Navigation – Creating an Effective Site Navigation

Your site’s navigation is an important part of providing a pleasant user experience and can aid your SEO efforts. Navigation refers to the way in which a user moves through the content of a website. It is vital that a clear and simple navigation system is used. It should answer these three questions for the visitor:

  • Where am I?
  • Where have I been?
  • Where can I go?

You need to make it as simple as possible for visitors to navigate your site, and access your content and products. Preferably, visitors should be able to find any page within 2 to 3 clicks of any other page. To achieve this, providing them with multiple ways of navigating the site is important.

Just like external links, the site’s internal linking structure is a major ranking factor – a factor that is under your complete control. Search engines view pages that require fewer clicks from the front page as having higher importance than pages that require more clicks. They also take into account the anchor text used in the links and how well your pages are interlinked.

The main navigation system usually takes the form of a menu containing links. This menu should be clearly visible above the fold and remain consistent with the same format in the same place on every page – either to the top left, top center or top right.

Your main menu should contain a link to your front page as well as any main categories. Each link within your navigational structure needs a descriptive anchor text indicating where it will take the user. The anchor text should also correlate with a keyword that you are trying to rank the page for. Use short, preferably one-word links in the menu. Avoid Flash, JavaScript or other crawler hostile links. Instead, use CSS to style the menu.

Links to general pages of minor importance can be placed at the bottom of the page – your privacy policy and sitemap pages, for example.

Search Navigation

If your site is large you should include a search mechanism to help visitors find what they are looking for faster. Place the search box in a prominent place so that it is easy to find from any page.

Google Custom Search – This WP plug-in allows you to easily integrate a Google Custom Search on your website.

Sequential Navigation

If you have a group of pages that can be sequenced you should provide links from one page to the next/previous ones, so that the visitor can navigate through them more easily.

Sequential pages may also benefit from keyboard navigation. The left and right arrow keys, for example, can be used to navigate back and forth within the sequence. This can be achieved using JavaScript.

Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumbs – such as Home > Products > Books – allow visitors to see their location relative to the front page. They also provide links back to each parent page in the site hierarchy. This gives you an additional place to include keyword rich links pointing to each page of your site. Breadcrumbs typically appear horizontally across the top of the web page.

Contextual Navigation

Be sure to include internal links from within your content to other related content or reference content on your site. This is a simple and clever way to increase the reputation of other pages within your site with targeted keyword phrases.

SEO Smart Links – This WP plug-in automatically links keywords to any relevant pages on your site.
Recommended additional reading:
Steve Krug - Don't Make Me Think