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I am currently working on a relatively small eCommerce site at present, although there are plans to increase its inventory to over 5,000 products, over the coming months.

I am curious to understand what the difference is between a facet, when it comes to faceted navigation, and product categories.

To my understanding, a facet is just another term for a category, albeit integrated differently? Would this be correct?

For the purpose of this question, let's say the website is selling a variety of photographs. Let's say there are a variety of parent categories, such as 'Black & White Photographs', 'Distorted Photographs', 'Animal Photographs'.

Whilst having the above parent categories makes sense, wouldn't this where faceted navigation come in handy? For example, you could have facet navigation titles, such as:

  • Colour: Black & White, Red, Blue etc.
  • Style: Abstract, Reality, Distorted.
  • Subject: Animals, People, Buildings.

With the above approach, would I be right in thinking that the following facets, 'Colour', 'Style' and 'Subject' would be sub categories within 'Photographs'?

Other than the URL adopting a differing format, dependent on the approach to its integration, what other differences are there between a facet and a product category?

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Faceted navigation is meant to have multiple facets applied at the same time. Most eCommerce sites won't let you select several categories at once.

Facets are often built from the product specifications. Categories are usually assigned.

For example with photography, your categories might be by subject matter. Then your facets might be:

Frame

  • Framed
  • Unframed

Width:

  • 6 inches or less
  • 7-10 inches
  • 10-15 inches
  • 16-24 inches
  • 25-36 inches
  • 37 inches or more

Review rating

  • 1 Star
  • 2 Star
  • 3 Star
  • 4 Star
  • 5 Star

Each facet would have a check box beside it. Then for example somebody could view unframed 4 or 5 star photographs 10 inches or less by checking 5 boxes.

You generally don't want to allow your facet combinations to be available to search engine crawlers. There are too many combinations and it will overwhelm crawlers. Here is an article for further reading on the subject: https://moz.com/blog/large-site-seo-basics-faceted-navigation

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  • Thank you for your answer. Your resource is something I have read through previously. Let's say the site has 'Black & White Photographs of Lions'. Would search engines favour Facets for this kind of filtering or would they prefer a 'Colours' and 'Subjects' to have their own Child Categories within their respective Parent Categories? Also, I am of the understanding that Facets, for high search volumes, should be Indexed. – Craig Apr 15 '18 at 14:17
  • Search engines won't know the difference between category and facet pages. You can have high volume facet indexed if you prevent index of low volume. Not all facet engines sorry that, nor customizing page tires and meta descriptions when multiple facet are selected. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 15 '18 at 14:32
  • Would I be right in thinking, then, that a Facet is effectively a Child Category? Just a little uncertain on the difference of having a straight forward Child Category or 'converting' the Child Category into a Facet. The only difference I see, is in the URL but not sure if this would have any SEO ramifications. – Craig Apr 15 '18 at 23:44

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