Don’t Let Crawlers Get Lost on Your Website

29 Jun 2016

Designing navigation, menus and filters are the points where the paths of web design, UX and SEO intersect. Navigation must be designed for users. The goal is to make searching for services and products comfortable. It also must be SEO friendly to enable Search Engine robots to efficiently crawl your website.

Different types of navigation are designed to make moving through the website easy for users. At the same time, SEO professionals use navigation and internal linking to control a robot’s journey across your website.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of navigation and things that you have to consider in the optimization process.

Global Navigation

The main purpose of global navigation is to make the most important subpages available from every part of your website. It is also a key attribute of the global navigation – it generates site-wide links. It means that they are repeated on each page because the header and footer menus are displayed on every page.

Remember, every link to a subpage disperses the Page Rank within your website. Think twice before adding any links to your navigation. It’s natural that smaller websites should have simpler navigation. It’s much more complicated in larger e-commerce or news websites. The best choice for large websites is to indicate the most valuable categories to link from global navigation.

I know that it’s not easy to indicate pages with the biggest value. Here are things that you should take into consideration:

6 steps to plan your global navigation

  1. Make a segmentation of your customers – specify who buys what.
  2. Create logical groups of the products.
  3. Try to divide them into subcategories.
  4. Check your competitors and make note of what seems to be a good and bad solution. You can use those ideas in your website.
  5. Undertake keyword research and find the best keywords for each landing page. If some category has a small volume of searches, consider if it is a valuable category. On the other hand, check if any of the subcategories have a significant volume of searches – maybe it deserves to be an independent category?
  6. Prepare labels for your categories. On the one hand, they should be based on your keyword research, and on the other hand, they must be intuitive for users.

Here are examples of how big brands have dealt with categories in their navigation.

Nike decided to use an extremely powerful mega menu.

In the main navigation, you will find categories: Men, Women, Boys, Girls and Customize – very intuitive. Subcategories divide products into types, activities and brands. Users and robots gain direct access to the most important sections within the website.

But it’s not difficult to find a messy navigation. Here is an example:

This is neither user-friendly nor for robots – too many links and many of them should be moved to local or subsidiary navigation.

Menu implementation

While planning your main navigation you have to consider the technology that should be used. Google still prefers HTML links rather than fancy AJAX or JavaScript in the navigation. HTML is easy to crawl and, let’s say, natural to robots. Google does its best to crawl and understand AJAX but we can’t be sure that it will be properly crawled and if the link juice will be passed correctly.

AJAX and JavaScript are not the only bad ideas. Buttons or images in the navigation should also be changed to HTML. Moreover, HTML5 allows you to semantically markup the navigation with element.

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