What is website navigation?
Website navigation is the system or arrangement of links and pathways that connect a website's pages. This structure enables users to easily find and access different sections of a website.
In other words, website navigation is the roadmap that guides users through the various pages and content available on a site.
In addition to helping users find their way around, website navigation also plays a crucial role in improving user experience.
A well-organized and easy-to-use navigation structure allows visitors to quickly locate the information they are seeking, which can ultimately lead to better user satisfaction and engagement.
Additionally, website navigation is also important for SEO. A well-structured internal link system helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relationships between the pages on a website, making it easier for them to index and rank the content.
What is the navigation menu?
The navigation menu is a category or item list that tells you the direction or path to reach a desired web page.
Depending on the website's design, it can appear on the page's top, bottom, or one side. Sometimes, it is hidden, and one needs to click an icon to explore other categories or items.
For instance, a drop-down menu might have “More” written on it that you click on to open another list of items.
Why is website navigation important to SEO?
Website navigation is important to SEO for the following reasons.
User experience is the first thing to consider while designing a website’s navigation structure.
A website typically consists of numerous pages that address various inquiries or offer products for sale.
The navigation menu, along with its structure, guides users to the appropriate pages. An optimal user experience is achieved when users can quickly and easily navigate to their desired pages with just a few clicks.
Conversely, if the navigation structure is overly complex and users struggle to find the information they seek, it not only results in a poor user experience but can also negatively impact the website's SEO.
The crawling process relies heavily on the interconnectivity of links, and with a well-linked structure, crawlers can locate and index pages more rapidly.
Google recommends connecting main categories to subcategories and subcategories to product pages to enhance the crawler's efficiency.
Additionally, having numerous links pointing to a specific page signals its importance to the crawler, which in turn can positively impact your website's optimization.
Link equity, also known as link juice, refers to the value that one web page passes to another through an internal link. It can be seen as a vote of confidence in the quality of the linked page's content.
When a web page receives multiple internal links, it is an indication that other pages within the website consider it valuable and high-quality.
By ensuring that your most important and high-quality pages receive a greater number of internal links, you can effectively boost their link equity.
A user-friendly navigation structure is crucial for increasing conversions on a website. When users can easily navigate and find what they are looking for, they are more likely to respond to calls to action and complete desired actions.
In the case of an e-commerce website with numerous products, a well-designed navigation system can lead to higher conversion rates.
In essence, a conversion occurs when a visitor takes a specific action on your website, such as clicking the "buy now" button, which indicates their decision to make a purchase.
By providing an effortless navigation experience for your users, you increase the likelihood of them completing such actions and ultimately boost the overall success of your website.
Types of website navigation
In terms of how and where the navigation menu appears on the website - there are the following main types of website navigation
Header navigation bar
It is the topmost horizontally listed menu. It usually, but not always contains the options like “About”, “Pricing”, or “Log In”. In addition to these options, it usually consists of the most important pages of the website.
It is located at the bottom of the page, which you can reach upon scrolling down. Footer menus are mostly detailed ones as they contain more options than the head bar does.
The sidebar menu is the vertical menu you can see on many websites. It can either appear on the left or right side of the page.
Wikipedia has it on the left side:
A drop-down menu may contain another list of web pages. An example of it can be a “More” option with a small arrow pointing down. Upon clicking on “More” or the arrow, you will see another list.
The hamburger menu is mostly designed for mobile navigation. It is a hidden and expandable menu which is represented by three stacked horizontal lines.
In terms of functionality - website navigation can be divided into the following categories:
The global or main menu is the nowadays widely used menu on large websites. Usually, it appears as the horizontal bar menu, and it will remain the same as a horizontal bar menu on every page.
For instance, Dawn newspaper’s website has a main menu that remains identical on every page you go on.
This type of navigation goes from general to specific. It will connect main categories to the sub-categories and follows this sequence until it reaches a specific product/category page.
For example, on an e-commerce website, you start the search from the “Electronics” page (general category), and the last point you reach displays “iPhone 14” (product page). Likewise, the categories are also interlinked within the entire website.
Another feature of this navigation is that it does not always show the horizontal bar menu as global navigation does.
For example, if you go into the “Climate” section on The Washington Post, you will not see the header bar menu; instead, you will find the subcategories of the section below the “Climate” heading.
Local navigation refers to the navigation within a specific set of pages that are interconnected through hyperlinks (internal links).
Users can navigate locally by clicking on the linked text, which allows them to explore more information about a particular topic or category.
A prime example of local navigation can be found on Wikipedia. In this context, a single page often contains numerous hyperlinks directing users to relevant pages or topics, enabling them to easily explore and discover more information within the site's vast array of interconnected pages.
Best practices for website navigation
Some practices can make your website navigation better.
Ease of use
While thinking about website navigation, the first thing to consider should be the user experience. Easy navigation with a simple design will make the website more usable for visitors.
The "three-click rule," which suggests that users should be able to find their desired page within three clicks, is not a strict requirement.
Instead, the focus should be on providing a clear, concise, and easily navigable path for users to follow.
Here’s an example of a jewellery brand, “Tiffany & Co.” that encourages users to find the product of their choice without much scrolling or clicking.
At times, to make a website aesthetically appealing, designers do not focus more on usability. In doing so, they make it difficult for the user to find the menu, resulting in a bad usability and user experience.
This website uses a hamburger menu in the top right corner, and none of the links is available for navigation.
At times, the website, like the one below, is so cluttered with several links that it creates the issue of visibility.
When the layout is overcrowded, users may struggle to find the information they are looking for, leading to a frustrating experience.
It is crucial to balance aesthetics and usability in website design to ensure that navigation menus and links are easily visible and accessible to all users.
Blogs and product interlinking
Usually, blog posts are linked with product pages because blog posts advertise a product and are a good way to attract customers.
More often, the product pages do not link back to blog post pages which is an important part of internal linking. Doing so can be the best strategy for your SEO.
Many webmasters use URL tracking parameters to monitor user activity on their websites. These parameters are characters added to the URL when a user clicks on a webpage.
Although they do not alter the content of the page, they can create duplicate content issues.
To avoid these problems, there are alternative tracking methods available. One option is to use event tracking in Google Analytics, which tracks user interactions without altering the URL.
Additionally, you can use a self-referencing canonical tag, which is a canonical tag that points to the page it is present on.
This tag helps prevent duplicate content issues by indicating to search engines which version of the page should be considered the original or primary source.
The horizontal header menu is the primary point of focus for the users, and you must consider including all the important links in it.
Scrolling down and reaching the footer menu to find a link might not be done by every user.
Like SEODebate has listed all the important links in the topmost menu for easy navigation.
Usable on every device
Optimizing navigation menus for every device is crucial to provide a consistent and seamless user experience. Menus designed for desktop viewing may not function properly on mobile devices due to their smaller screens.
It is essential to ensure that the menu is easily navigable on both desktop and mobile devices.
One solution for mobile navigation is the use of a hamburger menu, which effectively consolidates important links into a compact, expandable format.
This allows users to access the menu easily on mobile devices without sacrificing functionality or usability.
Adding a breadcrumbs menu can help a user know the path they have come from. This menu shows the current page along with the connected pages behind it.
Yoast.com uses a breadcrumbs menu like this:
Website navigation plays a vital role in search engine optimization. The two key aspects to consider while designing a website's navigation are user experience and search engine evaluation.
In other words, the navigation should be valuable and effective for both users and search engines.
While the aesthetic appeal may attract users initially, compromising navigation usability for visual appeal can create issues in the optimization process.
To achieve the best results, it is essential to balance aesthetics with usability and implement the best practices mentioned earlier.