Why Faceted Navigation Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing for SEO – Here’s Why #181

Faceted navigation is great for users on an ecommerce site, but it can cause thin content pages to multiply like rabbits.

In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains what can go wrong with faceted navigation and SEO and how to prevent those problems.



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Transcript

Mark: Eric, let’s start with a definition of faceted navigation.
 
Eric: Sure. A typical ecommerce site has thousands or even millions of products. Faceted navigation allows users to filter by various categories.

So, for example, if you’re selling running shoes, you could let users filter their searches by things like size, colors, price range, cushioning, etc. Usually, you can use these filters to narrow down your search even further; for example, showing only size nine shoes that are red.
 
Mark: It sounds very useful for users. So how can it cause SEO problems?
 
Eric: Well, in too many implementations of faceted navigation, each possible combination of the filters create what search engines view as a unique page. Here’s an example from the Zappos men’s running shoes category.

An example of implementation of faceted navigation from the Zappos men's running shoes category.

The numbers in the middle represent the number of pages for each category. So 13 possible sizes, 8 widths, and so on. If you multiple all these possibilities together, it results in more than 900,000 pages.

On large e-commerce sites, faceted navigation can create thousands of near-duplicate pages that can cause SEO headaches. Click To Tweet
 
Mark: Wow.
 
Eric: Now, in reality, Zappos probably filters out all the possibilities for which there are no pages or no products. And maybe there are no red shoes in size eight, for example, that have extra cushioning, but even after such filtering, they’re still left with a huge number of possible pages.

So from an SEO perspective, the problem is that a lot of those pages probably show only a few products and maybe even only one or two, which makes your site look like it has lots of thin content. And that can cause your site to rank lower on Google.
 
Mark: Can you provide some guidelines on how to avoid that problem?
 
Eric: Sure. First of all, you should start with two basic rules. First, don’t index faceted navigation pages with less than X products where X is some number greater than one and probably greater than two. And second, don’t index faceted navigation pages with less than Y search volume where Y is a number you arrive at after some level of testing.
 
Mark: Okay, but what numbers should you use for X and Y in those rules?
 
Eric: I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all set of numbers for that. I think the best method to determine your ideal numbers is through testing.

So start by blocking indexing on pages below some number of products and search volume. Then gradually, over time, decrease or increase those numbers as appropriate and watch your search metrics. With that method, you can stop before you reach a level where you start drastically hurting your site’s traffic.
 
Mark: Thanks, Eric.

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Source: Marketing Blogs
Why Faceted Navigation Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing for SEO – Here’s Why #181