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I am currently working on an eCommerce website, which typically have the following URL structural examples:

 1. www.example.com/paintings/flowers/roses/
 2. www.example.com/paintings/flowers/roses/abstract/
 3. www.example.com/paintings/flowers/roses/black-white/

Whilst the above pages target high search volume keywords, they do feel rather 'messy'. As such, I have been thinking of integrating a Faceted Navigation.

What I am thinking of, is having the following URL structure:

www.example.com/paintings/flowers/

On the above URL, then have the following Facet titles:

  1. Subject: Roses, Violets, Sunflowers etc.
  2. Colour: Red, Yellow, Black & White etc.
  3. Style: Abstract, Fine Art, Figurative etc.

Personally, I feel this would provide a better user experience as well as organising the pages a little better; removing excessive amounts of Product Categories.

Where I have come a little stuck, is in establishing the difference between a Facet and a Child Category; primarily when it comes to SEO.

The obvious difference being the URL. The 'simple' URL, would be:

www.example.com/parent-category/child-category/

with a Facet URL, looking more like:

www.example.com/shop/?color=red&style=abstract&subject=roses

My question, really, is three fold:

  1. Is a Facet, simply a Child Category?
  2. Does that mean, a Facet merely pulls the products from their associated Child Categories and outputs them to the page, the Facet is on?
  3. Is a Facet completely separate to Categories? Therefore, Child Categories still need to be created with the Facet being assigned the noindex tag or even a Canonical tag?

Ultimately, I am trying to avoid the issue of duplicate content whilst maintaining organised Product Categories.

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Where I have come a little stuck, is in establishing the difference between a Facet and a Child Category; primarily when it comes to SEO.

Stephen Ostermiller's answer to your previous question already addresses most of this, so I won't repeat it.

To expand on the SEO aspect, though, the primary issue with facets is needing to manage how they're crawled and what is returned in SERPs.

For example, a single category with a handful of filters could create hundreds of near duplicate pages which we don't want to be indexed and, for larger sites, might not want to be crawled either.

Whilst the above pages target high search volume keywords, they do feel rather 'messy'. As such, I have been thinking of integrating a Faceted Navigation.

It sounds like your subcategories likely serve actual demand. In my opinion, it would be unwise to cease to meet such demand because you feel it's messy.

  • Maybe I am overlooking how Facets are integrated. I am not sure if all the Parent and Child Categories need to be created and then you use Facets to 'trigger' these Categories or whether a Facet is programmatically created, relying on Product Meta Data/Custom Fields when knowing which Products to include within each Facet. – Craig Apr 17 '18 at 14:53
  • They're programatic. Here's a fairly accessible and thorough explanation of how they work: lucidworks.com/2009/09/02/faceted-search-with-solr. A fairly common SEO task is the reverse of what you're considering: we'll work out which dynamic facets have significant search demand, and have them created as static pages optimised to capture that traffic. – GDav Apr 17 '18 at 15:53
  • I have been looking at Faceted Navigation, from the view of 'How can I optimise the Facets for SERPs'. Am I right in thinking this is wrong. The approach should be to ignore SEO, when it comes to Facets. Facets should focus on user experience/accessibility. Then if it appears that a lot of users are using a particular Facet combination, create a Category for it and then optimise the newly created Category for SEO? – Craig Jun 1 '18 at 22:10
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I think the simple URLs with directories looks cleaner for users. They're shorter URLs and therefore easier for people to type into their browser bar, and they're more visible when users are looking at their past browsing history in the address bar dropdown.

The facet URLs that you're talking about are generally used by sites that have search engines and act more as query parameters. These sites are often pulling those query parameters off of their databases and usually work in JSON language.

So when you'd see a URL such as: ?color=red&style=abstract&subject=roses

Usually the above URL means that the server is querying the SUBJECT database for "roses", and out of those results, only find STYLE tags of "abstract" that have the COLOR "red". The server reads the URL and pulls the parameters to search its database, whereas simple URLs don't have parameters in them so a database can't be queried in the same way.

The facet URL probably isn't structured in the most efficient way for users, but is more useful for the server.

Ultimately, the URL preference is yours. But the faceted URLs are more for machine structuring and not for users, simple URLs are structured for users.

From Googlebot's perspective, having a facet URL like ?color=red&style=abstract&subject=roses would probably cause it to see the keywords as being "color-red-style-abstract-subject-roses" when you're actually trying to target "red-abstract-roses".

So I don't know if from an SEO perspective if the facet URLs are better than the simple ones. My opinion is that they're actually not.

  • I totally agree with the simple URLs looking cleaner. I do not see how a simple URL structure could deal with products, which have so many variations though. Furthermore, wouldn't Faceted Navigation allow to target a greater amount of long tail keywords? – Craig Apr 16 '18 at 3:03
  • I don't think faceted URLs allow you to target more keywords. The simple URLs are just replacing the parameters with slashes and hyphens. You can have as many combinations of keywords with slashes as you can with parameters. – Michael d Apr 16 '18 at 3:35
  • What I mean by the increase in targeted keywords, is that with Facets, I understand that variants such as Colour and Style etc can be targeted. Without the Facets, I understand that additional Categories would need to be created, which could become exhaustive. That is my understanding. Being new to Facet Navigation, I could very well be overlooking something here. – Craig Apr 16 '18 at 3:48
  • Maybe I have approached Facets, incorrectly. I was looking at Facet URLs from the view of optimising for SEO. Should Facets be looked at, exclusive of Search Engines? Facets should focus on user experience, affording a user to filter a page's content? Then any popular facets can be be assigned its own Category page; of which this newly created Category page, could then be optimised, with search engines in mind? – Craig Jun 1 '18 at 22:14

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