrumbs. Google and other search engines now have the ability to understand exactly what a breadcrumb is from a machine level. This allows for an increased amount of functionality to become available, creating more flow into the deeper pages of your site.

How do you optimize your breadcrumbs for search engine optimization?

There is a delicate art form to balancing your breadcrumbs. Your site may incur penalties if you optimize them too much; however, there is really no penalty if you take your time with the optimization. As long as you keep the structure of your breadcrumbs intelligent, then you will have the ability to improve your listings and interaction with your audience.