What are breadcrumbs? Why they are important for SEO in 2021

What are breadcrumbs? Why they are important for SEO in 2021

You might be surprised, but digital breadcrumbs are equally useful to companies and consumers. This website feature helps visitors to find where they are in a website without using search. Website breadcrumbs allow you to keep track of your actions and pages viewed as you navigate through a site. 

There is a reason for so much talking about breadcrumbs in SEO and web design communities in the latest months. In 2021, they are influencing SEO rankings and impacting website searches in general. 

It’s time to dive deeper into the uncharted and find out more about website breadcrumbs.

What are website breadcrumbs?

Let us make things clear from the very beginning. When you come across a “website breadcrumb” or "breadcrumb trail” expression, it is about a secondary navigation system of a website or application. It shows sub navigations and allows users to trace their path when browsing a website or using an app. You can usually find it beneath the primary navigation bar, and it actually looks like another navigation bar.

Basic breadcrumb trail for Austin Functional Wellness website.

In terms of SEO, breadcrumb navigation majorly contributes to user experience. It makes browsing through site pages easier and more organic for visitors, spurring them to stay longer and view more pages. As a result, the bounce rates are going down, which is ultimately good for SEO. 

Breadcrumb markup in the body of a webpage can help Google Search to identify the content, matching the search query better. While many queries can lead to the same page, it is the breadcrumb that can categorize the content of a web page and show Google which one is the best for a given query context.

To recap, using breadcrumbs is aimed at helping users understand the structure of a website they browse and decide where to go next on a site. At the same time, it is useful for SEO ranking.

Basic breadcrumb trail for Windward Electric website.

Sharepoint breadcrumb trail with 4 levels.

Comparing Breadcrumbs -- Examples of Basic Breadcrumb Navigation

Starting PointSecond spotThird Spot (or Location)Fourth Spot Location


Home >>

Server-side coding>>Server-side essentials>>Introducing Joomla

Windward Electric

Home >>

Power it up>>Lighting

Austin Functional Wellness

Home >>

Rehabilitations Offered >>Functional wellness plan

Different types of breadcrumbs

Hierarchy-based systems for breadcrumbs have been the most common for years, but today we can use more options in the design and the function of breadcrumbs. 

Check out the three different types of breadcrumbs as of today:

  • Attribute-based - focused on specific product attributes 
  • Hierarchy-based - focused on the structure of a website or an app 
  • History-based - focused on your unique path through the pages

Attribute-based breadcrumbs

Often seen on e-commerce sites, such breadcrumbs display the attributes set for the products or services that users are looking for. In other words, attribute-based breadcrumbs may highlight specific features that have been included in a search.

CBD search showing attribute-based breadcrumbs

Attribute-based breadcrumbs look like this: 

Feature / Feature / Feature / Feature / Feature 

Rather than showing up in any specific order, the features or “search criteria” may populate the navigation field at random, as the example above shows.

Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs

You’ve seen these for sure - they show where a user is within the website structure. Many sites are featured with such a breadcrumb trail - it is great for navigation on a site.

Hierarchy-based breadcrumb trail: Nike / Lifestyle / Clothing / Bottoms / Shorts

Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs generally appear something like this: 

Home > Category > Subcategory > Page.

History-based breadcrumbs

They are also called path-based breadcrumbs - they indicate the path completed by a user while browsing a website. Not surprisingly, it is the least popular breadcrumb type today because it doesn’t add any value to the website navigation: we can always use the arrow buttons to go forward and backward.

Document image showing root and folder path.

History-based breadcrumbs might look something like this: 

Home page > Prior page visited > Prior page visited > Current page. 

3 reasons to use breadcrumbs

No one wants to spend more time figuring out a website than necessary. It’s basic human nature to want clarity and reassurance that you are where you need to be. We need to sense cues like the title of a page and where it fits within the site. Those cues aid in reassuring us a link will bring us the information we want. Without that confidence, we may not click the link.

So, in thinking about that, you can see that at least three terrific reasons exist to use breadcrumbs as part of your site navigation. They (1) increase your page rankings, (2) influence buyer behavior, and (3) help users out.

Computer screen image showing Direct Line Development breadcrumbs.

Direct Line page shown at the top of the pages ranked.

They help your pages rank higher in SERPs

Since breadcrumbs communicate the content of your pages to search engine robots, they are another contributing factor for higher ranking in SERPs. Needless to say, a higher ranking means more traffic and sales through a website, which every business owner wants to achieve.

They bring behavioral factors growth

A breadcrumb trail delivers confidence to your users by indicating their exact location within the website structure and easing the orientation with a hierarchy-based type. Attribute-based breadcrumbs help you visitors explore your offerings by their features and facilitate the search process. Both of the above results in more time visitors spend browsing your website. 

