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SEO Best Practices: Does Your Top Nav Work Well?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
screencap of the dodgeballseo blog website with an illustration of a pointing finger pointing in the direction of the top nav (header) menu

If it’s in your header, it’s the first thing potential customers see. Is your top nav made for their convenience? Or is it making your site more clunky and difficult to load? Here are some SEO best practices to bring into your header/navigation bar, and some common pitfalls to avoid for better performance.

Focus on What Your Customers Need

If you want to increase content marketing conversion rates, focus on what your customers need, not what you enjoy discussing or showcasing related to your business. You can carry this principle into designing or editing your website's top navigation (or header) bar.

People want to know:

  • Where you’re located

  • What geographic area you serve

  • What products, services, and solutions you offer

  • Why They Should Choose You Over Your Competitors

  • How to get in touch with you

Suggested Top Nav buttons and destinations for those buttons could include:

  • A Clickable Logo: Link this to your homepage so visitors can get back to that page easily. You can include location information in a brief text tagline that covers your location and your geographic service area directly underneath this logo.

  • A Services/Products Button: Depending on your focus, a Services or Products button in the top nav should direct people to your primary service/product page that summarizes all your top offerings. This page should be designed according to landing page content marketing best practices, along with all top-nav-accessible pages on your site.

  • Blog or Resources: Showcase your knowledge about your industry and subject matter. Quickly communicate your readiness to answer questions or solve problems with a Blog or Resources button.

  • A Demo or Spotlight Button: Show off what makes you different, and give a direct link to that content in the top nav, so it’s visible from every page.

  • Contact: Contact information should be prevalent and easily accessible.

  • Click-to-Call: Put an interactive phone number in your header for more calls from highly qualified leads.

We recommend our clients orient this information from left to right, beginning with the logo in the top right and any call to action or click-to-call buttons in the top left. Add interest by incorporating both text and clickable icons in your header. Don’t be afraid to do something eye-catching by adding visually interesting creative design elements in the header area.

Don’t Let “About Us” Dominate

Don’t worry. We didn’t forget “About Us”! It’s good to include a way for people to learn more about your company, and it’s fine to include an About button on your top nav. But it’s not necessary to make that button prominent or to put it in the middle of a high-engagement area of your header. About pages tend not to be as high-priority for the customer.

We suggest asking your performance marketing agency about the most active areas of your header. Place action-oriented buttons there, so people keep moving through your sales funnel. You don’t have to exclude personal information or company histories, but your content marketing approach should be customer-centered rather than company-centered on every page of your website.

Minimize Dropdowns

You don’t want multiple levels of drop-downs from a top nav. One level focusing on your highest-value services is recommended. Sub-levels clutter up your site and tend to be more difficult for mobile users to see, navigate, and engage with.

Since mobile-first design is a ranking factor, it’s in the best interest of your search engine optimization (SEO) to keep the top navigation/header area clear and simple.

Confirm the Top Nav Isn’t Slowing Down Your Site

Page speed is a long-standing ranking factor for SEO. Once you’ve designed your header, confirm that any new or restructured elements aren’t slowing pages down or causing functionality issues.

Be sure all links work and land on working pages and that any images are optimized to load as quickly and smoothly as possible. Design a header and top nav that add to the user experience, not to page load times.

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