Site Navigation: The system of links within a website that  connect the various pages and parts of the site together and facilitate movement between them.

If the internet is the world, and every website is a town, site navigation is the road system. Anybody who visits your site uses your navigation to get around the site, hopefully find what they’re looking for, and—if your town is all about retail—buy something. Navigation can make or break a website. And not only does navigation play a huge role in the way visitors interact with the site, they also make a HUGE difference in the way search engine spiders get around it.

Site navigation is made of up of several important elements, all of which add together to make a visitor’s experience easy, useful, and fun.

Here are 5 characteristics of good main site navigation:

  1. Links look like links. If your internal links are all cute bunnies and frogs and no one can tell they’re suppose to click on ‘em, nobody will.
  2. Links are easy to find. People are used to the web, now, and expect to find certain things in certain places. They expect navigation to be in banner across the top, under the header, in a column down the left side of the page body, or in a column at the right side of the body. This doesn’t mean you can’t bend the rules with an innovative, eye-catching design—but if you do, make sure the navigation is obvious.
  3. Links are made from text. This is something a lot of sites used to do wrong, though more and more are coming around. Links can be made of anything. Some great site designs use images as links, or JavaScript, or widgets or whatever. Might look great, but the problem is search spiders cannot read images. Not even if the image has words in it. They cannot read JavaScript very well, either. What they excel at is reading text. So if you want a spider to be able to navigation and index your content, you must provide text link navigation. Complex navigation schemes such as pulldowns, flyouts, buttons, roll-overs and the like can now be done using nothing but text links modified by CSS. Do that.
  4. Link text uses valuable keywords. Not every link needs to be a “money” keyword, but any navigation link that points to an important section of your site should definitely use keywords that are known to have search potential, are within your grasp competitively, and are likely to lead your visitors to a positive action. The reason for this is that search engines count any link pointing to a page as vote in favor of the page’s importance. Outside links count more than inside links, sure, but inside links still count. And if you have a 10,000 page site with the same text navigation link on every page, well, let’s  just say the page that link points to should do pretty well for the keyword you used.
  5. Every link works. Seems simple enough—make sure all your main navigation links go to real, live, functioning pages. You’d be surprised at how often webmasters make changes to content and forget to update the navigation links. Don’t be one of them. Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure that every nav link points to the page it describes.

Here is a summary of all you need to know about how navigation affects your search marketing, for good or ill.

If search engine spiders

Let site navigation be your friend and it will also be your visitors’ friend. And even more importantly, it will be your search engine spider’s friend, too.