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How do you keep your site users happy?  Give them relevant, interesting content; make sure it loads fast; and make sure they can find what they need with ease.  Navigation is an essential building block for websites, and one that has a great impact on SEO.  Is your web site user-friendly? Is it search engine-friendly?

Navigation is important so search engines can easily find and index your pages; it is crucial for consumers to be able to do the same.  Here are some best practices to consider if you are building a new site or hoping to boost the efficacy of an existing one:

  • Vertical or horizontal navigation bars? A lot of designers like horizontal bars better; they are familiar, easy to use, and tend to be more aesthetically pleasing. That being said, though, there is no real SEO advantage to choosing one or the other.  In fact, there are some great examples of each, and many sites, notably Amazon, use both.  A vertical bar shows you the departments, and the horizontal bar has quick access to categories like Kindle, MP3s, Appstore, etc.

The best option is to consider what works best for your content and design. Many sites employ a horizontal bar with fly-out menus to contain subcategories, which works very well.

  • Leave a trail. Breadcrumb navigation can be very useful for site users, allowing them to see where they’ve been – and get back there if they need.  This is a “secondary” navigation tool, but it can reduce the clicks a user needs to use to get back to a higher level page – and less clicks = happy users.
  • Create a sitemap for users and for search engines. There are plenty of free generators online.
  • Add a search bar if you have a great deal of content or information so a user doesn’t have to click from category to subcategory to subcategory.
  • Jump to top. Jump to bottom. Both are great for lengthy pages, such as longer blog posts or informational articles. Make it easy for users to get back and forth.
  • Use tags to categorize your posts or information.  A user who finds a post on a subject which interests him is likely to click on other pieces of a similar nature or topic.

Navigation must be clean, smooth, and, above all, easy. Providing this for users will decrease your bounce-rate and help boost repeat business as well.

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