Improving Navigation In 5 Simple Steps


mouse51.jpgNavigation is one of the most important elements of website usability. A good navigational structure can make visits much more pleasant for your users, and poor navigational structure can cause them to leave in frustration. Of course, accessibility should be the first concern for navigation so that everyone can use the site, and these 5 steps can help to make your navigation much more effective.

1. Check for Dead Links

Dead links can be very frustrating for visitors and they can also hurt search engine rankings if they are excessive. In effort to help your visitors have a more positive experience while on your site, you should check for dead links every now and then. From time-to-time pages will be moved or sites will go down permanently, leaving dead links behind.

Dead-Links.com is a free online tool that can help you to identify broken links on your website. Simply enter the URL of your website and it will crawl through your site and list any dead links that it finds. Google Webmaster Tools also will help you with identifying dead links. Once you are logged in, check under crawl errors and you may see some pages that the Googlebot was not able to find.

2. Use a Sitemap

Sitemaps can be very helpful to visitors that are lost or looking for something specific, plus they give you some added internal links that can help with search engine rankings. I’m referring to HTML sitemaps as opposed to XML sitemaps, although both are important.

If your website is too large to manually create a sitemap, there are several different tools that can help you to automatically build one. Site Map Pro is downloadable software that will do the job. There’s also a tool from FreeFind and shareware Sitemap Generator 1.8. For WordPress users the Sitemap Generator plugin from Dagon Design is a great choice.

3. Build an Effective FAQ

Most websites under-value the internal linking potential of a frequently asked questions page. As you are creating your FAQ page, look for opportunities to link back to other pages on your site that give more information on the questions that are being listed. You can also create questions specifically to give you an opportunity to answer a question by linking to another page. Even if it is not really that “frequently” asked, it can still help for internal linking purposes.

Try to think of questions that searchers would use when trying to find a website like yours. If you can include the same, or a very similar, question on your FAQ there is a chance that you will show up in good position on the SERPs.

4. Add a Site-Wide Search

Especially if your website is fairly large, some users will prefer to search for something specific rather than clicking through endless pages. I know I frequently use searches on blogs to find an old post that I want to re-visit.

WordPress users have a search function already built in, so there is really no reason not to include one. For other websites, Google Custom Search is one of the best options. You can even earn money from AdSense when searchers click on the ads.

5. Add More Internal Links

Internal links within the text of a page can be helpful for visitors as well as helping with search engine rankings. Internal linking is pretty easy on a smaller site, but it becomes more difficult on larger sites and those that are updated frequently, such as blogs. With new content being published regularly, there are always new opportunities for adding internal links from older posts if you want to take the time to go back and add them. As you are creating new pages and blog posts, look for opportunities to link to other pages whenever possible.

About Steven Snell

Steven Snell is a web designer and freelance writer. He maintains a blog at VandelayDesign.com that focuses on web design and related topics.
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