Where you link to your navigation menus impacts page views per visitor, SEO rankings, and user experience. Accordingly, it’s an important website structure element.
I’ll cut to the chase. I use navigation menus for both SEO purposes and user experience. While I’m not 100% successful at it, I do strive to structure navigation so that visitors can access each article in 3 to 4 clicks.
This gets more difficult with more content, but once or twice a year I take stock of all new articles and do some navigation restructuring to reflect that new content.
Where should you place menus?
For my biggest niche site, I place one menu at the top of the site (horizontal orientation) and I also place a menu for all categories in the sidebar.
I do a separate category menu in the sidebar because my top navigation menu is carefully crafted to link to content I want to rank in Google which also serves as excellent navigation for visitors. I have some custom category pages that feature the more popular/important articles on my site so visitors can find them quickly.
If your site is relatively new, it might be best to merely link to categories in a top menu and leave it at that. That’s what I do with newer sites. Once I have quite a bit of content (several content clusters) and traffic is flowing nicely (3,000 visitors per day plus) I put my mind to creating custom category pages and linking to those in the top menu.
Where to link to your menus?
This is an evolving process as you publish more content. Once or twice a year I review my navigation and tweak it to reflect new content.
My#l focus with the top menu is to help visitors find what they’re looking for. Sometimes it’s a category page but sometimes it’s cornerstone content that then links out to other good content. Basically, it’s a combination of both.
If you don’t have links to all of your categories in the top menu, be sure to add links to those categories somewhere on your site. IMO it’s good practice to have links to your category pages which then link to your posts.
How many links to have in my top menu?
For my biggest niche site, I have 9 primary links. The next point is important – I do not like top menus to extend into a second row. I ensure that it only takes up one row. I suggest you do the same.
Some of those primary links are drop-down menus that link out to related articles within that topic. However, please check out the CAUTION section below regarding drop-down menus.
My drop-down menus link out to an additional 19 pages.
That’s a total of 28 links in the top menu. That’s quite a bit but keep in mind that the site has 3,800 published articles. My smaller sites don’t have anywhere near 28 links (but they will as they grow).
Mobile version considerations
I strongly recommend that whenever you make changes to your site you check it out on mobile. Menu navigation is no exception.
Most Word Press themes provide a mobile version. If yours doesn’t get a theme that does.
I’ve also found that themes with a mobile version usually do a nice job with a mobile menu (i.e. the hamburger icon top right or left of the mobile version).
I typically don’t create a separate mobile menu. I use the same menu structure on mobile as I have on the desktop.
Should you use mega menus?
I use MyThemeShop’s mega menus on my smaller sites but not on my biggest niche site. On my biggest niche site, I simply use drop-downs (but they don’t drop down far to avoid encroaching on ads).
That said, I think mega menus can be a terrific navigation feature so if you want to take the time to set it up, by all means, do so. They’re designed to efficiently link to many URLs in less space. They can be very user-friendly.
If you use Google ads for monetization, ensure your menus do not drop down over any ads. This is a Google Ad violation because it can result in accidental clicks on ads.