The longer someone stays on your site, the more they are getting to know your brand and your products or services. You want to increase the customer’s comfort on the site in a way that increases behavior positively.

They help users understand the structure of your site

Users actually prefer sites with breadcrumbs because these navigation trails make the site smoother to steer through. When you have a better idea of where you are and why, this reduces the cognitive load of decision-making while clicking through to the next page. 

It’s like having a “you are here” mark on a map, or locating the blue dot on a GPS navigation system. It’s easier to get where you are going when you know where you are.

How to add breadcrumbs

To add a breadcrumbs navigational path to your site, you can do some HTML coding or work to customize a website template’s navigational settings.


Standard navigation system of WordPress websites doesn’t include breadcrumbs. To add breadcrumbs web design to your WordPress website, you have to enable this option at SEO » Search Appearance » Breadcrumbs page. The system will offer several options of how WordPress breadcrumbs will look on your pages. 

Another option is to install and then activate an SEO Plugin that’s designed explicitly for WordPress, such as Yoast or Breadcrumb NavXT. These are fairly straightforward, but they will require additional work.

Logo for YoastLogo for Breadcrumb NavXT


If you want to revamp your breadcrumb navigation or disable them completely, you can use a WordPress Plugin called “WooCommerce Breadcrumbs”. It allows you to change the website code and customize the breadcrumbs appearance on the pages. 

“WooCommerce Breadcrumbs” settings include:

  • Breadcrumb separator
  • Wrap before: The opening HTML tag 
  • Wrap after: The closing HTML tag 
  • Before: The opening HTML tag for individual breadcrumbs
  • After: The closing HTML tag for individual breadcrumbs
  • Home text: The text to use for the ‘Home’ breadcrumb
  • Home URL: The ‘Home’ breadcrumb URL link

One note of caution: If your site was developed as part of a "WooTheme," this disables WooCommerce Breadcrumbs and uses instead something called “WooFramework Breadcrumbs.” WooFramework Breadcrumbs don't provide as much control or as many options as WooCommerce Breadcrumbs.

Important tips for using bread crumbs

There are three important technical tips for adding breadcrumbs to your website:

  • You will need a specific, non-standard web design solution.
  • With a WordPress website, you can use several Plugins to simplify the process.
  • Upon the Plugin installation, you will still need to apply modifications. 

Above all, remember that adding breadcrumbs to your website is always a positive change, even if it takes time. They help improve your website rankings, which is good for SEO. Additionally, they allow your users to browse with more confidence and convenience, which is a go-to source for more conversions. Subsequently, a web design that includes adding breadcrumbs is a winning one for creating a site that would work as a marketing tool, bringing you more sales and revenue. 


Do not forget that, to achieve great results, you should work with professionals. So now, the next time someone asks you, “What are breadcrumbs?” or “What is breadcrumb navigation?” You’ll know not only what breadcrumbs are, but why they’re so important for both the user and for SEO in 2021. We imagine this will be the case in years to come as well.

You may not be able to put butter and garlic on these breadcrumbs, but they’re sure to lead you to some major “dough” with potential clients. 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding Search Engine Optimization and how breadcrumbs, WordPress or WooCommerce can be used to generate additional business opportunities for you.

The article was updated on January 13, 2021.


  • What are breadcrumbs on a website?A breadcrumb is a small text path showing a user's location on a website.
  • What are breadcrumbs SEO?In terms of SEO, breadcrumb navigation makes browsing through site pages easier and more organic for visitors, spurring them to stay longer and view more pages. As a result, the bounce rates are going down, which is good for SEO.
  • What are ecommerce breadcrumbs?Breadcrumbs are an easy way for users to return to the product category and continue their product browsing, jumping back and forth between product page and product list.
  • What are WordPress breadcrumbs?Breadcrumbs help your visitor navigate your WordPress website in an organized way. You can use breadcrumbs to help a user go from one website’s page to another.


14th January 2021

Thanks for sharing! couldn't find an answer to this - are there any cases I don't need to add breadcrumbs on my site?

18th January 2021

Hey Paul,
Thank you for the question! Breadcrumbs aren't necessary for sites with flat hierarchies that are only 1 or 2 levels deep, or sites that are linear in structure.

21st January 2021

Thanks for the article! Like the way information structured here, usually it hurts me to look at most articles on the internet

27th January 2021

Never thought breadcumbs are important. Thanks, that's pretty educational!

6th July 2021

Thank you! I have a question but it might sound silly. Does the placement of breadcrumbs matter to Google? I understand the importance of breadcrumbs but putting them on top of a page might make my website look funny. That's why I want to add them somewhere around the footer.

9th July 2021

I've always used breadcrumbs just to improve the user experience. I didn't know that this is also important for SEO of my site. Thank you for the artticle!

15th July 2021

Such a great and useful article, thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

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