A guest blog post from Roo WrightIt can be easy to get so caught up in creating content and building links that you overlook other important details of your website. One of these crucial but often neglected details is site navigation.
Your website’s navigation design has a big impact on its success in your business. Here is why:
- Site navigation is essential for helping visitors find what they are looking for on your site.
- Site navigation affects search engine rankings.
Fortunately, achieving the optimal site navigation setup is not a difficult task. In fact, once you learn to avoid a few common mistakes, you will find yourself well on your way to success.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t break the mold.
While you want your website to be unique and for it to stand out from your competitors’ sites, don’t do so at the cost of alienating your visitors and the search engines.
Generally speaking, visitors expect to find navigation in one of two places:
- In a vertical layout in the side bar
- In a horizontal layout at the top of the page
If you put your navigation in a non-standard area of your site, it makes it more difficult to use. If you stick with what your visitors are used to, you can lower your bounce rate, increase the amount of time visitors spend on the site, and boost conversions.
- Be specific.
Don’t rush through the process of creating navigation text and end up with vague copy. Instead, put time and consideration into your navigation text, as it’s extremely important to your website’s user experience.
Navigation should be descriptive, as opposed to generic. Instead of navigation text that just says “services” or “products”, try navigation text that is more informative, such as “XYZ widgets” or “XYZ service”.
Remember this: being specific not only improves user experience, it is also giving you another opportunity to improve your search engine ranking.
- Avoid the use of drop-down menus.
As tempting as they may be, if you want to include many menu items, drop-down menus should be avoided for the following reasons:
- They are often difficult for search engines to crawl.
- Drop down menus can be inconvenient for users.
When in doubt, think about your own online experience. Do you like it when you have to navigate a drop-down menu – especially one that is not functional across different devices – to find what you’re looking for? Probably not.
- Keep it simple.
It’s a common mistake. Rather than stick with the most important links on your navigation, you may be tempted to clutter with links to ensure that all of your content is easily visible. However, not only is this visually unappealing, it also overpowers your readers and can actually obscure your content.
You don’t want to give your visitors too many choices. Instead, your navigation should stick with the most important links and use clear language to ensure that your users know where to go.
Try to limit your navigation to between five and seven links.
- Use links, not buttons.
Do you remember the days when everybody was using graphic-based navigation, not text links? Despite the visual appeal, today’s websites are better off avoiding graphics when it comes to navigation. Here is why:
- Buttons are not search engine friendly.
- Readers often scan over graphics, increasing the chance that they will miss the link they are looking for.
- Buttons are more difficult to update.
The use of navigation buttons may have been prominent 10 or 15 years ago, but the popularity of this practice is long gone, for good reason.
With these five tips in mind, you will find it easier to create site navigation that benefits your audience while improving your on-site SEO.