SEO

Post by Stephanie Castillo, Content Analyst

Just as search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword-based indexes, they also need to see links in order to find the content in the first place. A crawlable link structure—one that lets the crawlers navigate the pathways of a website—is vital to helping them find all the pages on a website. Hundreds of thousands of sites make the critical mistake of structuring their navigation in ways that search engines cannot access, hindering their ability to get pages listed.

Here’s an illustration of how this problem can happen:

Moz.com Crawlable Navigation chart

Image courtesy of Moz.com

In the example above, Google’s crawler has reached page A and sees links to pages B and E. However, although C and D might be important pages on the site, the crawler has no way to reach them through the site’s navigation. This is because no direct, crawlable links point to pages C and D. As far as Google can see from the navigation, they don’t exist.

THE ROLE OF TOP NAVIGATION

Top navigation is the primary location for users and search engines to navigate a website. The ease with which users can reach information shapes their entire site experience. If users cannot easily locate information, they’re likely to leave the site.

For search engines, the top navigation helps them understand a site and how all of the site’s content is related. Pages placed within the top navigation are seen as the site’s most important pages and are likely to rank higher. Search engines depend on hyperlinks and anchor text to learn about hierarchies of information and how pages are linked together.

IMPORTANCE OF OPTIMIZING CRAWLABLE NAVIGATION

When a user visits a website, it’s important for the visitor to understand its structure quickly and be able to navigate the site easily. In this case, menu navigation links are key—these links lead to the most important content on the site and appear at the top of every page. Users can easily reference these links to locate the content they’re looking for and to understand their location within the site.

Search engines also use navigation to understand a website’s content and structure, making the links at the top of your website a key element to your SEO strategy.

WHAT ARE BEST PRACTICES FOR OPTIMIZING CRAWLABLE NAVIGATION?

In order to allow both users and search engines to easily read the links in the top navigation, consider the following best practices in order of priority:

  • Link to key content and high-level pages
  • Place the destination page’s keyword in the anchor text of the link
  • All links, including those in drop-down menus, should be written and delivered in plain HTML, as this ensures that links aren’t hidden from search engines behind client-side coding, such as JavaScript

To learn more about optimizing crawlable navigation, contact Performics today.

July 13, 2016
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