I've always had my doubts about navigation menus effect on SEO. You know, the vertical menus on the top that show in every page in the site linking to main sections and subsections.

My issue is that if not done dynamically (i.e. after page is loaded or something), from a search engine's point of view it probably looks like a whole bunch of links in the beginning of the page, and links that probably have nothing to do with the page being analyzed, so it's probably not only confusing it, but also giving link 'juice' to the wrong pages or reducing its value.

When I've asked SEO people about this, I usually get a "Google is smart, they'll recognize it as a menu and ignore it" response, but I'm not convinced (and the 'Google is smart' argument sounds almost like religion discussion to me).

So does it affect SEO negatively or not? Are there any official posts on this topic?

  • Developers here and elsewhere (including myself) say they have done this with no negative effects. However, if you're extra concerned, put the links in divs at the end and use js to attach them onmouseover where appropriate.. then at least more of your relevant links will be ahead of them in the source code. Jun 5, 2012 at 19:37
  • I've been tempted, but guess there's no need. I'm still not convinced but guess if the consensus is that it's not a problem, then I'll go with the flow.
    – Rodolfo
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:05
  • Quit designing websites for robots and pay attention to designing them for humans. Any search engine that doesn't understand this rates pretty low on the radar. Google/Bing both understand natural language and click flow paths and the need for them. May 13, 2013 at 14:47

7 Answers 7


Here's a very through discussion on the topic from back in 08, of course by now Google is a completely different animal.

Firstly a very large percentage of the web would have a problem if they were being negatively affected by having drop down menu's, content rollups (look at the right of this page) and fat footers.

Secondly Google has to use navigation aids to index a website, how would the bot get around otherwise? You can't rely 100% on a sitemap being present.

Thirdly, it isn't about the bot's it's about the users.

Drop down menus and the like being bad for SEO/visually disabled people etc is a myth that's been around since the 90's. If the menu is built right and the links exist in the page source and are not #'d then a bot can spider it.

It's generally accepted practice to stay under 100 links on a page, unless the page requires it, but beyond that you needn't worry too much.


And here's a post from Google's own Matt Cutts confirming the above is true

And here's a diagram showing the number of links on the homepage of the top 98 or so websites from 2009.

enter image description here

  • thanks. But my concern is that, in every page in the site, the search engine will find a whole bunch of links with anchor text that don't have anything to do with the current page. You're in the page for 'shoes' and the first links in the site point to 'shirts', 'pants', 'skirts', 'coats', 'shoes'. Sort of suggesting that the page the engine just read has anything to do with those words, which is false.
    – Rodolfo
    Jun 5, 2012 at 15:42
  • 1
    @Rodolfo this is true, but it's also natural. Any website which sells clothing would likely also contain links to the other items you mention - the overall number of links may be an issue but their theme isn't. If your website was mostly relevant to shoes, for example, but also contained pages about friutflys then there may be cause for concern - but not in the case you identify. Jun 5, 2012 at 15:53
  • I guess. Still not convinced but guess without an official post on this matter, I'll just follow the consensus
    – Rodolfo
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:07
  • Yes I had already read that post, but it's not really what I'm concerned about. That's about # of links in a page, but my concern is more of the effect of the menu links that are unrelated to the page and present in all the pages in the site. Even if it's only 50 links, it's still 50 links that don't depend on the page in question.
    – Rodolfo
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:26
  • @Rodolfo well, there isn't much more I can say then. Jun 5, 2012 at 21:31

As long as those links are internal to your website, Google should not weight them negatively. I've managed dozens of sites with this kind of setup and no problems.


Do the links dominate the total profile of your page? Overall Google would determine the page is about 'shoes' based on

  • Your title and meta tags
  • Your header tags
  • Your content
  • Links to the page within the site
  • Links to the page from external sites

So if even with all of the above, the navigation links dominate, then the issue is more about information architecture than just the page or the navigation.

The navigation should help your visitors navigate. So, if your analytics shows that once visitors are in 'shoes', they really don't want to go to 'shirts', then 'shirts' need not be there at all.


Note: this should be a comment, but I cannot comment yet

The only "negative" effects I can think of are:

  • You will be spreading PR(or link juice) over many pages instead of a few selected ones, especially if you have the same menu over the whole site, you could have some problems in directing the juice where you'd like
  • The site-links that might show up in the SERP could contain unrelated pages. This is easily fixable though, as you can tell Google if you don't want a page showing up there

For the rest I agree with toomanyairmiles.


Certain items are bound to same in every page. For example in website of Microsoft company every page has the company name as Microsoft.

In name of not having duplicate content is that wise in one page company name is Microsoft and in other page that is Ficrosoft, and in other page that is Hicrosoft.


I guess if the menu is always the same and repeated in the whole site Google will understand it is a navigation menu so link will be treated differently as the content links. Same for footer and side bars.

That said, probably the menu links will provide information to google about your most important keywords in your entire site.

So, if your page is about shoes and your menu links are summer colection, jeans, sweaters, etc... Google will treat those links as Site Information more than Content Information

  • Welcome to Stack and thank you for contributing. Since this is a very old question with lots of previous answers, it would improve your answer if you could add supporting evidence.
    – Trebor
    Feb 23, 2023 at 17:28

For completeness, a more upto date answer is that you should use the nav tag to inform the browsers of your menu. I think the browsers started to support this in 2010.

Definition from developer.mozilla

<nav>: The Navigation Section element

The <nav> HTML element represents a section of a page whose purpose is to provide navigation links, either within the current document or to other documents. Common examples of navigation sections are menus, tables of contents, and indexes.

Usage from developer.mozilla

<nav class="crumbs">
        <li class="crumb"><a href="#">Bikes</a></li>
        <li class="crumb"><a href="#">BMX</a></li>
        <li class="crumb">Jump Bike 3000</li>

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