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Is there any precedent or testing of using a breadcrumb list of separate links (and current page text) within an h1 and search engine algorithms?

I'm using nested navigation on a travel site. So imagine a breadcrumb might be:

<a>Great Britain</a><a>London</a><a>Leicester Square</a><b>Photo Gallery</b>

In this instance this would be a descriptive, though perhaps dubious in density, header. In the end I went a different path but I would be interested to hear if this would be acceptable. Disregarding the content of my example, would such a header be acceptable to web crawlers. I guess it's safe to assume it's not valid xhtml.

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How would the h1 be used in the breadcrumbs? h1 is for page titles (on the page, not the title element) so if the breadcrumbs is not going to be your page title then you're using it improperly. Being breadcrumbs are for navigation and not content I don't see this being a good idea. – John Conde Apr 11 '11 at 20:01
Hi John. Have edited my answer. – mark Apr 12 '11 at 9:13
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you want to optimize your breadcrumbs for SEO use semantic markup or microformats

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I would say no. The semantic meaning of headers, H1 especially, doesn't really lend itself to breadcrumb navigation at all. I'm not sure how strictly search engines adhere to this, but having that many terms in your heading would look awfully spammy.

I'd say keeping it in a standard [un]ordered list would be best, or even wrapping it in a nav element (which is new to HTML5), which search engines should pick up just fine.

It'd be an interesting experiment to try on a test site, though...

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