When it comes to enhancing the user experience and online visibility of a marketplace platform, there is one key aspect that can’t be overlooked: faceted search. Faceted search or faceted navigation allows users to refine their search results based on specific criteria.
These could be anything from price, brand, colour, size, or ratings. In doing so, it helps users navigate through product listings, making their search easier, more precise, and ultimately more seamless.
However, while faceted search is a useful tool for users, it can also pose certain challenges, particularly for marketplace SEO. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of faceted search, its advantages and disadvantages, and how to optimally implement it in your marketplace for improved user experience and SEO.
What is faceted search?
At its most basic, faceted search refers to a search methodology that allows users to apply filters to search results. This method of browsing allows users to narrow down the items they are viewing based on various dimensions, known as facets.
Imagine a clothing marketplace with thousands of items. Without faceted search, a user looking for a “red medium-sized t-shirt” would have to sift through countless irrelevant products. But with faceted search, they can easily filter the products based on colour, size, and type, finding the desired product quickly.
However, while the improved user experience is undeniable, there’s more to faceted search than meets the eye, particularly when considering the SEO implications.
Faceted navigation SEO
On the surface, each filter selected in a faceted search generates a unique URL that captures the specific selections made. While this aids in precise product filtering, it also leads to the creation of a large number of unique URLs, contributing to what’s called ‘index bloat’.
Search engines like Google, when crawling a website, may need to sift through these numerous faceted navigation pages rather than focusing on the core pages that improve ranking potential. This proliferation of URLs can dilute the SEO value across the site and pose a challenge for search engines.
This is why SEO professionals typically use canonical tags and nofollow directives on faceted URLs. This strategy informs the search engines that these dynamically generated URLs should not be considered unique pages for indexing purposes, thereby reducing the risk of creating duplicate content issues and wasted crawl budget.
Striking the right balance
The question then becomes: can we strike a balance between the user experience benefits of faceted search and its SEO challenges? The key lies in smart implementation and careful management. Here are some strategies and faceted navigation best practices to consider:
Avoid overlapping categories and filters
One cardinal rule in faceted search implementation is to avoid overlap between categories and filters. This means that if you have a “For Him” category, you should avoid having a “Gender” filter with a “For Him” option, unless they point to the same URL. Overlapping categories and filters could lead to duplicate content issues, which can be detrimental to SEO.
It’s important to index your faceted search strategically. This can be achieved through keyword research. If your research indicates that there’s a high demand for specific keywords, such as ’50th birthday cards’ or ‘a5 notebooks,’ you might decide to index these specific filters or URLs. This approach can help ensure your indexed pages are aligned with your SEO strategy and keyword opportunities.
Use SEO-friendly URL structures
Your URLs can significantly impact your SEO performance. When it comes to faceted navigation, here are a few recommendations:
- Use hyphens instead of underscores as spaces in parameter variables. Google interprets hyphens as spaces, which can help your SEO.
- Choose either parameters or subfolders and use it consistently.
- Text-based IDs are preferable to numerical ones from an SEO perspective, although it can be more development-intensive
Faceted navigation best practices
Keep user experience front and centre
While managing the SEO implications of faceted search, don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal: improving user experience. The faceted search should be intuitive and easy to use, with clear labels and a clean interface. Also, consider the mobile experience, making sure your facets are easy to use on smaller screens.
Prioritise commonly used facets
Keep the most commonly used facets prominent. This can be determined through user testing or by analysing user behaviour data. Placing these facets at the top can enhance the user experience by providing quick access to the most relevant filters.
Hide unavailable options
If a facet has no available options within the current search context, consider greying it out or hiding it. This can help avoid user frustration when a chosen facet yields no results.
Monitor, audit, and improve
Lastly, as with all aspects of your marketplace, continuous monitoring, auditing, and improvement should be part of your strategy. Regularly check your website’s performance, conduct SEO audits, and stay updated with the latest trends. Seek user feedback and make adjustments based on user behaviour and feedback.
Faceted search, while immensely beneficial for user experience, does pose certain challenges for SEO. However, with careful planning and strategic implementation, it is possible to harness the benefits of faceted search while also maintaining strong SEO performance.
The key lies in understanding the intricacies of faceted search, avoiding common pitfalls like overlapping categories and filters, and employing strategic indexing based on keyword research. Coupled with SEO-friendly URL structures and a user-centred design approach, faceted search can become a powerful tool in your marketplace arsenal.
With continuous monitoring, auditing, and improvement, your faceted search can continue to deliver value to your users, enhancing their experience, and ultimately, driving growth for your marketplace.