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The site is http://www.centralsaddlery.co.uk

We have other issues which we are tackling in terms of content etc but the question I have is: "Is my main navigation hurting us in SEO?" Its a lot of links and it's on a lot of pages. If so - what is a way to get google to ignore links below the top level. I had thought google would see that the links are hidden by default and only shown on hover but I can't verify this at all.

We absolutely want to keep the menu, our customers like it and so do we - we think it is pretty usable as we have a lot of products to look at.

Any advice is appreciated (and any tips for any part of the SEO are welcome too)

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4 Answers 4

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I will answer my own question as enough time and testing has now been done to give a correct answer. The answer is "Yes" it currently does hurt my SEO, however it doesn't have to. Let me explain.

At the moment the navigation includes many links which, though thematically connected in a hierarchy, are effectively seen as separate pages by google which stand alone. The combination of many links along with no thematic hierarchy or structure is causing a problem as it is massively diluting the themes of each section of the site.

Two ways to fix this exist (and both should probably be done). First the URLs need to be fixed so they include a directory style hierarchy as you get deeper into the content. Secondly, everything that is not a top tier category should not be indexed on every page as this dilutes googles attempt to correctly understand the themes of the site, by only linking to a top level category we begin to create content silos which will improve SEO greatly. To hide them it seems best to use JavaScript to avoid any misuse of nofollow (note this very last statement is an echo of many opinions I have heard that I cannot substantiate but don't wish to take a risk on).

This referential structure actually extends to all linking in the site but this is by far the worst offender. I hope this helps anyone else with a similar problem - if you want to understand this conclusion more I recommend reading into content siloing as it is an often misunderstood concept in SEO.

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The quick and easy solution is links to not load from the beginning on every page - trust if they load on request (when specific menu item is chosen) will be better. You can put all links structure in JavaScript and to load on the current (selected) ul object the needed links only - in this way Google will not be able to crawl links that not existing on page - it will crawl only main navigation as you wish.

You can use onmouseover event on the main navigation items which to load needed sub category content.

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A quick answer is: No, it does not hurt you (see answers like this: Does Google still recommend 100 links or fewer per page? ).

Some sites with huge dropdown navs outsource the navigation to javascript and an external library, to keep the main HTML page smaller (and probably, but not necessarily the links from being recognized by the Google bot), but your's is more semantic and accessible.

As your navigation is on many pages and easily recognized as navigation (class names, naming conventions, structure etc) it won't harm either. Coming HTML5 nav element will make navigation even more recognizable.

I would run experiments on your most important pages or hub pages to look if everything is in the index as you intend it. If it is, the bot did not stop at some point and fine. The second experiment would be if you can, with onsite optimization, give intended pages more weight than others. Then, again, everything is ok.

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I think you can use rel="nofollow" on the links. According to google using this it will not transfer your page ranks. Eg:

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Source http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=96569

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Would that not make more sense in our robots.txt file, that is what we have at the moment –  Callum Rexter Nov 19 '12 at 10:56
    
I will correct myself now after a bit of time and testing, yes rel="nofollow" is a good option, whereas robots.txt would ask google not to index the pages at all, my mistake. I don't think this is the best way to do it but it is not incorrect so thank you. –  Callum Rexter Jan 14 '13 at 0:53

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