Google Give Us Our Rank, Our Daily Bread(Crumbs)

Sorry I haven't made any posts in a we recently took on a big project AND moved hosts on SEO Book (currently on a speedy quad core), and I wanted to have minimal activity around the time of the move.

Google recently announced adding breadcrumbs to the search results for some sites which offer hierarchical breadcrumbs in their navigation. The display looks likeso:

Each breadcrumb is a clickable link to the associated page (which could increase traffic to the target site in some cases), but the initial implementation is a bit sloppy for a couple reasons

  • Google initial implementation shows the hierarchy (and places more emphasis on hierarchy) rather than listing the current page...this has a net effect of making the result look less relevant UNLESS the breadcrumbs are really tightly associated with each other and/or the site covers a small tight niche
  • when people look at the search results they scan them and match patterns. the lack of showing the current page hurts perceived relevancy, and even when a search keyword is in the breadcrumb it is not highlighted

As an example of how far astray the above 2 points can go, check out the following listing for Joost's great Wordpress SEO guide.

While seeing the site structure might be nice...the exact reason people are using search is because they don't want to have to drill down through someone's site structure...they want the most relevant thing shown in the search results.

So did Google do this for relevancy? It is hard to believe they did given that they don't list the current page and employ no bolding.

Perhaps they want to make the results harder to scrape? Or they wanted to give advertisers even more options with the ads (many new ad formats hit the organic search results first)? Or maybe, as John Andrews mentioned, "Google would LOVE to eliminate the URL altogether. Just another try..."

Do I recommend using breadcrumbs? Historically I have, but if Google does not fix the above issues it will likely end up costing publishers some perceived relevancy, and in some cases I might not recommend using them except for on small sites or those with tight and descriptive breadcrumb structures. And on larger sites they might make more sense on category listing pages rather than on item detail pages.

Published: November 25, 2009 by Aaron Wall in


November 25, 2009 - 4:25am

I just noticed that recently, and it jarred my eyes. So at least in the short term, those "breadcrumb" results got more attention from me. In an annoying way, however.

I am curious as what your thoughts are on a subtle backdoor Google paid inclusion? You can see my post on it at

November 25, 2009 - 6:19am

Google has claimed that the indexes are separate...I am not sure if the person at Adobe knows what they are talking about. I mean I think Adobe combined 2 PR10 websites together...making them one of the most linked to domains in the they should rank for just about everything under the sun (so long as they fix site structural issues and use good on page optimization).

Danny Sullivan's recent piece about beta testing of paid inclusion in Google Product Search is quite interesting though. ;)

And Google has been cross crawling for ad serving for years.

And one of the reasons Yahoo! is not trusted as much by advertisers is not really paid inclusion (that is perhaps one of the cheapest and cleanest traffic sources in the world)...the thing that advertisers dislike is the Yahoo! ad syndication and lack of ability to bid separately for Yahoo! Search when compared against everything else (like you generally can for Google).

As for the jarring effect on the eyes that breadcrumbs have for you...I suspect in time that benefit will go away...I am just hoping that by the time it does Google lists the current page breadcrumb and uses bolding on the breadcrumbs where relevant.

November 25, 2009 - 5:05am

I don't like it much. However..I'm not always the most anxious for change.

on a side note - was wondering where you had been.

November 25, 2009 - 2:39pm

As Google had such a big success focusing on making things simple, I don't think the breadcrumb feature will be very interesting... maybe just for few P...
November 25, 2009 - 4:50pm

I was up too late on Monday night, as usual, and saw breadcrumbs for a listing for some company I cannot remember. Nonetheless, I thought it was just a UI test. If anything, this tells me that Google definitely considers a searcher's click path to help them determine what the searcher's intent is and where they likely want to go, which in-turn helps them to better determine which listing (page/URL) is best to display in the search results for the searcher's query. They also probably lay this real click-path data on top of some algorithmically determined "ideal" click-path data to see variation and tweak their click-path algo factors, as necessary. Time to put on your click-path optimization hat, if it's not already on!!!

November 26, 2009 - 4:37am

The breadcrumbs aren't underlined to indicate they are links, nor do they have visited and non-visited distinguishing colours. This is especially noteworthy since the green URL has never been clickable - you have to rollover a breadcrumb to see it's an active link.

All other links on Google SERPS have these basic usability features. I doubt that's an oversight from Google, rather they're testing to see how valuable the "green line" is and how much attention people pay to it i.e. not SEOs who noticed breadcrumbs right after they launched, but "normal" people.

November 28, 2009 - 3:25am

I think it can improve navigation to wanted results, but it may be that Google wants to eventually add the crumbs to another line below the url and snippet or in some other manner to push down available space in top fold for natural results. The more that rankings become unlikely the more businesses will pay to play. Let's see what this looks like a year from now.

November 28, 2009 - 7:09am

Aaron you have hit the right chord towards your thoughts on BreadCrumbs. But I have a different thought on this. It is definitely a brilliant move by Google as it shows the relevant hierarchy of that page which is listing in the result page. It also allows users to identify whether they can relate their search to these breadcrumbs in some or the other way. Traditionally breadcrumbs are always to do with pages and Google by this move has not changed it. But Google should rethink on the "SiteLinks" parameter that is something not relevant as it posts old links.

Do let me know if your feedback.

Best regards,
Jaish DeSouza
Solid Radicle Solutions

December 2, 2009 - 4:08am

Great post here, i have just found my way to and absolutely loving the content that you are providing here!

Will be coming back REGULARLY!

Great to connect with you all here.


December 2, 2009 - 6:46pm

Welcome to the site Cher :)

December 3, 2009 - 12:01pm

when someone hears about your domain name for the first time,he should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content he might find google give us rank on our daily Bread Crumbs depend on its algorithm.

December 9, 2009 - 7:39pm

I was most surprised by the green, non underlined quality of the breadcrumb links. No one outside of the SEO world (that I've talked to) has actually noticed this feature.

Couple of other thoughts/questions:
*If Google extends this to all listings, does this encourage webmasters to build sites that are more hierarchical instead of flat?
*What qualifies a site to show the breadcrumbs? In your example above, why is Yoast showing breadcrumbs and the Wordpress site is not?

Thanks! Great post!

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.