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Is it a Google Ranking factor?

Is it a Google Ranking factor?

Adding breadcrumbs to your site helps Google better understand your content from a hierarchical perspective.

It also helps users understand their current position on your site.

Breadcrumb navigation works well for both Google and users.

But does that mean it has a direct impact on your organic search rankings?

Let’s find out.

Requirement: Breadcrumb Navigation is a ranking factor

Breadcrumbs drew the attention of the SEO community when Google first added them to search results in 2009. That was when the search engine rolled out improvements to how site hierarchies appear in search results.

Before the change, Google usually displayed a green URL or URL at the bottom of each search result to let users know where they were going:

The green URL was replaced with a hierarchy that shows the exact position of the page on the site (AKA, breadcrumbs):

Websites that already offered hierarchical breadcrumbs in their navigation benefited from this change, as their SERP list differed from the regular search result.

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As Aaron Wall explained at the time:

“Each breadcrumb is a clickable link to the corresponding page (which in some cases can increase traffic to the destination) …”

In the following years, some SEO professionals began to speculate that navigation links to crumbs of bread could be a ranking factor.

The evidence for Breadcrumb Navigation as a ranking factor

To understand how the idea of ​​breadcrumb navigation as a ranking factor came about, it is important to understand how SEO professionals grabbed it back then.

In the early 2010s, breadcrumbs were seen not only as a tool to facilitate site navigation, but also as an internal link structure for optimization.

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Josh McCoy offered this tip in his 2010 article, “What Google Thinks About Your Site:”

“To create an optimal breadcrumb linking process, make sure you have applied your keyword strategy with the information architecture for your site’s content.

Your URL structure should include keywords and content-relevant category / directory naming conventions and ensure that site content falls into the relevant categories. ”

In 2011, Catfish mentioned Comstock breadcrumb navigation as one of three key connectivity structures to optimize along with the global navigation template and “alternative connectivity structures.”

Speculation that breadcrumbs are an SEO ranking factor appeared in a 2012 blog post by Matt Green of Ethical SEO Consulting, titled “Breadcrumb Navigation Links as an On-Page Optimization Factor.”

“The anchor text used in links remains a significant ranking factor, despite recent algorithmic updates from Google that have reportedly diluted their meaning. When breadcrumb navigation is enabled on a site, it creates anchor text links on each page of the site, which links back to the site’s website.

This is ladies and gentlemen how you can use crumb links as a positive ranking factor for targeted keywords. ”

Brian Dean of Backlinko then included it on his list of Google’s 200 ranking factors without offering much explanation or proof.

The evidence against breadcrumb navigation as a ranking factor

The way Google displays search results has evolved over the years, but Google still incorporates breadcrumbs into its SERPs.

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Although Google recommends that website owners and developers implement breadcrumbs, no one from the search engine is ever registered to confirm that it really is a ranking factor.

The closest realization of Google’s position on breadcrumb navigation is from 2017, when Google’s Gary Illyes was asked: “What is Google’s position on breadcrumb navigation? Does these links provide value? If so, should they? ”

We like them. We treat them as normal links in e.g. PageRank calculation

– Gary 경리 理 / 경리 Illyes (@methode) June 22, 2017

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In 2021, Google became John Mueller tweeted that Google uses breadcrumbs for crawling (to find internal links) and for rich results (structured data). He also added that the placement of the breadcrumbs on a web page “does not matter to SEO.”

Breadcrumb Navigation as a Ranking Factor: Our Judgment

Breadcrumbs help give site visitors a positive user experience and strengthen the site’s search engine structure.

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In addition, breadcrumbs naturally build more internal links and thus push more PageRank to these pages. Potentially, breadcrumbs can affect CTR, although it is more of an indirect benefit.

However, adding breadcrumb navigation to your web pages does not guarantee a significant boost to your ranking. Many sites rank quite well without using breadcrumbs.

And while Google recommends the use of breadcrumbs for developers and website owners, this is more from a UX and usability standpoint as opposed to SEO and placement.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita / SearchEngineJournal

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