This is a continuation of a series of website marketing checklists. Check out all Web Marketing Checklists in this series.

What this is about: This list covers issues related to a site's primary and secondary navigation menus, their effectiveness and how they are implemented from both a search engine and user perspective.

Why this is important: A strong, user-friendly and search engine friendly navigation is essential in helping people and bots through your site. You visitors need to find information quickly with minimal hunting and the search engines need to be able to follow the navigation to reach all site pages with the fewest number of jumps (clicks) necessary. If the navigation is broken or doesn't get people (or search engines) where they need to go, the performance of a site will suffer.


What to look for:

  • Located top or top-left: Typically primary navigation is found along the top header and/or down the left side of the page (except blogs which typically falls on the right.) Be consistent with convention.
  • Consistent throughout site: Don't move or change the navigation from page to page. Be consistent in its implementation.
  • Links to Home page: Make sure you have a link to your home page in an obvious location near the top-left.
  • Links to Contact Us page: Keep an obvious link to a Contact Us page in a consistent location.
  • Links to About Us page: Make sure site has and links to an About Us page.
  • Simple to use: Navigation should not require much thought to use. Use headings that are easily identifiable and understandable links.
  • Indicates current page: Through breadcrumbs or other means, make sure current page is easily identified in the navigation.
  • Links to all main sections: Main navigation should contain links to all of site's primary areas.
  • Proper categorical divisions: If navigation is robust, divide into sensible categories.
  • Non-clickable is obvious: Make sure non-clickable category headings don't look like the clickable navigation links.
  • Accurate description text: Link text should adequately describe the destination page.
  • Links to Login: If site has a login area, login link should be readily available in an obvious spot.
  • Provides Logout link: Once logged in, a logout link should be readily available in an obvious spot.
  • Uses Alt attribute in images: Any image-based navigation elements must use image alt text.
  • No pop-up windows: Don't use pop-up windows. Please.
  • No new window links: Navigation links should not open into new windows or tabs.
  • Do not rely on rollovers: Don't rely on mouse-over changes to indicate a link is a link. Should be obvious without mousing over.
  • Avoid cascading menus: Avoid complicated fly-out menus that go several levels deep.
  • Keep scent from page to page: There should be a natural progression from page to page, even if multiple paths are used to reach a destination.
  • Targets expert and novice users: Navigation should be workable for newbies just as well as for those who have more experience with your industry.
  • Absolute links: Always use absolute links in navigation.


Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Thank you for this post. My website already follows some of these guidelines. However, I am thinking of re-doing it soon and will definitely use this blog as a reference.! If there is another piece of advice I can add, it is to keep your website simple. Divide it into 3 or 4 MAJOR (Videos, Blogs, News) sections and then divide those sections into subsections (Comedy, Romance, Horror, etc). Helps people find what they wanna see.

Also, just so you know, if you're reading this, I love to help people out, so if you have any questions about ANYTHING, or need some advice, you can follow me @Garbarrassing on Twitter and ask. I will help you out with whatever I can.

Nice post...and nice title for the post! If a persons site is a "store" the Category Divisions is a must. It makes it easier to read and helps the visitor find what they're looking for sooner therefore staying on your site and not bouncing. It also provides a much better visitor experience which will have them coming back if they like what you have to offer.


Also a few things to add for an ecommerce shop is to make sure your shipping information link is easily accessible and that customer’s shopping cart can be accessed easily.

Stoney, what is your main reason for always using absolute links in navigation?

@ Casey, excellent points. I think I cover both of these when I discuss product pages, but it's a good reminder.

@ Carolyn, a few reasons actually. 1) if you use includes for your navigation (and you should) using absolute links ensures that they work regardless if pages are in the root directory or several folders deep. 2) if you don't have your alternate domain names redirecting properly (and you should) then this will make sure all visitors wind up on the "proper" URL. 3) It ensures that there won't be any screwups for search engine spiders. Not that it's likely with relative links, but with absolute links there is no room for error.

Why do you say 'damn' in virtually all of your posts? It's pretty lame!

@ John First, the title is a play off "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period!". And since these posts are all part of a series it just makes sense that the title reflects that. As you can see, I don't normally use such language in my posts:

I just want to say thanks for making this an easy read. My wife and I have just started a new website and this is very helpfull information.

I have a site that has a list of items which when clicked open a popup displaying details of that item. Is this a bad use of popups? What should I use instead?

Text in pop-ups are either unspiderable to the search engines or create a bad user experienced if they do get indexed in the serach results. Either way, if its good content that you want to be able to drive people to from search results then yes, I'd say it's not a good idea. Other options is to keep the content on the page.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist for Website Navigation