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I'm trying to understand what is best practice for rendering large quantity of navigation links.

If a site has 100+ categories in a menu system each containing a link to the category (placed within a HTML5 nav tag), would this be considered optimal for SEO purposes even though it could extend the total links per page beyond 200?

I've noticed some sites loading the category menu via Ajax, with just the top level categories loaded within the main HTML. The top level category pages then link to their sub-categories, so the whole structure is still there and all pages are stated within the sitemap; just not spammed on every page.

Does anyone have any experience on which method is more effective?

I guess I'm worried that the odd one or two links within the main content start to lose their importance, even though they would be the most important links on the page.

  • Google renders AJAX now. You'd have to be careful about the implementation. You'd either have to use robots.txt for the AJAX URL or load the AJAX well after the page rendered. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 2 '18 at 10:37
  • @StephenOstermiller I still want the category pages followed and indexed, I'm concerned about 100+ boilerplate links on every page and it not giving the correct weighting for the main non-category pages. But as you say, it sounds like both methods could be equal if they can read links being inserted from an AJAX call. – Radderz Oct 2 '18 at 11:02
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best practice for rendering large quantity of navigation links

Very deep question.

The best case in my experience is:

  • you have in your navigation 20 of 100 categories as normal, href-links. These categories are the best viewed, or the most selling, or with the best revenue, or with the best organic traffic, dependently on the kind of your website.
  • other 80 from 100 categories are also represented in the main navigational menu, but not as normal, href-links, but masked through an approach like simple button, or base64 coding, or Post-Redirect-Get.

It is not always possible to put this solution clearly into practice. But it worth to endeavor to.

This kind of doing should be accompanied by according de-indexing practice. I mean, categories you mask in the main menu should be better deindexed.

With these two measures you achieve a strong SEO-oriented indexable and crawlable/interlinked site structure.

Your visitors will find at Google only the best categories. But after coming to the site, they find all of your categories and products, not dependently on the kind of menu linkage and indexing rules.

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You can probably structure your menu with the creation of super categories. For example: Spare parts for cars

  • spare parts for motor

    => spare parts of the fuel system 
    => spare parts of braking system
    

The Google Strongly Recommends Using HTML to Get Content Indexed Quickly informs us:

Google’s John Mueller says content needs to be in HTML in order for it to be indexed quickly. Rendering JavaScript-powered web pages takes processing power and memory, and Googlebot does not have infinite resources. When a page has JavaScript in it, the rendering is deferred until Googlebot has the resources ready to render the client-side content. So Googlebot might index a page before rendering is complete, then it will take some time to complete the rendering. When the final render does arrive Google will perform a second wave of indexing on the client-side rendered content.

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