When developing and designing a new, effective website that gets results or architecting an existing website, one of the key elements to consider is the main navigation.
In particular, it is important that your website navigation is set up to help drive conversions and is clear and easy for visitors to use.
Additionally, it is key for SEO purposes as search engine crawlers will use your navigation as an indicator as to how good the user experience is and how much they trust your site.
To ensure that your website’s main navigation is built with these priorities in mind, consider the following six tips:
Analyse the Users Flow data
For existing websites, you can start the process by taking a look at the Google Analytics Users Flow, which sits within the Audience segment.
Here you can see the pathways that users are commonly taking when they visit a landing page. You also need to understand which visits actually result in a sale or conversion by creating an advanced segment.
Then you also want to create an advanced segment to identify visits that did not lead to conversions.
By doing this analysis, you should get a good idea of how your main navigation is currently being used and the pathways that are getting the results that you want i.e. conversions.
Create a heatmap
Now that you have a good idea of the user journeys, you can take this a stage further by finding out what they are clicking on and how far they are scrolling on your pages.
By using a heatmap tool, you will be able to capture this level of detail that will enable you to get a deeper understanding of the content your visitors actually want to see and prioritise this in your navigation.
Descriptive menu titles
The actual anchor text that you use within your menu is very important. If you use a product name, for example, that first-time visitors are not familiar with then this will only confuse them.
Using generic words like ‘Products’ or ‘Services’ is also not giving visitors enough information.
What type of products do you offer?
To identify the text that you should be using for your anchor text, find out what the most common keyphrases are by using a keyword tool.
Another good way to discover the right words to use is to look at the words that your customers use the most, either through verbal interactions you have with them, or when they contact you through email or social media.
Check your internal links
Through Google Search Console you can find the top internally-linked pages of your website. To do this, you just need to go to the Links section and choose the ‘Top linked – pages internally’ option.
Here you will see the frequency of all of your website’s internal links.
If the pages that have a lot of internal links are not necessarily the ones that you would say are critical to your website, you should think about moving them out of your main navigation, as they could sit just in the footer or another form of navigation.
Another thing to keep an eye on is your redirected links.
Over the course of years of your website’s development and content creation, URLs will get redirected and it is important to ensure that the main navigation is pointing towards the current page URL rather than being slowed down by redirection.
You can use a tool that checks your links to identify any broken or redirected links and then you can update them.
Keep your navigation simple
Having too many items in your navigation gives the visitor too many decisions to make. It is recommended to keep it down to around five to seven items in your navigation, making those items more prominent.
From an SEO perspective, navigation with too many links has less authority and trust is not passed on fluidly to the interior pages.
It may also help to take a look at some high authority websites to see how they have structured their navigation.
If you look at Apple.com for example, you can see that they stick to just seven menu items and avoid the use of dropdowns.
You will see that the majority of the highly effective websites in the world follow these six areas for building an SEO and UX-minded main navigation.