Matt Cutts: If You Have Multiple Breadcrumbs, Google Picks the First One

Matt Cutts

The latest Google Webmaster Help video deals with a topic that comes up periodically: breadcrumbs. How should you handle your breadcrumb navigation if a product or an article belongs in multiple categories and you would like the user to easily go up to the category view for all categories it may be placed in, via a breadcrumb structure?

Many of my items belong to multiple categories on my eCommerce site. Can I place multiple breadcrumbs on a page? Do they confuse Googlebot? Do you properly understand the logical site structure of my site?

“If you do breadcrumbs, we will currently pick the first one,” says Matt Cutts. “So I would try to get things in the right category or hierarchy as much as you can.”

This is actually the first time Google has stated that it chooses the first breadcrumb. In their current breadcrumb documentation for rich snippets, it simply states “Pages can have more than one breadcrumb trail.” There is no mention about Google currently using the first one and not using the rest of the breadcrumbs.

"If an item does belong to multiple areas within your hierarchy, it is possible to go ahead and have multiple breadcrumbs on the page, and that can, in some circumstances, help Googlebot understand a little bit more about the site," Cutts said. "Don’t worry about it if it only fits in one, or you've only got breadcrumbs for one, that’s the way most people do it, that’s the normal way to do it, and we encourage it."

However, just because a page on your site could technically belong within multiple categories, he does say webmasters don’t need to have multiple categories as part of your breadcrumb hierarchy on a page.

"If you do have the taxonomy, the category, the hierarchy and it’s already there and it’s not like 20 different spots within your categories, if it’s in a few spots, two or three or four, it doesn’t hurt to have those other breadcrumbs on the page, and then we’ll take the first one, that’s our current behavior, and that we might be able to do a little bit of deeper understanding about the overall structure of your site," Cutts said.

Obviously, take care when you are selecting multiple breadcrumbs for a page, and make sure the most important one is the one must first one listed, since Google will only use the first one. And it is best usability practices to have the good breadcrumb structure, to help a visitor navigate around your site, especially if they land on one of your internal pages.