It’s always surprising to see such questions, but not out of the ordinary.
An SEO professional was wondering about breadcrumbs and if they do them in a certain way, will they incur a penalty?
Their question to John was: what if they don’t set the breadcrumb list in the list element, but they set it as normal anchor text, and then they use the breadcrumb list structured data on the page?
Is there a problem with doing this and will they get a penalty or manual action?
John answered that splitting up the breadcrumb pieces and marking some of them up with structured data and some of them with a direct link on the page is usually fine.
When it comes to structured data, Google’s algorithms try to recognize what is visible on the page versus what is just marked up for structured data.
Then they want to make sure that the data is physically visible on the page. Whether the elements are linked or not, this is fine.
John does not believe that the webspam team would watch out for something like this for a manual action, anyway.
The fear of being penalized for marking up breadcrumbs wrong, just totally forget about that.
That’s not something he would worry about.
Instead, he would try and see how breadcrumbs work on your pages, and how you can mark them all up properly.
Test the markup, and see how they look in the search results.
If you are happy with the way that they’re displayed on Google, then that’s perfectly fine.
He also reiterated not to worry about the webspam team taking action on a website for marking up breadcrumbs incorrectly.
This happens at approximately the 39:17 mark in the video.