If you think Google isn’t looking at the navigation on your website, think again.
For search engines, the goal is to offer users the BEST results. If they don’t, people will stop trusting search engines and that is bad for business.
Usability is a major component of search engine rankings. Google and other search engines analyze how long users stay on a page and adjust their findings appropriately. If the majority of users land on a website and don’t stay for very long, Google realizes the website is either irrelevant or difficult to use.
Here are our top tips to optimize your website navigation.
Use simple words in your main navigation
A website’s main navigation is where a website begins and ends (from an SEO perspective). These clickable labels should be clear and easy to read, describing exactly the kind of content a user would expect from clicking on it.
Google analyzes where the link goes and how often users press the back button – because it means the user did not find the content they were looking for.
Also limit your main navigation bar to less than 6 pages. If you find yourself needing to add more than that, break content into a subfolder system.
Research by User Interface Engineering shows that people cannot find the information they're seeking on a website about 60% of the time.
Use a hierarchy/subfolder system
Main navigation should boil down into secondary navigation, which is a great way to focus on exactly what the user is looking for. Visitors to your site want to be helped and lead. Consider entering a Walmart without aisles or aisle numbers telling you where to go. Would you keep shopping? Or leave?
Link pages within your website
Linking one page on your site to another is a great way to tell Google, “Hey, I know what I’m talking about.” If a solutions page can be linked directly to a product page, do it. Add a link to a case study or eBook. If the navigation is clear and easy to follow, search engines reward you for it.
Be careful not to OVER optimize. A few internal links on your website are fine, but some marketers link the same word 20 times on a page. Imagine reading a paragraph filled with hyperlinks and how that affects the user experience.
Only use 2 or 3 words as a link’s anchor text. Long phrases and sentences clutter the page and overwhelm the user.
To sum it up and be a Navigation Hero to search engines:
- Don’t use long words and phrases in your navigation bar
- Don’t over-optimize
- Check pages regularly to make sure they work
- Don’t use a whole phrase or sentence for a link’s anchor text
Remember: you want users to stay on your website. It means the content on your website is easy to find and valuable to users.