Filters and faceted navigation are the shopper’s dream come true. You select the criteria and get matching products. Unfortunately, when it comes to eCommerce or website SEO, filters and faceted navigation can cause significant SEO problems.
In this article, we’ll show you how to fix filters and faceted navigation issues so your customers stay happy and your SEO works like a charm!
When a searcher lands on an eCommerce website with thousands of products, they turn to the left sidebar.
They select all the relevant filters that apply:
The problem is that the URL is unique, but the content won’t be.
Filters are fantastic for user experience. Instead of wading through thousands of products, visitors get what they need in a few clicks (or less).
However, faceted navigation creates millions of different URL combinations. In turn, your SEO starts suffering because of...
In our example, we searched for a women’s synthetic jacket in size S and regular fit. This generated one URL.
What would’ve happened if we searched for a women’s synthetic jacket in size M and regular fit?
We’d get the same products and nearly identical results. Faceted navigation creates many similar pages on different URLs, causing duplicate content issues and potential cannibalization.
Even more importantly, faceted navigation creates millions and billions of pages Google needs to crawl.
If you have pages that you need SEO traffic, these faceted pages subtract from it, slowing down Google from indexing your key pages.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between UX-friendly filters and good SEO.
If you don’t have a big website or an eCommerce store with thousands of products, use the canonical tag to syndicate different URLs faceted navigation creates and point them to a specific page you want to rank.
For example, if this was your faceted URL:
You can point it to the category page, so your canonical tag looks something like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="hikinggear.com/jackets/patagonia/women" />
Note: Monitor the number of crawled URLs and errors. If Google isn’t honoring your canonical tags (it doesn’t have to), try the following method.
The best way to ensure Google doesn’t (accidentally) crawl your faceted pages is to disallow them in the robots.txt file.
Add a new disallow rule to the file. For example:
Or, depending on your faceted URL structure:
Keep in mind that you should have a clear (sub)category URL structure, so you can prevent the crawl for multiple faceted options.
(But be careful - you don’t want to noindex the main page!)
If Google is insistent on crawling your websites or you don’t see a faceted URL ever being able to generate good SEO traffic, add a meta robots tag in your faceted URL header.
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
Or, add the “ X-Robots-Tag: noindex “ to your faceted URL HTTP headers.
If you previously created crawl blocks, remove them. Otherwise, Google won’t heed your noindexing instructions.
If you’re lucky to be structuring a new website or completely overhauling it, you can prevent faceted navigation SEO issues.
If you implement AJAX faceted navigation, your page won’t reload for visitors when they apply new filters and you can prevent internal links.
Your next step will be to avoid adding internal links (“a href” links). They’re the ones that point Google to your faceted pages when it crawls your site, resulting in a bloated index and crawl budget running dry.
Since your page won’t reload, there is a chance that the URLs won’t be unique.
When a visitor decides to share the page or bookmark it, they might just be directed to the main category page.
Use URL parameters or hashes, so visitors can still access the unique - filtered - page. Since Google ignores the content after the hash (#), your SEO will be safe and your customers happy.
Finally, there are some faceted pages you want to index.
For example, let’s say you’ve got a really popular product - blue suede shoes within the shoe category. Every Elvis lover is going to search for these as a specific keyword, as opposed to just searching for “suede shoes.”
If your faceted page gets a good search volume and it makes sense to compete with it, turn it into a landing page.
Don’t leave this page type in the (sub)category page. Instead, create a unique eCommerce page with unique content:
- Specific product description mentioning the keyword
- Specific testimonials
- Specific FAQs
Don’t let the URL stay faceted:
Instead, create a unique URL:
Don’t harm your user experience just because you’re dealing with a faceted navigation problem.
Instead, use the simple methods above to fix your indexing and crawling issues while maintaining a perfect experience for all your customers!
- Use the right canonical tag
- Disallow faceted URLs in the robots.txt
- Noindex faceted pages
- Long-term solution: implement AJAX navigation & prevent internal links
- Bonus: is your faceted page getting traffic? Turn it into a unique page with a unique URL.