Ecommerce Navigation SEO 101
Colin takes a quick look at some of the basic concepts of navigation SEO for ecommerce sites
Navigation allows potential customers - as well as search engines bots - to browse through the categories and product pages of your ecommerce store.
Good navigation can help your users quickly find their way to specific products and categories, enabled seamless and trouble-free customer journeys across your site.
Bad navigation can lead to lost sales, annoyed users, and perhaps even more importantly if SEO is a priority for you: frustrated search engines bots.
So let's take a quick look at some of key things to keep in mind if you want to make sure your ecommerce site navigation is effective for SEO and users.
Stick to text based links only
Google (and screen readers) are able to read text easily. So make sure when building out your navigation systems to keep them text based.
Your designers may come up with a bunch of good looking and creative designs, but if they use anything other than text as the primary part of the navigation this is could cause issues.
There is nothing wrong with using icons and images as supplementary parts of the navigation, but ideally you will always want text to be the main part.
Note - If you do use icons or images as part of your navigation - make sure you add an alt tag. Alt tags enable search engines and screen readers to attempt to understand the content of an image.
Avoid overly complex navigation
Another navigation tip direct from Google: avoid making your navigation too complex.
Unnecessarily complex navigation is bad for both search engine bots and users!
Make sure it is possible to get to your key products and categories as quickly and efficiently as possible via your navigation.
Another key test is to make sure it is possible to navigate to your products without the use of your standard mobile navigation menu.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are user focused performance metrics designed by Google to help site owners improve the usability of their websites.
Very much focused around speed - improving your Core Web Vitals can both increase the usability of your site - and potentially even improve your rankings in Google since they were built into the mobile rankings (and desktop rankings, from February 2022).
Navigation menus and systems are an often overlooked part of the Core Web Vitals pie.
This can particularly be an issue if they cause the layout of content below the navigation to shift downwards - known as Cumulative Layout Shift.
The following image I created demonstrates this process. From left to right, it shows a top navigation menu loading causing the content of the page to shift downwards (CLS). (Source)
Getting your mobile navigation right is arguably way more important than desktop these days, as: a) most ecommerce users are on mobile, and b) most sites are on mobile first indexing with Google.
A good mobile navigation menu should stick to the same key principles for desktop: be text based, avoid being overly complicated, and should prioritise important product categories and keywords.
Core Web Vitals should absolutely be as high a priority with mobile users as with desktop. Make sure you find and fix any areas of your mobile navigation that causes Core Web Vital related issues such as CLS.
The following GIF I recorded is a great example of a user and search friendly mobile navigation, from ecommerce giant Ikea.
In this article I have covered some of the main focus areas for ecommerce navigation SEO. For a bunch more you can read this full guide to ecommerce navigation SEO with best practice and plenty of examples.
Colin McDermott is an ecommerce SEO specialist based in Yorkshire, UK.
Colin is an ecommerce SEO expert based in the UK