What are breadcrumbs?
A breadcrumb is a small text path, often located at the top of a page indicating where the user is on the site. On yoast.com, for instance, the path to our Yoast SEO plugin page is Home > WordPress Plugins > Yoast SEO for WordPress. This breadcrumb trail immediately shows you where you are. Every step of that path is clickable, all the way back to the homepage.
But why is this navigational help called a breadcrumb? When Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, Hansel dropped pieces of bread onto the ground so they could find their way home if they got lost. These breadcrumbs eventually became the model for the ones we see on websites these days.
They also appear in Google search results, and you can take advantage of this if you use Yoast SEO or add the correct form of structured data to your site. Breadcrumbs in search results give users an easy-to-understand overview of where the page sits on your site.
Yoast SEO automatically adds the necessary structured data — a
BreadcrumbList — in JSON-LD format for you. Just flip the switch in the settings and you’ll see the relevant lines appear in your source code — although, depending on your theme, you may need to add a small piece of code to your theme as well. Find out more on our breadcrumb structured data in our documentation. Optionally, you can use the Yoast SEO breadcrumb block to quickly add breadcrumbs on individual posts or pages.
Different types of breadcrumbs
You may have noticed that there are different types of breadcrumbs. These are the three most common ones:
These are the most common and it’s how we use breadcrumbs on our site. They tell you where you are in a site structure and how many steps there are to get back to the homepage. Something like Home > Blog > Category > Post name.
Attribute-based breadcrumbs are seen most commonly when a user has searched on an e-commerce site, and the breadcrumb trail is made up of product attributes – for example: Home > Product category > Gender > Size > Color.
History-based breadcrumbs do exactly what it says on the tin; they are ordered according to what you have been doing on the site. Think of these as an alternative to your internet history bar, so you get something like this: Home > Previous page > Previous page > Previous page > Current page. It’s also possible to combine these like Macy’s does in the screenshot below.
Advantages of using breadcrumbs
There are several advantages to using these helpful little pointers on your site. Let’s take a quick look at them:
1. Google loves them
Your visitors like breadcrumbs, but Google does too. They give Google another way of figuring out how your website is structured, but, as covered earlier, Google may also use them in the actual search results, which makes your result much more enticing to users. To increase the chances of your breadcrumbs appearing in Google, you need to add structured data like Yoast SEO does.
2. They enhance the user experience
People hate being lost. When confronted with a new location, people often look around in search of recognizable objects or landmarks – and the same is true of websites. You need to keep visitors happy and reduce friction as much as possible. Breadcrumbs can help your user experience since they are a common interface element that instantly shows people a way out. There’s no need to click the back button!
3. They lower bounce rates
Hardly anyone enters a site via the homepage — It’s all about organic search. That means any part of your site could be an entry point. You need to come up with a way to guide these visitors to other parts of your site if the selected page doesn’t meet their needs. Breadcrumbs can lower bounce rates because you’re offering visitors an alternative way to browse your site. Don’t you think it’s better to send a visitor to your homepage than back to Google?