How To Design An SEO Friendly Navigation Menu

Search Engine Optimization, Web Design

When you arrive on a website for the first time, you become a pirate on a treasure island – lost and in need of direction.

The website’s main navigation menu is your compass for finding what you’re looking for.

However, if the compass is broken – or the navigation menu is poorly laid out – then you’ll get frustrated and continue your quest elsewhere.

Keep angry pirates at bay with an SEO friendly menu.

Whether your website structure needs some refinement or you’re starting from scratch, here are some SEO hacks to improve your navigation menu.

Why SEO Navigation Matters

When visitors land on your website, their first impression and subsequent experience are heavily influenced by how easily they can navigate through your content. Effective navigation is not just about moving from point A to point B; it’s about making that journey as intuitive and straightforward as possible. 

Well thought out information architecture or site navigation structure is not just a component of your website; it’s a fundamental aspect that influences how visitors interact with your content, perceive your brand, and achieve their goals on your site. 

The Impact and Benefit of Navigation on User Experience and SEO

User engagement metrics are critical to SEO as they indicate the quality and relevance of your site to search engines like Google. Some benefits of having a improved SEO friendly navigation menu include:

  • Better User Experience: Makes it easy for visitors to find what they need, leading to a satisfactory website user experience.
  • Increased SEO Rankings: Clear navigation helps search engines understand and index your site, boosting your visibility.
  • Higher Conversion Rates: Link visitors smoothly to conversion points, increasing the likelihood of completing desired actions.
  • Lower Bounce Rates: When users find what they’re looking for quickly, they’re less likely to leave your site out of frustration.
  • Optimal Accessibility: Ensures your site is accessible by all users, including those with disabilities, expanding your reach and compliance with standards.

In other words, if visitors are able to quickly find information that’s relevant to their needs, they will be happy and more likely to return to your website for future content, products, and services.

This integration of design and SEO in your navigation strategy not only enhances the accessibility and usability of your site but also contributes to building a strong online presence. 

If you provide rich and relevant content on a well-structured website, user engagement will increase and Google will be more likely to crawl, index, and return your pages in the search results.

What Pages Should Be Included in My Menu Navigation?

As a general rule of thumb, you want to limit your navigation to seven items. Any number higher and it will look visually dense and convoluted for the user.

So, how do you determine what are the seven most important menu items on your website?

Card Sorting

Card sorting is a method that UX (user-experience) designers often utilize to evaluate how users perceive and interact with a website.

Played almost like a game, you label index cards or sticky notes with one item and have groups or individuals attempt at sorting the cards to what they believe makes the most sense to them.

Card Sorting Game

Run this game with your friends, family, and co-workers to discover patterns, understand rationale, and help narrow down your options.

Remind participants that there are no right or wrong answers. Ask them questions about why they decided to weed out or keep certain cards.

You can also make the game more challenging (and fun!) by offering prizes for finishing under a certain time or for being the most innovative.

Google Search Console – Landing Page Data

Google Search Console is an indispensable free tool for business owners and digital marketers for tracking website performance.

Under “Performance”, select the option “Pages”  and sort by highest clicks to discover which pages on your website received the most traffic in the past 90 days or more.

If a page has a high CTR (click-through-rate) and impression count, then make sure to place that page somewhere easy for visitors to find. Likewise, if a page doesn’t have many clicks or impressions, its accessibility is not as important.

GA4 – Path Exploration

Google Analytics 4* or GA4 is another powerful free tool for business owners and digital marketers for identifying your audience and learning how they interact with your website.

In the “Expore” section, select ‘Path exploration” to discover where your visitors are coming from as well as how they are going down the pipeline before converting or leaving your site.

In this exploration, you will find where the majority of users for your website begin and how they flow through a website. You’ll can start to see recurring pages that show up down the funnel which might be best suited higher in the navigation of the website.

*If you are new to GA4, see our guide on how to set it up or reach out and we can help!

What Should I Label My Navigation Menu?

Crafting an effective navigation menu is vital for enhancing user experience and optimizing for search engines. The labels you choose should clearly guide users to their desired content and reflect terms they’re searching for. These quick tips can help you select the most impactful labels for your navigation:

Google Search Console Insights – Identify common queries to align your labels with what users search for.

Keyword Research with Google Keyword Planner – Select terms with high search volumes relevant to your content.

Analyze Competitor Keywords – Spot trends and keywords your competitors use to inform your own labeling strategy.

Consider User Feedback – Use surveys or tests to find out which labels are most intuitive to your audience.

Reflect Industry Terminology – Ensure labels are in line with terms commonly understood and used by your target market.

By focusing on these key areas, you can develop a navigation menu that’s intuitive for users and effectively optimized for search engines, making your site more accessible and engaging.

11 SEO Navigation Menu Best Practices

Always remember that every decision you make for your navigation menu will impact user behavior – for better or worse.

For example, you may want to be original and say “What we do” instead of “Services.” But if potential customers that visit your website are looking for your services, then you should label accordingly.

Here are some other best practices for an SEO friendly navigation menu:

  1. Ensure main navigation consistency across all pages. This uniform approach aids user familiarity and comfort as they move through your site.
  2. Link the business logo to the homepage. This offers a quick and intuitive way for users to return to the start without searching for a home button.
  3. Keep menu options to seven or fewer. A simplified menu prevents information overload and highlights the importance of each section.
  4. Choose clarity over creativity in labeling. Direct labels help users find what they need without confusion, improving the overall experience.
  5. Adopt a responsive design for all devices. A navigation that adjusts to screens of all sizes ensures a seamless experience for every user.
  6. Use mega menus for extensive content. They organize large amounts of information in a digestible manner, allowing for quick access without clutter.
  7. Incorporate visual cues with text. Icons or images next to menu items guide users visually, making navigation more intuitive.
  8. Ensure your navigation is accessible. Design with all users in mind, including those with disabilities, to widen your site’s reach and usability.
  9. Integrate search functionality in navigation. A search bar helps users quickly locate specific content, enhancing the efficiency of site exploration.
  10. Add an AI chat feature for real-time support. AI chatbots can help answers questions and give guidance, streamlining the search for information and improving overall satisfaction.
  11. TEST, TEST, TEST! Use Google Analytics to annotate when you made your updates and to monitor user behavior.

These SEO navigation best practices streamline the site, making it user-friendly and accessible while optimizing for current web standards and user expectations.

Crafting an SEO Menu That Guides and Engages

Your navigation menu plays a crucial role in creating an amazing user experience. It can also create a terrible one, if visitors become frustrated for making too many clicks and not finding the information they are looking for.

With an SEO friendly navigation menu, users will stay on your website longer, sales will increase, and your rankings in the search results will go higher.

Improve the visibility and ranking of your business, nonprofit, or University with Intuitive Digital.

Contact us today and receive a free consultation.

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

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