There are many opportunities for navigation links that go ignored while some of the most recent creative ideas I've seen are with navigation and information architecture solutions. I'm all for jazzing them up for search engines and user experience. Try these:
1. Add an action word to your navigation labels. "Meet [name of company]" instead of "About us", "View Sales", "Send us Feedback", "How to get Gift Cards", "Quick Look Sitemap", "How to be Affiliates", "Download Catalog", "Order Free Brochure", etc. Most sites have one word links. We no longer have to squish in content under 800 pixels. Be yourself. There's room.
2. Add identifiers for search and memory jogs for people. "About [brand name]", "[Brand]Customer Service", "Request [company name] Catalog", "[Company name] Vacation Search', " etc.
3. Add incentives and motivators for embedded text links. "Book your [brand name] dream vacation now", "We love your curves. Plus sizes all 50% off until February 28", "…our most extensive list of luxury properties ever", "and for you Gemini, twin mountain bikes for you and your exercise buddy" (I can dream, can't I?) The goal here is to try different keywords and experiment with emotional motivators for persuasive design.
4. Use your data! Information architecture sounds scary and it can be if you run a manufacturing, pharmaceutical, real estate and department store web site. Category names are wrestled with taxonomies and those terms may bang heads with keywords. Use your data. Get more data. What do your visitors call things and where do they go to get them on your site, for your industry? Don't copy anybody. Your IA is specific to your stuff. What works for one company may not work for yours.
5. Communicating taxonomies can be done in clever ways and combined with calls to action. There are some updated ideas such as this example from American Eagle that shows the menu breakdown with a promotional item.
6. Generic terms aren't helpful. Choose your link labels for relevancy, recall, rank, precise results, accurate query processing, and fast search response both on a site and in search engines. You'll see fashion sites with links to "men" and "women". Just once I'd like to them branch out to "aliens" or some other living thing without much of a gender, like worms.
What have you seen or tried?
Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, search engine optimization and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, and persuasive design. Human Factors and Usability and how it blends with Search Engine Optimization have been her passion for over a dozen years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998 and was a self-employed usability and search engine marketing consultant for Cre8pc.com since 1996. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability and persuasive design in her role as Usability and User Interface Analyst.