I’m intending to take part in Google Webmaster Forum a bit more but I chipped in an answer the other day about how many links in a dropdown are best:
The question was:
Hobo – I’d invest time in a solid structure – don’t go for a java script menu it’s too cumbersome for users. Sometimes google can read these sometimes it cant – it depends on how the menu is constructed. You also have to remember if google can read it you are going to have a big template core code (boilerplate) on each and every page vying alongside flimsy product information – making it harder for google to instantly calculate what the indicidual products page is supposed to rank for.
I would go for a much reduced simple sitewide navigation in the menu array,
Home page links to categories > Categories link to products > Products link to related products
when you go to category links the links relevant in that category appear in the menu. Don’t have all that pop down in a dropdown – not good for users at all. Keep code and page load time down to a minimum…
I thought seeing as somebody from Google agreed, it was worth posting on my own blog as I don’t really touch on navigation systems in this way.
The most important thing for me when designing website navigation systems is:
- Make it easy for the user to navigate
- Make it easy for Google to get to your content and index your pages
Many will go on about what is the best way to create a site structure (which comes in the main from your sitewide navigation) – use categories etc.
In terms of navigation from a landing page (all your pages are potential landing pages) what do you think the benefits are of giving people 5000 navigation options. Surely if the page meets their requirements, all you need is two buttons. Home, and buy now! :)
in terms of site structure – to be honest – I do not think categories in a site structure (on anything but the largest site) helps your product pages OR BLOG PAGES rank BETTER (I mean, where is the evidence for that, really although every seo in the land tells you that? I have TESTED THIS OVER AND OVER AGAIN – note i don’t have categories on this blog but all my pages rank very well – it’s far more important JUST TO GET AS MANY OF YOUR SITE PAGES INDEXED AS POSSIBLE and RANKING HIGH IN GOOGLE OVER AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE – forget about making your 1,000 products rank better via an internal navigation system by making them more relevant by passing through category or tag pages, just get them to rank with the keyword phrase you want to rank for in your navigation system). Be aware how Google might treat links with a first link priority.
Once you realise getting your product pages indexed is the key, don’t go for a mega-menu just because you think this is a quick way to solve your indexing problem. Again, if you look at the Hobo site, I go for a minimal sitewide navigation system and prefer to use contextual links (links within my content) and links to related pages as a way Google can find content. Using this system I keep over 600 pages indexed in Google all with good pagerank.
The tree system I mentioned above is a good quick and easy system of getting a site like a ecommerce website indexed but never use a mega menu – you don’t need to (why do you want to obscure your content either at any time with a drop down menu?). I’ve considered in the past too that obscured links in drop down tags (<li>or <dd>) could well be devalued by Google (it’s an easy way to hide uninportant links). I’ve not had time to test that thoroughly though.
With a site structure, it’s all about getting your content indexed. That’s it. Depending on how much pagerank you have, you might need to ensure you are linking to your product pages you NEED to rank in Google OFTEN FROM MANY PAGES WITH PR to ensure these pages have enough Pagerank to GET INTO GOOGLE’S MAIN INDEX. Think about that. If you can’t be bothered tell Google what your most important pages are on your site via your own internal navigation structure, why should Google bother ranking it at all or assigning it pagerank?
I test a lot with this site, but that’s not to say it’s perfect. I’m aware too, I have a decent amount of real PR to play with which many wont. I don’t think there is a perfect system, just a sensible one.
For instance, I know I need to make my call to action button clearer, and i’m not satisfied with how I bring to attention the amount of information on this site. I have a few ideas (like my seo page for beginners) but unfortunately I’m too busy to implement at the moment.
PS – A basic HTML site map is an old friend.