Google Adds Breadcrumbs to SERPS – aka ‘Site Hierarchies’

google-logoRecently, I’ve been noticing breadcrumb-style link trails appearing within the SERPs for many queries on Google. Apparently these are called “site hierarchies” and Google think they’ll help people more easily find what they’re looking for in situations where the destination page is too specific.

Here’s an example:

Breadcrumbs in SERPs

Breadcrumbs in SERPs

From a click-through perspective, getting site these hierarchy links could be quite useful as it gives your site three or four extra links on the results page. Clearly, it would be useful to know how Google decides whether to show breadcrumbs and what determines how they are displayed. From an initial look it seems they probably aren’t generated as a result of chomping back through the URL, since all the examples I’ve seen do not have neat hierarchical URL structures like ‘/products/dvds/bladerunner’. This makes it more likely that they are pulled from the page somehow – certainly the link text in the site hierarchy seems to match up with the link text within the site navigation. This raises the question of how Google pulls the breadcrumbs out of the HTML. In some of the examples I’ve seen the site navigation has been marked up on page with class=”breadcrumbs” or something but this certainly isn’t always the case. Maybe Google are looking for links next to typical separator characters like ‘>’ or the raquo.

Anyway, I can’t say I’ve actually clicked on any of these breadcrumb links yet, so for now, perhaps, I’ll reserve judgement on how useful they are from a user point of view!