Breadcrumbs Explained

No, we’re not trying to make you hungry, websites actually use breadcrumbs. And they’re incredibly important! If you’ve been on most kinds of websites, you’ve likely seen a breadcrumb trail, whether you knew it or not. Breadcrumbs are links on a web page that show you where you are within a website. They make navigating a website much easier since users can trace their steps back towards a website’s home page, see other similar web pages, or even see where they’ve been already. 

Keep reading if you want to make the most of this feature. This article has everything you need to know about website breadcrumbs like what they are, what they look like on a web page, and how to navigate them. Finally, we’ll discuss the benefits of breadcrumbs, particularly on search engine optimization, or SEO.

what is breadcrumbing

What Is Breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing is the practice of including a trail of links within a website that show users where they are within a site. The name “breadcrumbs” comes from the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” In this fairy tale, children use a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home. Similarly, a website’s breadcrumbs can lead users back to a homepage. They may also lead to other, more general web pages. For websites that use breadcrumbs, you will typically find them at the top of a web page. Depending on the type of breadcrumb trail, the links are often listed in the order users click on each page. This way, users can see what pages they visited to get to the one they’re at now. 

Types of Breadcrumbs

Website breadcrumb trails are often near the top of a web page or under a search bar. There are three main types of breadcrumbs: attribute-based, hierarchy-based, and path-based. 

Attribute-Based Breadcrumbs

Attribute-based breadcrumbs are most commonly found on e-commerce websites to describe the products in a refined search. They display the different features of the products you searched for. An attribute-based breadcrumbing example if you search for large men’s shirts would look something like “Shirts>Men’s>Large”. These types of breadcrumbs describe the features of the products you are currently viewing. Because of this, they aren’t in any specific order. The breadcrumbs could just as easily be listed as “Shirts>Large>Men’s”. Users often select these attributes directly when searching for products on a website.

These breadcrumbs typically show how narrowed the search is based on the user’s selections. The more features a user selects, the longer the breadcrumb trail. Using the same example, if a user only wants to search for large, cotton men’s shirts with free shipping, a long breadcrumb trail will display each of these specifications at the top of the web page. 

website breadcrumbs

Hierarchy-Based Breadcrumbs

Alternatively, hierarchy-based breadcrumbs are shown in a specific order that helps users navigate the website. Also called location-based breadcrumbs, these links list different pages on a website in a hierarchy that makes sense. They show how a website is structured. For example, if a user is looking at phone chargers, the breadcrumb trail might read “Home>Technology>Accessories>Chargers”. 

Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs make the most sense when they display a category followed by subcategories, like in the previous breadcrumbing example. Users can follow the breadcrumbs back to the homepage of the website or to more general pages like “technology”.  The pages can also be thought of as levels. It wouldn’t make sense to jump from Level 1 to Level 5. Similarly, hierarchy-based breadcrumbs are listed in a specific order based on the site’s structure. Location-based breadcrumbs are the most common type of breadcrumbs. They can be found on all kinds of websites, not just e-commerce sites.

Path-Based Breadcrumbs

Occasionally, you may encounter path-based breadcrumbs. These are also called history-based breadcrumbs. They function similarly to hierarchy-based breadcrumbs, however, they show users their entire path through a website. While hierarchy-based breadcrumbs show different levels of a website, path-based breadcrumbs show exactly what a user selected to get where they are now. These are often less useful than other types of breadcrumbs since they don’t encourage users to visit other web pages. 

breadcrumbing example

Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumbs improve website navigation. They let users know where they are in a website, making it easier to get back to other pages. Improving navigation can be a great way to improve your website’s overall traffic. Breadcrumbs can be used to enhance the overall user experience by improving your site’s SEO. Users don’t want to feel lost when navigating a website. Breadcrumbs can ensure that they know exactly where they are on a site at any given time. Breadcrumbs also make understanding a website’s structure easier by showing how each page connects to the others. Including a breadcrumb trail on your website can improve user experience by giving them more control in navigating your site.

Users aren’t the only ones interested in a website’s breadcrumbs. Search engines like Google use a site’s breadcrumbs to better understand its structure and content. Breadcrumbs can display important keywords that might show up in a user’s search. They also give Google more context for the information a website offers. Once Google has this information, it uses it to determine how a website shows up in relevant searches. This can even improve your SERP ranking, which is the position a website shows up in a search’s results. Google may place your web page higher since it now knows how relevant your site is for a given search. 

Breadcrumbs can also encourage users to stay on your website longer. They function the same way as internal links by keeping users engaging with your content. Breadcrumbs and internal links alike offer more content within your site that users can explore. Most of the time, users don’t start on the homepage of a website if their Google search was specific enough. Breadcrumbs can be an easy way to get users to visit your homepage by showing them how to access it from the page they’re already on. This can be a very profitable way to improve traffic to your business’s website. Breadcrumbs are a very small part of a website that can make a huge difference in business. 

breadcrumb navigation

How to Use Breadcrumbs

How to use breadcrumbs effectively depends on whether you are a website user or a business. As a user, breadcrumbs can be easy to navigate. All you need to do is follow them to a page you might want to visit, like the homepage. 

For businesses, you will need to figure out how to add breadcrumbs to your website. First, businesses need to decide what category of breadcrumbs makes the most sense for their website. Then, they need to choose how they want to incorporate breadcrumbs into their website. If you use a website builder, including breadcrumbs may be as easy as clicking “turn on breadcrumbs”. Sites like WordPress even offer plugins that can add breadcrumbs for you. 

If you’ve built your own website from scratch, creating a breadcrumb trail might be harder. You’ll need to open your HTML editor and select the pages you wish to include in your trail. It’s very important to include your homepage as the start of the trail so that users can find it easily regardless of where they are on your website. The most difficult part of adding breadcrumbs to your website will be deciding what type of breadcrumbs to use. Attribute-based breadcrumbs can be helpful if you have an e-commerce website. That being said, a hierarchy-based trail might be the most useful if you want users to better understand your website’s structure and how to navigate it.

what are website breadcrumbs

Following the Trail

In this article, we’ve covered some of the basics of website breadcrumbs, hopefully without making you too hungry. Breadcrumbs are a great way to make your website easier to navigate by showing users exactly how your site is structured. Different types of breadcrumbs can serve different purposes.  An attribute-based breadcrumb trail can help users understand the products they’re looking at by listing all of their features. Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs can give users more information about a website’s structure. This way, they know exactly where on a website they are. A path-based breadcrumb trail is similar, but it shows users how they got to the page they’re looking at now. This might not be the most helpful if you want to direct users to parts of your website that they haven’t already visited. 

Website breadcrumbs can play a huge role in SEO. They might even affect your SERP ranking. Breadcrumbs can improve SEO by providing search engines like Google with important information about your website’s structure and function. With this information, Google can determine the best ways to include your site in relevant searches. Depending on your site and its breadcrumbs, this could place you closer to the first position on a page of search results. Similarly, breadcrumbs can improve user engagement by encouraging visitors to stay on your website longer. Breadcrumbs encourage users to follow them to the homepage as well as other pages on the website. Because of this, breadcrumbs can seriously affect a website’s traffic. 

Overall, website breadcrumbs can be very beneficial if you choose to use them. Regardless of how you’ve developed your website, you can easily add breadcrumbs to your website to improve its function. 


  • Should I use breadcrumbs on my website?
  • What are breadcrumbs?
  • What are the types of breadcrumbs?
  • How do I add breadcrumbs to my website?
  • What does a breadcrumb link look like?

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