What Is Breadcrumb Navigation?

Aaron Haynes
Feb 14, 2024
what is breadcrumb navigation

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You may not have noticed it, but chances are, breadcrumbs have guided you through many websites, big and small. What is breadcrumb navigation, and how does it contribute to your online journey?

Let’s break down this web design element, exploring

  1. the concept of breadcrumb navigation,
  2. its significance in improving user experience and SEO,
  3. and when and how best to use it.

What Is Breadcrumb Navigation?

Remember the tale of Hansel and Gretel? The twins famously left themselves a trail of breadcrumbs as a guide back to their home.

Much like its fairytale namesake, a breadcrumb navigation “trail” typically appears at the top of a web page, displaying a website’s hierarchy and offering a clickable trail of pages to trace back through. These navigational links work as an auxiliary aid, supporting the primary navigation menu by contextualizing the site’s structure.

If you’re familiar with taxonomy and how science names, describes, and categorizes organisms—Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species—then you can think of breadcrumb navigation as a website’s digital taxonomy. It helps to classify and arrange different layers or levels of content, much like how taxonomy organizes life forms from broad categories down to specific species.


For instance, imagine you’re shopping online for a new laptop. Let’s say on Best Buy’s online store. You begin at their home page, navigate to the “Computers & Laptops” category, then the “Laptops” subcategory, onto “All Laptops,” “MacBooks,” and finally, you’re looking at a specific model, in this case, the “MacBook Air.” Breadcrumb navigation shows this path clearly at the top of the web page: Home > Computers & Laptops > Laptops > All Laptops > MacBooks > MacBook Air.

Learn more: SEO glossary 250+ terms explained.

Why is Breadcrumb Navigation Important?

Breadcrumb navigation is much more than a fairy tale reference. It’s a tool that enhances a website’s functionality and user experience in several key ways. Here’s why breadcrumb navigation is an essential element in web design:

Improving User Experience (UX)

By laying out a clear, clickable trail, breadcrumbs empower your website visitors with an intuitive “GPS,” letting them comprehend their position within the architecture of a website. This understanding quashes any feeling of being lost, transforming browsing into a journey of discovery that’s smooth and time-efficient.

Encouraging Browsing

Through the display of related categories or pages, breadcrumbs offer website visitors a simple way to explore more content on the site. Suppose a visitor lands on a particular product page, for example. In that case, breadcrumbs might tempt them to explore other products within the same category, enhancing site engagement and boosting time on site. Users can also quickly return to higher-level pages without relying on the “back” button or website menus.

Reducing Bounce Rates

When users find it easy to navigate and discover content, they are more likely to stay longer, reducing bounce rates. So, by presenting users with a simple, visual representation of the website’s structure, breadcrumb navigation can lead them deeper into the site, increasing their engagement and likelihood to convert.

Boosting Site Structure and Ease of Web Crawling

Breadcrumb navigation contributes to a stronger internal linking structure. These navigational links make it easier for search engine bots to crawl the website, understand its structure, and index pages, and, as a result, potentially improve the site’s search engine rankings.

Learn more: how to create SEO-friendly website structure.

SEO Implications

All of these benefits have implications for search engine optimization (SEO). UX is a ranking factor, as is bounce rate and improved crawlability positively affects organic search rankings. So the correct use of breadcrumb navigation can help your site reach the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) more often.

The Tasty Trio: Exploring the Varied Flavors of Breadcrumb Navigation

Within the world of breadcrumb navigation, three main categories reign supreme. Each brings a unique approach to the table, guiding users in different ways through the maze-like structure of a website.

Hierarchy-Based Breadcrumbs: Your Trusty Map


Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs are the cartographers of the digital world. They showcase the structural layout of a website, mirroring the site’s inherent sitemap. You’ll often spot these handy guides on websites with multi-level pages, such as online stores, academic institutions, or government sites, where users need to dig deep into nested pages.

Example: Home > Category > Subcategory > Article/Product

Attribute-Based Breadcrumbs: Your Personalized GPS


Typically seen on e-commerce platforms or sites with vast databases, attribute-based breadcrumbs filter and categorize pages based on specific attributes like size, color, or price. They triumph where hierarchical breadcrumbs may falter, providing multiple pathways to a single page based on different attributes. However, their utility might be overkill for more straightforward sites, making their implementation a careful balance.

Example: Home > Electronics > TVs > 65-inch Display > Product

Path-Based Breadcrumbs: Your Journey Tracker


Path-based breadcrumbs, true to their name, trace the exact path that a user has traversed on a website. They’re real-time journey trackers, enhancing the user experience by giving a granular view of their website exploration. These breadcrumb types are particularly helpful on websites with a lot of user-driven exploration, such as forums or digital libraries.

Example: Home > Search Results > Book

Navigating the Crossroads: Breadcrumb Best Practices and Tricky Pitfalls

Just like every tool in your web design arsenal, breadcrumb navigation comes with its own set of best practices and optimal use cases. It’s about striking a balance, taking into account both your website’s intricacy and your user’s needs.

Context is Key

Breadcrumb navigation shines when used in context. This doesn’t mean that every site is a good candidate for it. If your site is less complex with only a few layers, implementing breadcrumbs might introduce unnecessary clutter, potentially causing confusion for your users. Remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


For instance, complex websites with deep hierarchical structures like e-commerce platforms, academic websites, or large databases can significantly benefit from implementing breadcrumb navigation. On the other hand, simpler websites, such as blogs or small business sites, might find breadcrumbs more of a hindrance than a help. Always evaluate your site’s specific needs and balance them with the user experience to ensure successful navigation.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is another important aspect to consider. Ensure that your breadcrumb format remains constant throughout your website, reflecting its structure or attributes accurately. Consistency cultivates a sense of familiarity and trust with users, which, in turn, enhances their experience.

Keep It Secondary

But don’t let breadcrumbs take the wheel. They should always be seen as a supplementary navigation tool, used to enhance your website’s main navigation, not replace it.


Well-implemented breadcrumb navigation is just one of many elements you’ll need to master to reach your SEO goals. Keywords, content quality, backlinks, site speed, and mobile optimization—are just a few of the other critical areas to focus on.

This is where Loganix comes in. As a trusted provider of comprehensive SEO services, our team is equipped with a wealth of knowledge and tools to help you optimize your site comprehensively, going beyond just breadcrumb navigation.

🚀 With our suite of SEO services, together, let’s chart your course to SEO success. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Aaron Haynes on February 14, 2024

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.