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Breadcrumb Navigation: How It Benefits Design, SEO, and More

Breadcrumb Navigation_ How It Benefits Design, SEO, And More

Do you remember Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel? The little children lost in the forest, using a trail of breadcrumbs, so they can follow their trail through the dark and scary woods.

That is right, the term breadcrumb navigation comes from the fairy tale. Unfortunately, the breadcrumb trail did not help Hansel and Gretel, but it can keep visitors from getting lost when they are on your website.

Let’s take a look at how breadcrumbs work and how you can use them effectively.

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What Is Breadcrumb Navigation?

Breadcrumb navigation is a secondary navigation tool that aims to help users find their way across your website. The main purpose of breadcrumbs is for users to be able to return to where they were, in case they reach a page they do not want to be on.

Breadcrumbs are typically located in the upper part of the page. For example, here is how it looks on Amazon:

Imagine a user is browsing through the “Office Products” category, selects “Office Electronics”, then hits “Printers & Accessories”, goes to “Printers”, and decides to take a look at a particular printer.

However, a few seconds later the user decides that is not what they are looking for, and want to go back. This is where the breadcrumb navigation comes into play. The user can easily manage their way through the categories (trail of text links) by clicking on the links “Printers”, “Printers & Accessories”, and so on.

We will take a look at more examples later, but first let us answer a few other important questions.

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Do All Websites Need Breadcrumbs?

The short answer is no. Breadcrumbs are most effective when used on large websites with a deep website architecture.

In practice, this means that if your website has multiple categories, divided into subcategories, and those lead to other pages, you will most definitely benefit from breadcrumbs.

The perfect example of such websites are eCommerce sites, which by default have hundreds and thousands of pages.

However, if your website uses a flat architecture, where users can reach your home page with one click, there would not be any point to using breadcrumbs.

Benefits of Breadcrumb Navigation

Benefits of Breadcrumb Navigation

Of course, breadcrumbs are not a substitution for the main navigation of your website. Yet, the advantages of using this type of additional navigation are numerous. Here are some of the main points:

  1. Longer average session duration. A good average session duration is considered to be between 2 and 4 minutes. And the more a user stays on your website and interacts with it, the better. It is a sign that you’ve provided a good experience, and that search engines treat it the same way, which could lead to a boost in rankings.
  2. Lower bounce rate. The bounce rate, or what percentage of people decide to leave your site after visiting a single page, is another important metric to keep track of. Breadcrumb navigation can encourage users to stay on your website longer, and lower your bounce rate, respectively.
  3. Better user experience. Plenty of factors play a role, when it comes to user experience. One such factor is the usefulness of breadcrumbs. Without them, people would have to hit the back button on their browsers multiple times in order to get back to the place they were. Making life simple for everybody is always good for your website, and business.
  4. Improved crawlability and link structure. Apart from people, you can also make it easier for crawl bots to crawl your website. This is because breadcrumbs create internal links between individual pages and categories on your site. Therefore, search engines can better understand the connection between different pages on your website, discover, and index them.
  5. Visible in search results. Guess what? Breadcrumbs also appear in search engine results, which is a welcome boost for your search engine optimization. Furthermore, a case study proved that using breadcrumbs can help you rank higher on SERPs.

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Types of Breadcrumbs

Types of Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb navigation is divided into three categories.

History-Based Breadcrumbs

History (or path-based breadcrumbs) show the unique path a user went through before reaching a certain page. This is not a preferred type amongst designers, though, because, in practice, all it does is to add a “back” button, doing the same thing as the “back” button in your browser.

Here is how it looks like:

Hierarchy-Based Breadcrumbs

These types of breadcrumbs follow the website architecture. It typically starts with the home page of the site, in this example, Best Buy. After that, it continues with the more specific categories and subcategories: Appliances → Heating, Cooking & Air Quality →Air Purifiers.

Hierarchy (also known as location-based) breadcrumbs are especially useful for people that land on your page through a search engine result. It aids them to quickly find their way around your site.

Take a look at this hierarchy-based breadcrumb navigation example:

Attribute-Based Breadcrumbs

Attribute-based breadcrumbs are such that display different filters that users selected. These are almost 100% exclusive for eCommerce sites, since those types of websites typically have many filters.

