Faceted Navigation Best Practices
Faceted navigation is a popular practice among UX designers. It helps users find the necessary products or services faster. However, it might end up with some SEO complications. Most of them are known, so you can omit them when creating a website that is both user-friendly and SEO-friendly.
You've definitely seen faceted navigation here or there. Remember filtering your search results by price, availability, size, etc.? That's the faceted filter. It eases each customer’s life and offers an effective way to specify the request.
However, even though such faceted searching is a blessing for many users, it can cause problems with SEO navigation if not properly used. Let's check the issues you might face with faceted navigation implementation.
Table of Contents
What does faceted navigation do? It is a navigation tool you find on category website pages that help deal with listings. They have more attributes than classic filters, but many call them filters. It's not a mistake, but these two are a bit different.
You've seen those on websites that offer products or services. For example, you've seen those on:
- job search websites where you can pick niches, payment options, country, etc.,
- fashion websites where you can pick styles, prices, colors, etc.,
- travel websites where you can pick the destination, place to stay, desirable price, etc.
Many websites from different niches use this approach to be more user-friendly.
How does faceted navigation work? Faceted navigation creates a unique URL for each filtered search that happened on the website. So, if you don't create a separate page for every filtered attribute or any possible combination, the faceted navigation creates it for you. This results in running duplicated content that can overlap other meaningful content.
As the website grows, so does the number of duplicate pages. The links might be connected to various duplicated pages. This reduces the value of links and limits page ranking opportunities.
It also increases the likelihood of keyword cannibalization. Multiple pages try to rank for the same keywords, resulting in less stable and lower rankings. This problem could be avoided if each keyword targeted only a single page.
There are several proven ways to solve SEO issues caused by faceted navigation.
Faceted navigation is not the most Google-friendly tool. And if done wrong, or better to be said, unconsciously, it can lead to several issues, for instance, the multiple versions of one page. There are specific issues that SEO strategy experiences because of the faceted navigation.
Problem 1. Duplicated Content
Multiple versions of the same web page are on your website. This means that you basically have several pages with the same content. Don't worry, facets don't really change the content of the pages. It happens very rarely. Facets can change the content order (products order) but not its meaning.
Problem 2. Diluted Link Equity
The internal link will be split into multiple URLs. There can be hundreds of links instead of one page. This is not a good practice because instead of a single page benefiting from all of its links, some of these links lead to duplication.
Problem 3. Crawl Waste
The users have a chance to miss the pages that might be valuable for them since Google duplicates other pages.
Problem 4. Crawl Traps
Faceted navigation can generate unlimited combinations of your primary URLs. This is a crawl trap because bots literally cover these URLs.
In fact, these are so reliable that if you use a ready-made search integration or e-commerce platform, the best methods can be built into the system.
But what if you want to customize the development to integrate an existing system or create a new one? Let's see how you can omit faceted navigation SEO issues.
Example 1. Run a Crawl
In some cases, when duplicate content is created, the search engine loads it as copied content and refuses to index it. This creates bloating on your site and scans your organic presence without any help. This reduces the authority of the page you need to crawl. The first step in solving this problem on e-commerce sites is to search for it.
One of the signs that there might be a problem with duplicate content is the unstable indexing rate in the Google Search Console. If the number of indexed pages exceeds the number of crawled pages, particularly for your site, there is a problem that is potentially to blame for links and duplicate content. If so, the faceted navigation should be one of your first complaints.
You can run any favorite crawling tool to check for an issue, like DeepCrawl or any other you prefer. Such software will show you the duplicated pages and errors to set URL parameters.
Example 2. Are Pages Indexable?
We have only identified why this is the problem when Google crawls but does not index the content. There is another issue when Google scans and then indexes duplicated pages. This creates terrible search conditions for the user and ultimately affects the credibility of your site.
You can check it simply by searching for any pages in your niche. If you end up with a long list of indexed pages, then you can be sure that there is a problem. You can also find just some of the URLs that were generated by your search and Google. If they appear in the search results, they are indexed.
Example 3. Canonical Tags
If you have a problem, check the best practices to find the right way to solve your issue. First of all, check the canonical tag of the website. Each URL must be configured on an e-commerce website with a structured fixed search page. In this case, the priority version will be the e-commerce category page where the search began.
Example 4. URLs
A filtered search will usually create a dynamically generated URL. But using the sort feature will generate a URL that tells a story. URLs like this often include file paths to directories, indicating the page's position in the site architecture. They can be encoded with a language that helps search engines interpret what's happening on the new page.
Example 5. Think About the Users
Don't forget to walk a mile in your customers' shoes! This is one of the things that you should always remember. Ask yourself questions like “What will be the best for customers? Is it convenient for them to use my website?” Don't delete pages that people are actually looking for during your work with best practices. It can seriously affect e-commerce sales.
Faceted navigation is one of the toughest SEO challenges. Do not rush to implement it so that later you do not have to fix errors after the creation of the site. Plan ahead, analyze your choices, and think like a search engine.
When you face a situation where one of your faceted attributes has a large search volume or can be further filtered out, consider whether it belongs to a static landing page. You should make the appropriate changes to the situation. Also, adjust the fixed navigation to make the user’s life easier. Add breadcrumbs to each page so that users can quickly return to where they were before. Double-check speed and performance twice. Check out mobile features and views. And don't let users choose filters that don't actually return a product.
Permanently check your faceted navigation. Both users and search engines will be satisfied if you solve all faceted filter issues after spotting them. If you feel that you need help with SEO navigation, you can always write to us, and we will help you with your digital promotion.