Utilizing Breadcrumbs for eCommerce SEO

When it comes to SEO for eCommerce, most people probably think first about writing great content and getting amazing backlinks. While these are two extremely important aspects of SEO, there are a lot of technical components that are vital to boosting your SEO and enhancing your website. One such technical component that can be a hard hitting, quick hit SEO win is making sure you have breadcrumbs on your site.

Want to learn even more about breadcrumb navigation for SEO? Watch my video and make sure to subscribe to The Media Captain on YouTube!

What Are Breadcrumbs?

Let’s consider the story of Hansel and Gretel. In the story, the kids leave a trail using pieces of bread to make their way through the forest and get back home. Breadcrumbs on your website essentially function the same way. They leave a trail for customers shopping on your site to know exactly what path they came from and guide them through navigating your website. 

As you can see in the example below from our in-house eCommerce site, DermWarehouse, the breadcrumbs on our site show the customer a very nice path through our main navigation. We have a lot of pages on our site and the navigation is very robust, so the breadcrumbs help show customers where they are and also allows them to follow their path and take steps back if they want to. In this example, you can see I’m looking at the skin care category and then more specifically cleansers and exfoliators. When I’m on this page, if I want to easily get back to the general skin care category, I can just click on the link within my breadcrumb.

Benefits of Breadcrumbs

Enhance User Experience

Utilizing breadcrumbs on your website will enhance the user experience, as it will help customers easily navigate throughout your site. It lets your customers know where they’re at, gives them an easy way to move around on your site to different pages, and overall makes shopping easier for them. If they want to navigate to another page that’s related to the page that they’re currently on, breadcrumbs make it easy to do so. 

Learn More: What Is Internal Linking and How Can It Help My SEO?

Google Likes Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are extremely beneficial for SEO on your site. The same way that they help customers easily navigate throughout your site, they also give Google extra information about how your pages relate to each other and what type of content to expect, which greatly helps on the SEO front. Breadcrumbs give search engines another way to understand how your site is structured and how it works. Not only that, Google also greatly favors sites that offer a good user experience, so making your website more user friendly with breadcrumbs will only look good in Google’s eyes.

Learn More: Is Thin Content Hurting My SEO?

Breadcrumbs Show Up in Google Search

Breadcrumbs will appear in Google search, above the main title of the page. When these are formatted properly, they look really nice in Google search and show users exactly where they’ll land once they click on your listing. 

Breadcrumbs Encourage Customers to Browse

Since breadcrumbs provide links to each step within the navigation path, they actually encourage your customers to browse through different areas on your site. If they don’t find what they’re looking for on the current page, they can easily get back to another page within the same path to potentially find a product that’s a better fit.

Learn More: Strategy for Homepage SEO Optimization

How to Format Your Breadcrumbs

User Experience Matters

I’ll say it over and over again, user experience is extremely important, both for your customers and for Google. When it comes to formatting your breadcrumbs, they should be intuitive and follow a natural path. If following the breadcrumbs makes sense while you’re navigating your site, then you’re on the right track. 

Keep Them Simple

When it comes to showcasing breadcrumbs on your site, keep it simple. You don’t want these to overtake the page or get in the way of your customers’ shopping experience. Breadcrumbs can be small and unobtrusive so they don’t get in the way. You’ll see in the example below for Homage, their breadcrumb is clearly visible at the top but does not distract customers from the rest of the page. They do a great job of displaying this!

An Example of What Not to Do

In the example below, you can see one of the DermWarehouse product pages. At first glance, the breadcrumb that we use on this page looks great, however, we’re missing one key element: the product name. This was initially removed because many of our product names are very long and this didn’t look visually appealing. Instead of removing this, we need to work on the formatting on our site, as it’s important to show the entire path and the whole story to users on your site.

Breadcrumb Best Practices

Don’t Link the Last Part of the Path

As we discussed, each part of the breadcrumb contains a link to that page within the path. You want to make sure, however, that the page you’re currently on does not contain a link. The reason for this is that it doesn’t make sense to link to a page you’re already on. For example, you’ll see in the image below that I’m on the product page for the Elta MD Foaming Facial Cleanser. This part of the breadcrumb would not contain a link.

Support Your Main Navigation

Make sure that your breadcrumbs support your main navigation on your site. You don’t want to replace your main navigation with breadcrumbs, they are there to supplement it. 

You’ll see on the DermWarehouse site that we have a very robust main navigation. It’s easy for customers to get to where they want to go utilizing our navigation. Once they’ve reached the page they want, they can see exactly the path that they took by looking at our breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs are Not for Everyone

If you have a very robust site with a lot of pages, categories and products, then it makes sense to utilize breadcrumbs on your site. If you have a very simple site with five or ten pages that customers can easily get around to within a click or two, then breadcrumbs likely don’t make sense for you. They won’t add any value for the user, so they should not be implemented.

You can see based on the filters on the Anthropologie site below, they have a lot of pages and different paths customers can take to shop on our site. Breadcrumbs make sense for this site.

On the other hand, you’ll see that the site below from a local Columbus restaurant is very simple with only a few pages. In this example, breadcrumbs wouldn’t make sense or add any value since you can get to every page on the site with just one click.

How to Implement Breadcrumbs

We specialize in WordPress sites. Some of these have the ability to add breadcrumbs right from the theme settings. If not, you can add breadcrumbs to your website using a plugin, like the Yoast SEO plugin. If you need help getting breadcrumbs set up on your site, contact The Media Captain!

In Closing

While breadcrumbs are not for everyone, if they make sense on your site, implementing these could garner a huge SEO win for your company. Not only will adding breadcrumbs to your site enhance the user experience, they will also make it easier for Google to crawl your site and understand your site structure. 

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