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The website that I work on sells a car related products. Many products will fit 20-100 cars. Currently each car is listed as a separate 'product'. This works very well on eBay, but I think the large number of similar pages is having a negative effect on the sites ranking.

It seems to rank ok for very specific queries like 'BMW 5 series thule roof rack', but not well for 'Roof rack' - Which I guess makes sense.

So a page for each car or a page for each real product?

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So what's your question? –  John Conde Jan 5 '12 at 12:43
    
I put a question mark on the last sentence. –  paulmorriss Jan 5 '12 at 12:50
    
cheers Paul ... –  RickBoy Jan 5 '12 at 13:39
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2 Answers

A page for each real product. Someone isn't going to be looking for a roof rack. They're going to be looking for a roof rack for their specific car. And if someone is looking for just roof racks you're probably not interested in that user anyway. You're interested in users looking for roof racks for their cars so you can sell them something. By having individual pages you give each product a chance to be found in the search engines as you can optimize each page specifically for that product (title, heading, incoming link anchor text, etc).

Having a large number of pages won't hurt your rankings as in-and-of-itself it isn't a negative ranking factor. In fact it allows you to do a lot within your own website for SEO. Do all of the following:

  • Interlink your product pages by type (roof racks, manufacturer, etc)
  • Have a clear hierarchy of pages (products -> category -> subcategory -> sub-subcategory -> product type)
  • Use breadcrumbs
  • Use canonical URLs for different colors and other variable options
  • Use microfromats for your products

You could make a page for each individual make and model. Each of those pages would be a canonical URL for a master page which would be the one search engines would use as the master page to show in its search results so you would avoid duplicate content issues. That may help you get get good anchor text in your incoming links to these canonical URLs which may help your SEO efforts.

Or you could just list all of the make, models, and years each products supports on every product page and hope that helps the search engines out when ranking your pages.

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Maybe I was not clear. One real product fits many cars, so we have a separate page with the same description, the only difference being the make, model and year of the car. –  RickBoy Jan 6 '12 at 16:46
    
Updated my answer. –  John Conde Jan 6 '12 at 16:55
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It doesn't sound to me like you're pages are being negatively impacted in the SERPs. You said you rank for specific queries (which is what these pages are optimized for). I'd build an additional page or resources section discussing "roof racks" if you want to rank for that query. I'd be willing to bet the specific queries convert at a much higher rate then the broad query.

Don't fall into the trap of sacrificing many low traffic keywords that convert well for one high traffic keyword that does not.

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