Welcome to your guide on the best practices for search engine optimization (SEO). We will be covering how you can make your site easier to navigate.

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Navigation is very important for search engines

Proper website navigation ensures that visitors can easily find what they are looking for. Google looks at the totality of a website when ranking in search engines, which means that the more relevant and visible your content is, the more likely Google will be able to display it.

 

Plan out your navigation based on your homepage

Your home, or “root” page is where most visitors start out, and is likely to be the most frequently visited page on your site. No matter how many pages are currently included in your website, it is important to organize your pages into categories. For example, apart from your root page, you may have enough pages to create a secondary topic page that can list and organize pages classified into a separate category. Follow a root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic format to ensure easy navigation for all users.

 

Ensure more convenience for users by using ‘breadcrumbs’

The term ‘breadcrumb’ refers to the internal links listed along the top or bottom of the web page that lets users click back to a certain section or home page. Typically, the far-left link is will direct the user back to the home page and the additional links spread out to the right will help the user navigate to other sections of the website.

 

Allow for the possibility of a part of the URL being removed

It’s always possible that a user will use a portion of your URL rather than the whole thing. This can happen when the user chooses to delete part of the URL to help navigate rather than clicking the breadcrumb links.

 

Make sure your site is set up to provide content rather than just a 404 error (page not found).

 

Sitemaps are an essential part of proper navigation. Preparing two sitemaps: one geared toward users and the other optimized for search engines, will ensure that each finds what it needs correctly. Your site map shows visitors how to successfully navigate the multiple pages on your website. It typically displays a hierarchical listing of the pages, as well as the site structure, all intended to make the site easier for users to view. Search engines will visit this page occasionally; a site map is primarily designed for human visitors.

 

If you use Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can submit an XML Sitemap file to ensure that Google can easily find the pages on your website. A Sitemap file is also a good way to convince Google to use your preferred version of a URL as canonical rather than one of its own choosing.

Summary

Good navigation is all about usability. Make your website easy for visitors to use and understand!

Create a naturally flowing hierarchy

The simpler the navigation, the easier it is for users to get from your home page to the specific content they are looking to see. Simple navigation tools within the sight will increase the overall flow.

Avoid:

– Links that overwhelming in number and complexity. Every page does not need to be linked to every other page.
– Having too many clicks to get from point A to point B. Users don’t want to waste time getting to the desired content.

Use mostly text for navigation

Text may seem boring at times, but it is the most popular form of linking throughout the pages on your site. Users prefer the basic format, especially considering issues with Flash or JavaScript compatibility on some devices. Search engines will have an easier time crawling and understanding your site if you stick with text links.

Avoid:

– Drop-down menus, animations, and images. These may look flashier, but they can be confusing and may not always work properly. Normal text links improve site accessibility in search engines.

Put an HTML site map page on your site, and use an XML Sitemap file

Establishing an XML Sitemap file and a simple site map page will ensure that users can successfully navigate your website no matter how many pages may be included. It will also help search engines find your pages when the content is referenced in a search.

Avoid:

– Allowing broken links and out of date content stay on your HTML site map page
– Establishing an HTML site map that doesn’t properly index pages by subject and other relevant category distinctions

Have a useful 404 page

At times, users will come across a 404 page on your site. This can occur if they typed in the wrong URL or if the link is broken. Customizing your 404 page will ensure that users have a positive experience, even when they don’t see what they were expecting. Make sure your 404 page links back to your home page or to other pages that you believe would be relevant. Embed your page with Google’s 404 widget to take advantage of the automatic features available. Google Webmaster Tools are also helpful in figuring out why users are seeing “not found” errors on your site.

Avoid:

– Letting search engines index your 404 pages. When a non-existent page is requested, you want your webserver to give a 404 HTTP status code, so make sure it configured properly.
– Offering little information on your 404 page, or not providing a 404 page. Make sure users see something productive, even if it wasn’t they were expecting.
– Allowing an inconsistent design on your 404 page that doesn’t match the rest of the site.

Next, learn about creating quality content and services or click here to learn about improve the structure of your URLs or here for the introduction to SEO Best Practices.

If you need help with your SEO:

  • Determining if you need to be on search engines
  • Getting found on search engines
  • Getting phone calls and email leads from your web site
  • Where to start with you web site

Stay in touch with us

If you have questions or want to know more about the services we offer, please call us at (613)627-3926. Salient Marketing is located in Ottawa, Ontario and has a 12-year reputation for helping local businesses improve their websites with SEO-based marketing solutions. Let the experts at Salient Marketing put their experience to work for you and your company.