A Guide to Website Navigation

Rachel Costello
Rachel Costello

On 7th January 2020 • 16 min read

Chapter 4: Internal Linking Optimisation

One of the best methods for keeping important pages within easy reach of both users and search engines is with a clear navigation. Global navigation or mega menu links are weighted more heavily than other types of links, so they need to be used with great care. In this section of the guide we’ll discuss how to implement an effective navigation and the different methods you could use.

For users starting from a website’s homepage, the navigation will set out the most important pages on the website and help them to get there easily. For users landing on any other page, the navigation will still be able to orientate a user to the website’s overall content offering and keep them moving forward in their journey to achieve their intent.

A user should never have to go “back” in order to go forward. So make sure your navigation and categorical pages are available from every page, especially knowing for organic search, a user will enter your site and the journey at every level.

Search Engine Watch

A website’s navigation acts as the anchor which keeps a user from being swept away by all of the different pages on a website and getting lost.

Here are some of the most common ways of structuring the navigation of a website, featuring examples by Caleb Cosper:

 

Single-Bar Navigation

The single-bar navigation contains all of the navigation links within one row.

Moz website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Double-Bar Navigation

The double-bar navigation features links on two separate rows. They can either be defined as the primary and secondary navigation, or can both be categorised as the main global navigation.

Portent website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Dropdown Navigation

The dropdown navigation contains lists of links which appear vertically underneath each main category when clicked on or hovered over.

DeepCrawl website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Double-Bar Dropdown Navigation

The double-bar dropdown navigation is similar to the standard dropdown navigation, but the dropdown menus appear on two different rows.

Buddy first level navigation

Buddy second level navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Dropdown Navigation with Flyouts

The flyout menu is a version of the dropdown navigation which works horizontally after the initial list of URLs has appeared. The submenus will ‘fly out’ when an item is clicked on or hovered over.

Country & Stable website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Mega Menus

A mega menu is a dropdown which shows a number of different subcategory lists all in one area when a top category is clicked on or hovered over.

Ralph Lauren website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

Linking to every page from a site’s homepage will stop Google from understanding a site’s architecture.

-John Mueller, Google Webmaster Hangout


 

Responsive Subnav Menus

Responsive subnav menus use toggle icons to allow a user to expand and collapse particular items vertically within the same list.

Adidas website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Secondary Left Navigation

A secondary left navigation works as a way of helping users navigate between related topics or pages within a set. The links are displayed vertically, with the option for expandable and collapsible subnav menus to be included as well.

Google Developers website navigation

Pros:

Cons:

 

Footer Navigation

The footer navigation includes lists of links at the bottom of a page’s template. This section is usually used to highlight company information.

Conductor website footer navigation

Add links to site footer that are useful for users not Google.

-John Mueller, Google Webmaster Hangout

Pros:

Cons:

Whichever navigation methods you use, make sure to test them to make sure that search engines will be able to crawl your pages effectively and that users are able to navigate your site with ease. Use a crawling tool and an analytics tool to measure this, and use a CRO tool with click mapping or session recording functionality as well if you have access to one.

Test navigation models to reduce click depth and improve UX.

-John Mueller, Google Webmaster Hangout
 

How to utilise hub pages

Hub pages are commonly used as a way to answer users’ questions by providing a central resource for them to navigate between relevant and contextually linked content. Once you’ve done the research into who your users are and what they find engaging, you can create compelling hub pages that will increase user experience because they allow users to explore content topically.

A hub page is based on one main page and supplementary pages. These supporting landing pages will be featured and linked to from the main hub page and will dive deeper into the main topic. It’s recommended to link back to the hub page from the supplementary pages to show their connection clearly to search engines and provide strong signals on the relation between the pages. This will demonstrate that the hub page is the most authoritative resource on that particular topic, which will make things more straightforward when it comes to rankings.

If you have a variety of different articles on a similar topic, this may cause confusion when deciding which one to link to internally. This is where the hub page comes in; to provide a core page to link to internally, which will also give that page more chance of ranking by consolidating your efforts into one place.

Hub pages also help to better distribute linking authority across topically relevant pages rather than just those that are newest, or however a website presents its content by default.

 

Blogs work like a conveyor belt, constantly giving the most internal link equity to the newest content and removing it from older articles.

 

Content hubs help users get off the never-ending conveyor belt of chronological articles and explore the content they want to see in their own time.

Here are some examples of how brands are utilising hub pages:

CMO by Adobe hub page

 

Think With Google hub page

 

GQ hub page

These are some of the key things to consider for creating a successful hub page:

  1. Avoid straying too far from the core topic with the content and links you’re including.
  2. Link to your hub page from the homepage or main navigation to make it more findable for users and search engines.
  3. Hub pages must make sense for both users and search engines.
  4. Ensure your hub page stays relevant by adding new, valuable content whenever possible so Google sees it as an up-to-date resource.
  5. Include an internal search box somewhere on your hub page to improve UX and provide invaluable data on what your customers are looking for. This is just one of the ways in which you can leverage internal site search data.

 

Conclusion

It’s clear that the websites that structure their pages to suit the expectations of users in a way that is understandable and crawlable for search engines, are the ones that succeed. A successful site architecture focuses on matching user intent at all times, as well as increasing the findability of the most important pages on a website by keeping them high up in the overall site depth.

One of the most important things to be mindful of is that site architecture optimisation should be an evolving process. If you have mapped out the different page types that are needed on your website, categorised them with information architecture best practice and user insights in mind, and internally linked them together to maximise the findability of key pages, that’s brilliant.

However, your business, your customers and the search engines themselves will develop and change over time, and the site architecture implementation you have now may not work as well further down the road. You need to continually assess your business objectives, the content you need to both fulfil those objectives and engage your target audience, as well as how to structure those pages for smooth user journeys and efficient search engine crawling.

Access the Downloadable PDF Version of this Guide

Author

Rachel Costello
Rachel Costello

Rachel Costello is a Technical SEO & Content Manager at DeepCrawl. You'll most often find her writing and speaking about all things SEO.

Get the knowledge and inspiration you need to build a profitable business - straight to your inbox.

Subscribe today