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Is Breadcrumb Navigation a Google Ranking Factor?

Breadcrumb navigation helps provide a positive user experience for website visitors and strengthens the website structure for search engines.Is this a ranking factor?Adding breadcrumbs to your website helps Google better understand your content from a hierarchical perspective.It also helps users understand their current location on your site.

Breadcrumbs seem to be good for both Google and users.But does that mean it has a direct impact on your organic search rankings?

Let us find out.

Disclaimer: Breadcrumbs are a ranking factor

Breadcrumbs caught the attention of the SEO community when Google first added it to its search results in 2009.Back then, search engines rolled out enhancements about how website hierarchies were displayed in their search results.

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

The green URL has been replaced with a hierarchy (AKA, breadcrumbs) showing the precise location of the page on the website:

Sites that already offer hierarchical breadcrumbs in their navigation benefit from this change because their SERP listings differ from regular search results.

As Aaron Wall explained at the time:

"Each breadcrumb is a clickable link to an associated page (in some cases, this may increase traffic to the target website)..."

Over the next few years, some SEO professionals began to speculate that breadcrumb links could be a ranking factor.

Evidence of breadcrumb navigation as a ranking factor

To understand how the idea of ​​breadcrumbs as a ranking factor came into being, it's important to understand how SEO professionals approached it at the time.

In the early 2010s, breadcrumbs were seen not only as a tool to simplify website navigation, but also as an optimized internal linking structure.

Josh McCoy offers this tip in his 2010 article "What Google Thinks About Your Site":

"To create the best breadcrumb link flow, make sure you've applied your keyword strategy along with the information architecture of your website content.

Your URL structure should include keyword-rich and content-relevant category/folder naming conventions and ensure website content falls into the appropriate category.

In 2011, Catfish Comstock included breadcrumbs as one of three important link structures to optimize, along with global navigation templates and "alternative link structures."

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

"Anchor text used in links remains an important ranking factor, although recent algorithm updates from Google have reportedly diluted their importance.When breadcrumbs are enabled on a website, it creates anchor text links on every page of the website that link back to the website's home page.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how to use breadcrumb links as a positive ranking factor for your target keywords.

Brian Dean of Backlinko then included it on Google's list of 200 ranking factors, without offering much explanation or evidence.

Evidence against breadcrumbs as a ranking factor

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

Although Google recommends that site owners and developers implement breadcrumbs, no one has documented it in search engines to confirm that it is indeed a ranking factor.

The closest acknowledgment of Google's stance on breadcrumbs came in 2017, when Google's Gary Illyes was asked, "What's Google's stance on breadcrumbs?Are these links passing value?If so, should they do so?

In 2021, Google's John Mueller tweeted that Google uses breadcrumbs for crawling (finding internal links) and rich results (structured data).He also added that the position of the breadcrumbs on the page "doesn't matter for SEO."

Breadcrumbs as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Breadcrumb helps provide a positive user experience for website visitors and strengthens the structure of the website for search engines.

Also, breadcrumbs naturally build more internal links, which pushes more PageRank to those pages.Breadcrumbs may affect CTR, although this is more of an indirect benefit.

However, adding breadcrumbs to your website pages does not guarantee any significant ranking boost.A lot of sites rank fairly well without using breadcrumbs.

While Google recommends developers and website owners to use breadcrumbs, this is more from a user experience and usability perspective rather than SEO and rankings.

Extended reading:

Is Bounce Rate a Google Ranking Factor?

Anchor Text as a Google Ranking Factor: Everything You Need to Know

Top 8 Google Ranking Factors - What Really Matters for SEO

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