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Faceted navigation: best practices for SEO

Faceted navigation best practices for SEO

    You probably use it, sometimes without even realizing it, whether on merchant sites or on restaurant or even hotel sites: faceted navigation has become the norm, especially for large websites, equipped with very many pages.

    The term can be scary while it is just a system that makes life easier for the user, helping them narrow down a search using a series of filters allowing them to sort the content.

    While faceted navigation is very popular with users and those who set it up, it can be tricky from an SEO perspective.

Faceted navigation best practices for SEO
Faceted navigation best practices for SEO

What is faceted navigation?

    In detail, faceted navigation is a way of navigating within a website making it possible to find what you are looking for more quickly, by using several filters based on the attributes of the ads.

    Here are some examples of sites on which you encounter this type of filter:

    On these sites, the faceted navigation works by filtering the lists of category pages by their attributes. As we mentioned, the lists will often be product characteristics (size, material, color, etc.), types of jobs or profiles sought (WordPress developer, graphic designer, etc.), or even hotel class, type of flights ...

    After site administrators determine which attributes are relevant to them, the site displays those attributes to the user as a list:

  • When a user selects one or more filters, one of these 4 things will usually happen, depending on the site they're on:
  • The page updates instantly, and reflects the user's selection without page reloading (thanks to JavaScript )
  • The page is reloaded, and displays the content corresponding to the selection (without JavaScript).

    Nothing happens: as long as the user has not validated his choice and clicked on the “Apply” button. On click, if the site uses JavaScript, the page updates itself (and if not, it reloads to apply the filters).

    If the first two options have a similar UX, this is different from the third option, often chosen based on the probability that the user will use more than one filter: if the user is expected to apply several filters, it makes sense not to apply them immediately and to update the lists only after the series of filters has been validated by clicking on an “apply” button.

What happens then? At this point, the URL can:

  • Do nothing: The content updates without changing the URL.
  • Have parameters added, such as "? Color = black & brand = apple".
  • Identify the facets applied by adding a #, for example # color = black.
  • Become a new URL: for example on, choosing the “legal assistance” facet leads to a new page, ending with / legal-assistance

Faceted navigation and SEO

    By improving UX and the importance Google gives to it, faceted navigation is one of the best practices.

    It has many other advantages in SEO, provided it is implemented well: if you do not think before implementing such a method, you also risk seriously damaging your SEO.

    Indeed, faceted navigation, if it is poorly applied, has its share of problems:

Duplicate Content

    We talk about duplicate content when the same or similar content is accessible on several URLs. Filters are notorious for creating URLs with duplicate content, with filter pages being close copies of the original page, but with different listings.

    Duplicate content poses problems, in particular the cannibalization of keywords .

Index bloat

    When search engines index pages on your site that have no search value, it is referred to as a "bloat index".

    We have just seen that faceted navigation can create millions of indexable URLs without unique content, but it can also create variations of pages which do not add value in the index of search engines.

    Take the example of Cdiscount: Would a user search directly in Google for a garden shed of more than 16m², in aluminum, for a price between 10 and 20 €? Obviously no.

    But if your site does refer these kinds of pages, while they do not respond to any search request, and they are of low quality or in this case empty, your referencing will suffer a negative impact.

Gas Waste Budget Crawl

    Google only devotes a limited amount of resources to crawling your site. This is called the exploration budget.

    Some faceted navigation implementations create a crawlable link for each available combination. Without talking about the "bloat index" again, this means that you are potentially generating millions of URLs for Google to crawl, and you need to worry about optimizing your Crawl budget .

Dilution of PageRank

    The PageRank is divided by the total number of links on the page.

    This poses an inherent problem with faceted navigation, as many of them generate many internal links: instead of PageRank being passed to important product (or category) pages, it will be passed to links found in your filters, which won't help improve organic search traffic.

    As you can see, many problems arise with faceted navigation, which nevertheless solves others. Whether you have already implemented this feature on your site, or are about to do so, it is essential to perform an audit to determine what type of faceted navigation will suit you best, to your users, and of course, to Google.

Faceted navigation: best practices for SEO

    So far, we have mostly seen how faceted navigation complicates SEO, if not harmful to it. Fortunately you can use faceted navigation as a way to get more traffic, if you combine it with a long tail keyword strategy.

    Indeed, "faceted" URLs are the ideal way to capture long tail traffic, since facets create more precise versions of your pages.

best practices for SEO
best practices for SEO

Identify keywords and their variations for the long tail

    No need to re-explain how to find and use long tail keywords : you are loyal readers and know that the subject has already been covered in the past on the blog 🙂

Make these pages indexable

    Now you need to make sure that these pages can be crawled and indexed by Google. Depending on the type of faceted navigation you have chosen, there are a number of ways you can do this.

Faceted navigation with internal linking

    If you have set up a faceted navigation which creates internal links to each facet, (which is not the ideal configuration…) you must make sure that these URLs comply with the standard:

  • The canonical tag is self-referential.
  • The noindex tag is removed (if applicable)
  • Any other "disallow" rule in the robots.txt file is removed (or you added an "allow" rule).
  • The " nofollow "  attribute  on internal links is removed (if applicable).

    What you need to do depends on your situation, you just need the search engines to be able to both crawl and index these pages.

Ajax faceted navigation

    If you have opted for an "AJAX" faceted navigation, and therefore without specific internal links, you must create a subcategory page, since the faceted navigation does not generate internal links (and therefore you cannot read it). 'use to create these pages for you).

    Most ecommerce platforms support creating subcategories, but ideally you want the extra functionality to automatically categorize products from subcategories on a filtered version of the parent category, mainly to avoid to have to manage each sub-category manually. This way, you get the benefits of fast page generation like faceted navigation while bypassing SEO complications.

    For example, if you want a sub-category "16m² aluminum garden shed", the ideal would be to inherit the "garden shed" and "aluminum" product lists by only displaying the products that also have the attribute "16m²".

    Here the main complications concern the configurations in which you choose a faceted page which is not subject to indexing and exploration controls by default: technically, “faceted” pages are dynamic, and are not identical to manual creation of a sub-category.

    A custom function would be needed to ensure that on-page optimizations are possible with faceted URLs. Call on a developer if necessary!

Optimize URLs for search

    We end with the obvious, but classic SEO optimizations, such as creating simple and readable URLs, or the care taken with title tags, meta-descriptions and other header tags. Take the opportunity to write unique content, and don't forget to add these URLs to the XML sitemap.

My name is Duc "JOSEF" Le and I work in Digital Marketing at Mageplaza and BlogAvada. Mageplaza offers a comprehensive collection of over 230 extensions that are designed to work seamlessly with the latest versions of Magento 2 (Adobe Commerce). Meanwhile, BlogAvada is a blog that serves as a platform for sharing information related to websites, mobile apps, e-commerce, digital marketing, and other related topics. I encourage you to visit our websites to learn more about what we have to offer.

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