The navigation menu of your website is undeniably one of its most important user interface (UI) features. It serves a dual purpose: enabling visitors to effortlessly find what they’re looking for while also helping the crawling process for search engines.
Your site navigation should closely reflect your sitemap, which outlines all of the pages on your website. The menu categorizes sections of your website to make it easier for your visitors to find what they are looking for.
When it comes to structuring your site’s navigation for both SEO and UX, there are several key tactics you can implement to create an intuitive, user-friendly navigation that also helps search engines in crawling your website effectively.
10 Key Tactics for Structuring Your Site’s Navigation for SEO and UX
1. Determine What Information Is Important to Visitors
Your site’s navigation should focus on your visitors and what they’re after. The objective is to create a seamless journey from start to finish. To achieve this, analyze your business data such as attribution reports to see which pages people frequent most. Or conduct interviews with customers and stakeholders to get an understanding of what information is most important to them.
2. Create a Sitemap
Armed with your key findings and insights, start building your sitemap. The sitemap should display the hierarchical page structure of your website, highlighting the actual pages that will be present on your site. This process ensures that no crucial information is overlooked and that users can navigate the website intuitively.
Utilize your sitemap to guide your website navigation and delineate the primary categories and subpages within each of these sections. Your sitemap and website navigation don’t need to be identical. The navigation should highlight the important pages or elements required to create the best user experience.
3. Keep It Clear and Intuitive
When designing your website, prioritize a clear and straightforward navigation structure that is easy for visitors to understand. As previously mentioned, your navigation doesn’t need to match your sitemap exactly and should highlight only the pages that visitors need to be able to navigate your site easily. By incorporating standard navigation patterns familiar to your audience, you can ensure a smooth browsing experience that encourages visitors to take action.
It’s also important to consider the impact of your website’s architecture on search engine optimization. A simple structure that avoids excessive subdirectories can assist Googlebot in efficiently crawling each of the pages on your website. However, if your site navigation is too simple and people don’t know where to go to find the information they are looking for, you may be jeopardizing the user experience. Opt for clear and intuitive navigation as opposed to too few or too many navigation items.
4. Use Descriptive Labels
Opt for concise and descriptive labels for your navigation menu items. Use intuitive wording that accurately represents the content on each page. Visitors are primarily task-oriented and seek quick access to the information they need, and browsing through unclear labels can lead to frustration and high bounce rates.
5. Choose a Navigation Type That Adheres to the Needs of Your Website’s Visitors
How you structure your website navigation depends on what you think will be intuitive and accessible for your visitors – site navigation that will ultimately improve their experience on your site.
For example, the commonly used horizontal navigation is suitable for sites with limited content. It typically includes standard content like an About page and a Contact page, which visitors expect to find easily. On the other hand, e-commerce websites with over 50 categories often opt for drop-down or vertical sidebar navigation menus, as they are ideal for navigating through a large number of pages..
6. Ensure Accessibility
According to the World Health Organization, 16% of the global population has a disability. To effectively engage your entire audience, it is crucial to ensure that your website’s navigation is accessible to all visitors, including those with disabilities. This can be achieved by:
- Ensuring that your menu is fully accessible by using the tab, shift-tab, and arrow keys on a keyboard. It should also accommodate people with reduced dexterity by offering alternative ways to reach submenu items. For instance, consider repeating them on the page of the parent menu item if using fly-out or drop-down menus.
- Implementing semantic HTML markup such as <nav>, <header>, and <footer> that clearly indicate the role of the content they contain.
- Limiting the substitution of text with emoji or images, as small images can present readability issues for individuals with low vision or those using screen readers.
By prioritizing accessibility, you can provide an inclusive user experience for everyone.
7. Include a Search Bar and a Call-to-Action Button in Top-Level Navigation
Adding a search bar to your website’s navigation can greatly enhance the user experience by giving visitors an easy option to quickly find what they’re looking for. Further, adding a call-to-action button for your primary goal to the top navigation will help guide visitors to your key pages.
8. Utilize Breadcrumb Navigation
Breadcrumbs offer a secondary navigation option that displays a visitor’s current location within the site’s structure. By presenting a trail of text links, they show visitors the path they took to arrive at that specific page. They not only make your site easier for visitors to navigate but also assist search engines in understanding the relationship between different pages on your site.
9. Optimize for Mobile
With the increasing number of mobile visitors, UX must have a responsive design that adapts to various screen sizes. Enhance your website’s user experience by implementing a simplified, responsive and optimized navigation bar, such as the hamburger menu. Streamlining the choices available to visitors ensures a smoother and more intuitive navigation process, ultimately improving UX and boosting your mobile conversion rate.
10. Monitor and Refine
Regularly analyze the analytics of your website and listen to visitor feedback to gain insights into how people interact with your website. Utilize these insights to make data-informed decisions that will lead to an optimal web experience.
If restructuring, use data drawn from Google Analytics along with visitor feedback to help inform your new navigation.
Optimizing Your Site’s Navigation
While effective website navigation ensures seamless browsing for your visitors, it also plays a crucial role in facilitating the purchasing process. Remember that SEO and UX are complementary. By creating a navigation system that is straightforward, user-friendly, and aligned with SEO best practices, you can provide a positive experience for your visitors while simultaneously improving your website’s search engine rankings.