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I'm dealing with a lot of vehicle specific products, and I've been trying to determine whether to convert the variants/fit option into individual products. I currently put the vehicle specific items under a product:

Product: Widget Hood Deflectors Option1: 07-11 Silverado/Sierra, SKU1 Option2: 09-11 Ram, SKU2 etc.

Take a hood/bug deflector for example. They all share the same description, and specifications for the most part. They look very similar, but the shape/appearance could vary significantly depending on the vehicle it is going on.

Another example could be a suspension lift kit. Each one is engineered for a specific vehicle application. What would be the product "Widget Super Duper 4 inch lift kit", or "Widget Jeep 07-11 Super Duper 4 inch lift kit"?

If I converted the variants to a product, then I have a lot more products (some so called products or product lines have hundreds of applications), when no vehicle is selected, but if I require a vehicle to be selected, then the product results would be basically the same, and specific for that vehicle. The description would also be longer:

Product: Widget Silverado/Sierra 07-11 Hood Deflector

With the fit as a variants/option, then I have fewer products, but I could have a huge list of options.

Product: Widget Hood Deflectors Options: Fit/Vehicle

Am I doing things right by having product applications as variants, or am I treating a product line as a product?

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To make this more clear, in my answer Product Line will mean something like "Hood Deflector" and variant means the specific hood deflector for a specific car.

First off you could either make one page for each Product Line or for each variant. Neither is wrong. Each decision is better in specific cases. First off, are there different variants in the same Product Line for the same vehicle (ie different colors, sizes, etc)? This might affect how you do things. Secondly, is your goal to have good SEO so people can find you or will people find your site through another process?

If your goal is to have the best site in regards to SEO and you don't have any really miserable conditions for different variants in the same Product Line for the same vehicle, then I would suggest doing one page per Product line. To do this add a set of drop downs on the page that allow the user to see and confirm their specific variant for their vehicle exists or have a complete list of the variants in alphabetic order that show what the differences are and for what vehicles. These are the pros to doing it this way:

  1. It creates a lot less work for you. If you have 10,000 variants and 100 Product lines, this scenario only requires you to create 100 pages with unique descriptions etc.
  2. For most users this is a much simpler solutions. They don't have to look through hundreds of pages of variants for the specific variant they need. In order to overcome this you would need to include excellent search features in your site and even then some customers won't use search. So Less pages reduces the chances of a user being overwhelmed.
  3. Once you have the structure you will be able to add specific variants without creating new pages which reduces your maintenance cost.
  4. It removes the chance that Google will see 2+ of your pages have similar content because all similar variants will be on one page.

There are some cons:

  1. You might have to build several database tables to manage everything easily and you might need JavaScript to handle your drop downs properly. Basically, there will be added complexity in your website to reduce the complexity your visitors will have to deal with.
  2. It could hurt you on specific parts. If you have 1,000 Hood Deflector variants and you sell 10 times more of 1 variant than the other 999 combined, then that one variant could be lost in a sea of other variants on the same page. That would cause you to lose some people who can't find the variant and other who cannot find it in SERPs because that variant doesn't have its own page.

One other suggestion, if time and effort are not as much of a concern, you could go with a hybrid solution. One where to get to a variant page you have to click on the link to it from the Product Line Page. Then you could make all of the variant pages non-indexable by Google except the small number that you sell tons of. That way you can focus your SEO and not have to worry about Google seeing "duplicate content" when you really just have a lot of pages with similar content.

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