For instance, you are looking to purchase black Oxford shoes for male with a size of 5.5. Below, you can see how these attribute-based breadcrumbs will appear:


Using such breadcrumbs makes it very easy for users to view all the products that share that parameter. For example, if the person wants to view more black male shoes, they can hit the “Black” text link, instead of having to go back to a previous category and apply said filter.

How to Create a Breadcrumb Navigation on WordPress?

As usual, WordPress makes our lives easier. Almost every major WordPress SEO plugin like All in One SEO, Rank Math, and Yoast will do the trick.

Let us show you how easy it is to create breadcrumbs, using Rank Math as an example.

  1. Open your WordPress Dashboard.
  2. Click on Rank Math → General Settings.
  3. Click “ON” on the Enable Breadcrumbs Function.
  4. Select your preferences.
  5. Click on Save Changes.

Of course, if you are tech-savvy, you can also create breadcrumbs by using HTML or CSS.
For HTML, you can use this template:

     <li><a href=”#URL”>Top-level page</a></li>
     <li><a href=”#URL”>Second-level page</a></li>
     <li><a href=”#URL”>Third-level page</a></li>
     <li>Current Page</li>

For CSS, you can use this template:

/* creating the breadcrumb foundation */
ul { list-style: none; } /* remove bullet points */

ul li { display: inline; } /* show list items horizontally */

/* Put an angle bracket (>) between list items */
ul li+li:before {
content: “>”;
padding: 10px;

ul li a { text-decoration: none; } /* remove underlines from links */

ul li a:hover { text-decoration: underline; } /* show underline on mouseover */

/* additional styling */
ul {
color: #425b76;
font-family: “Avenir”;
font-weight: bold;

ul li a {color: #7bbdcd;}

ul li a:visited {color: #7bbdcd;}

ul li+li:before { color: #99acc2; }

Interesting fact: Microsoft Windows, as well as other operating systems like Linux’s Ubuntu, also use breadcrumbs. Again, the goal is to make it easier for users to navigate through folders, and files.

Breadcrumb Best Practices

Breadcrumb Best Practices

  1. Breadcrumbs Should Not Replace Your Main Navigation Menu
  2. Separate Individual Items in Breadcrumbs
  3. Only Use Breadcrumbs if It Makes Sense
  4. Do Not Link to the Current Page
  5. Keep the Structure Simple

1. Breadcrumbs Should Not Replace Your Main Navigation Menu

Make no mistake: breadcrumbs are very useful, however they are not a substitute for your main navigation menu. What they excel in is supporting your main navigation, and providing users with an additional navigation route. Hence, choosing to use them as a primary way of navigation could lead to bad user experience.

2. Separate Individual Items in Breadcrumbs

Did you notice how in the examples we gave, the breadcrumb items are separated with symbols? Yes, that is the best practice for breadcrumbs, since it makes it easier to differentiate visually, and leaves no room for confusion. So, use a separator like “/”, “>”, or “→”.

3. Only Use Breadcrumbs if It Makes Sense

We mentioned this earlier, but it is worth emphasizing. Using breadcrumbs is not a must for all websites. Go for them only if your site is big, and has a deep structure. So, a website with 20 pages does not need breadcrumbs.

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4. Do Not Link to the Current Page

It does not really make much sense to include the current page a user is on in the breadcrumbs trail. It would be pointless to users, since they are already on the page in question. Instead, the last item of the breadcrumb navigation should be the page they were on, but without a link to it. Like this:

5. Keep the Structure Simple

There is no need to overly complicate the breadcrumbs by using a huge font, or other attention grabbing methods.

On the contrary, the goal of a breadcrumb path is to be simple, and effective, without distracting your visitors. In a nutshell, it should be in a small, yet readable font, easy to find and understand, yet distraction-free.

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Final Words

In conclusion, breadcrumb navigation is a secondary navigational tool that can be of great help to those that visit your website. Furthermore, it can improve your SEO results, website design, average session duration, bounce rate, and, of course, the overall user experience.

Also, keep in mind that it is not necessary to use breadcrumbs in all cases. However, if your website is among those that would benefit from them, do make sure to follow the best practices, and avoid anything unnecessary.

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