A list essentially boils down to a query, which can be modeled as a SQL query. A SQL query has this form:
SELECT * FROM LIST WHERE a = x AND b = y SORT a LIMIT 10
The first part is the list, where you select attributes from. The next part are a set of conditions, which can be in any order. Then you can sort the results. And limit the results to a small or manageable chunk or subset.
You can represent this in a URL using query parameters. So it could be:
In fact, it can be in any order, so these are exactly the same:
This means different URLs give the same content. That leads to problems with SEO as described here. The main problem is that you want search engines to not see duplicate content, or content that is only slightly varied (as in category filtering vs. most recent sorting, etc.).
But my question is then, how you model/organize lists so that they get an SEO advantage. For example, I have seen pages like this:
- List of words (paginated).
- List of words starting with letter "a".
- List of 3-letter words starting with letter "a".
- List of fruits starting with "a".
- List of companies starting with "a".
All of these are just words starting with the letter "a", just different subsets. So it seems that to a search engine, there is one "master" list of data, and all these "list" URLs are simply junk. But I don't see how it would know that.
Even still, I think these lists are valid. For example, knowing all the 3-letter words starting with "a" is great for Scrabble the game. Knowing which companies start with "a" is helpful to lookup a phone number for a company you barely remember. Etc.. These lists, whose content is exactly the same, just different subsets, are useful from a customer perspective.
But then you go slightly further and say "sort the list by x", and now the content is just in a different order. I don't think this counts as valid/valuable content. It's different than a special subset.
So my question is, how I go about creating these lists so search engines find them as "valuable" additions of information, rather than discarding them as duplicate content, or lowering their impact because they seem too closely related.