Don't Let Navigation Be Your Downfall

We now know that the planning of a site's navigation structure is crucial to search engines and users navigating through your site. This, however, can all be in vain -- as certain technology can keep search engines from crawling your Web site, or not allow users to fully access your navigation. For example, if your navigation was built in java script and uses drop-down menus to showcase particular sections, the search engines most likely will not be able to follow those links. This limitation can also be felt by visitors who currently have java script disabled within their Web browsers. Also, if there are errors within the java script code it will most likely crash the Web browser.

Un-crawlable technologies include:

-- Java script-based navigation
-- Flash-based Navigation
-- AJAX-based navigation

Technology exists that will aid in your navigation becoming fully crawlable and easy to navigate. One of these technologies uses cascading style sheets (CSS). You can achieve the same results with CSS as you could with other technologies; however the difference is that CSS is completely crawlable by the search engines. and visitors to your Web site will have no problem viewing the navigation.



How are users going to navigate throughout your Web site? It is vital that they understand your products and/or services. Before you start building out your site, invest time in determining what the top-level pages are going to be, and how the content of these top level pages is going to help categorize your products or services. Try to stay away from terminology such as "About Us" or "Our Services," as they do not describe what is being offered or give information on what the user will receive if they click that particular link.

Try using key phrases as much as possible. This will ensure that search engines understand what the link is about and that weight will be given for the key phrase to the page it links to. For example, instead of using the terminology "About Us," try featuring your actual company name, such as "About Tommy's Bait Shack." This allows the search engines and users to better understand the link.

We previously discussed the importance of planning and building your primary navigation in the right structure, but there is more to Web site navigation than the primary navigation. There are three other types of navigation which are important to ensuring the visitor has the best possible experience. These secondary navigations are listed and described below.

Bread crumb navigation -- can be defined as a horizontal navigation which is a pathway the user has taken to arrive at the current page, relative to the home page of your Web site. It's crucial the user be only a maximum of two clicks away from any other page throughout your Web site.

Footer navigation -- this style navigation should mimic the primary navigation's top-level structure. The footer navigation typically appears at the very bottom of each page, and allows visitors to navigate to other pages when at the bottom of a particular page.

Sitemap -- the sitemap is an additional page on your Web site that showcases the structure of the Web site from a top-level point of view, all the way to deep pages within your site. This page will act as a directory and will allow search engines as well as visitors to access any other page throughout the Web site.

Take the time to plan out the structure of your Web site and decide on a technology that will not inhibit search engines or visitors from viewing your pages.

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