Mythbusting: Google breadcrumbs don’t just come from breadcrumbs
Ian Lurie Mar 24 2010
A few folks have published videos, etc. stating that Google’s new breadcrumb navigation in search results:
Is created when you put breadcrumbs on your site:
That is part of it, definitely. But there’s more to it. I can’t point at what, yet, but Google doesn’t always display breadcrumbs for sites that have breadcrumbs, and Google sometimes shows breadcrumbs for sites that don’t have ’em.
This site has breadcrumbs:
But Google doesn’t show one crumb. Not even a morsel:
This site’s been around for a while, has been crawled, etc. etc.. JCPenney has the same issue: Established site, lots of breadcrumbs on the site, none in the Google results.
I haven’t been able to find an example of a site that lacks breadcrumbs on the site but has breadcrumbs in the search results.
Looks like you need to have breadcrumbs on your site, that’s for sure.
But you also need a clean, consistent navigation structure. The two sites above have a few problems:
- JCPenney has a hideous URL structure that even a mother couldn’t love.
- Plus, JCPenney nofollows most of their navigation, which screws up their internal site link graph and screams manipulation.
- Most important: JCPenney has two sets of breadcrumbs. That’s gotta be confusing.
- The other site puts the breadcrumbs in a paragraph element instead of a list, or a div, or something else that would be a clear flag that it’s a breadcrumb.
It looks – and I’m reaching pretty far here – like Google’s checking for clear signals that some code on the page is indeed a set of breadcrumbs. Signals seem to include:
- Use of list elements to organize the links.
- Class or ID declarations that include “breadcrumb”. I know, stupid, it’s what I saw.
- Breadcrumbs that are consistent with the site navigation. Just throwing breadcrumbs up on the page won’t do the trick.
- Flow of PageRank that indicates a clear structure between the first, second, third link, etc.. If the first link has more PageRank than the second, which has more than the third, that’s a clear signal.
That’s what I’ve got so far. If anyone finds an example of a site that does not have breadcrumbs on it, but does show breadcrumbs in the Google search results, please let me know.
I’ll do my tutorial on how to read a log file tomorrow. This one caught my attention, and it’s my blog, dammit, so phbtbtbt.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More