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For a while now, I have been trying to get my head around Facet Navigation; asking and reading many questions on this Forum.

Whilst I have a better understanding of its function and implementation, I am still left with a handful of questions; in particular:

When creating a Facet Navigation, should the focus be on user experience only; completely ignoring any approach to optimise for SEO?

Simply put, shouldn't Facet Navigation URLs be prevented from being indexed from Search Results?

Evidently, Facet Navigation can cause a great deal of problems for a website; especially eCommerce sites. Duplicate content being the greatest concern, with other issues, such as the dilution of link equity being raised.

I have asked a handful of Facet Navigation questions here, with one pointing me in the direction of Moz's article on Facet Navigation.

This was a useful article, exploring both the fundamentals of Facet Navigation as well as dealing with the issue of duplicate content.

My Approach:

After reading Moz's article, as well as many other (often conflicting as it usually seems to be the case) online resources, it became evident that there were multiple ways in dealing with the issue of duplicate content and diluted link equity.

Excuse my overly simplistic approach here but aren't all these 'clever ways', simply overkill?

Let's take Moz's very own example ...

They highlight Macy's Black Dresses. Specifically, highlighting the following URLs:

  1. Macys > Clothing > Women's > Dresses

    www.macys.com/clothing/womens/dresses/
    
  2. Macys > Clothing > Women's > Black Dresses

    www.macys.com/clothing/womens/dresses?color=black/
    

Whilst the article suggests to rel=nofollow the Facet variant, it does not suggest to rel=noindex. Indicating, that indexing this Facet would be ok. Admittedly, this could just be their personal approach rather than the 'right' way.

Personally, the Facet variant does not look as clean as the 'simple URL' structures. As such, this could cause issues, such as people remembering such a URL for future reference.

What would be wrong with simply rel=noindex and rel=nofollow every Facet URL. Even better, maybe implement JavaScript/Ajax to create the Facet Filtering within the Browser rather than server side (also avoids the visitor having to wait for page reloads etc too then).

Then, monitor the usage of the Facet combinations (maybe this would not be possible with JavaScript/Ajax then), creating dedicated Product Categories for the popular Facet Combinations and then optimise these Product Categories for Search Engines.

Sticking with Moz's example, you would continue to have the above URLs, however if 'Black Dresses' seemed to be a popular combination (I would expect it would be), then a 'Black Dresses' Product Category could be created, creating a URL, such as:

  1. Macys > Clothing > Women's > Dresses > Black Dresses

    www.macys.com/clothing/womens/dresses/black-dresses/
    

With all the talk about such 'clever' and 'complex' Facet systems, I feel that I am either missing something with Facet Navigations or there seems to be a joy in needless complications, when it comes to Facets.

  • yes, deindex it. Or, much better, make use of buttons, inputs (post), javascript or post-redirect-get. – Evgeniy Jun 6 '18 at 14:22
  • @Evgeniy ... Thanks for the reassurances. What exactly, do you mean by Buttons? Do you mean, as in clickable Buttons or is this some 'Facet' specific approach? – Craig Jun 7 '18 at 0:09
  • i mean: make your clickable elements in faceted navi instead of <a href=""> rather html5 elements <button>. – Evgeniy Jun 7 '18 at 15:09
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I think perhaps you have have a small misunderstanding, your title seems to suggest so:

Should Faceted Navigation be approached, exclusive of SEO? Focusing, solely, on user experience?

Faceted navigation is there for the user experience, the knock on effect is it can generally cause issues for SEO, its not there for SEO purposes.

So the articles you have read give solutions to help fix the issue on site that have facted navigation implemented in these ways. They are there to help you fix it if you have it, not if you want implement in the first place for SEO.

(Also the article doesn't mention to use simply nofollow, it also suggests to to use noindex (maybe you missed that?)

However you are right, in an ideal SEO world you would create categories for these popular facets (which are usually attributes), but its not always that easy, especially in big companies.

You have to consider that there could be many stake holders in doing so:

  • You may have the UX team that actually want to reduce the numbers of categories and want more filter attributes, creating more facets (it happens!)
  • You may have the merchandising team who are in charge of the category tree, and they do not agree with having such extra categories on the site, or maybe they don't have another plan for category migrations in their road maps for another 6 months.
  • There could be dependencies on the back end that make switching attributes to categories a big project. For example maybe the system that sellers use to list their items would need to be re-build to allow these items to be listed under new categories which once where attributes.

So those solutions discussed could be the easiest way to make the faceted navigation, not necessarily the most ideal.

  • Thanks for your answer, especially 'big companies' examples. I have a greater understanding now. You are right, in that I was looking at Facet Navigation in the same way as regular navigation and even more incorrectly, site structure. – Craig Jun 14 '18 at 11:30
  • Just to extend upon one of my queries. Is it perfectly okay, to have a Colour Facet on a Parent Page, which is set to rel=noindex and rel=nofollow, whilst also having a Child Category page dedicated to the colour? For example: /product-a/red-product-a. With the latter optimised for SEO. – Craig Jun 14 '18 at 15:34
  • Yes. As you are blocking it from being indexed, there is no worry of duplication between the two pages. – Max Jun 14 '18 at 16:14
  • After thinking over that, am I right in thinking that having a duplicate facet and category page, would be rather redundant? – Craig Jun 15 '18 at 2:59
  • What ever works for the user. Maybe do some testing, some users like to use categories, others like to use search, some prefer filters. – Max Jun 15 '18 at 3:20

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