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I'm usually over on StackOverflow but I've inherited the maintenance of a newish website from a developer and have an optimisation question. I'm dealing with a small online shop, selling high-end scissors to hairdressers. I can deal with any technical issues I'm not experienced enough in SEO and not sure what to do about the following issue.

It's a pretty standard Woocommerce setup, except for some reason the client and original developer used categories for scissor size (5 sizes), manufacturer and type (left handed, cutting, etc). So the website has many times more products listed than it would do if simple product attributes were used instead.

The following type of structure would make sense to me

  • Product 1, e.g. website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors
  • Product 2, e.g. website.com/yamato-thinning-scissors

However, because there is a product for each size the URLs are like the following:

  • Product 1 - Size 1, e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-5-inch
  • Product 1 - Size 2 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-5.5-inch
  • Product 1 - Size 3 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-6-inch
  • Product 1 - Size 4 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-6.5-inch
  • Product 1 - Size 5 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-7-inch
  • Product 2 - Size 1 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-5-inch
  • Product 2 - Size 2 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-5.5-inch
  • Product 2 - Size 3 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-6-inch
  • Product 2 - Size 4 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-6.5-inch
  • Product 2 - Size 5 e.g.website.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors-7-inch

and so on

My understanding is that this is splitting up the link juice into 5 pages for each product, instead of just one. An additional problem is that the content for each sized product will be very similar and Google could claim it was duplicate. I'm no SEO expert so I am unsure as to how bad this really is.

I am thinking of dumping the current structure and building the sizes into a dropdown on the product page, like on Amazon and other shops. But the website has been up for 6 months with this structure and I'm wondering if it would cause more damage than good.

Anyone have an opinion on this?

Many thanks for reading!

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    I am not sure of the various ways that a category will be used. I assume that part of the effect is path structure. If this is a consideration, then perhaps this answer can help: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/74633/… I am not sure of exactly how the problem manifests. Please can you edit the question and add some clarification if this answer does not help? Cheers!! – closetnoc Apr 6 '16 at 13:46
  • Thanks closetnoc. Yep, the problem is really that the ideal structure would be one product for each scissor, and then have a dropdown on the product page for the user to select a size. So we only have one url for product 1. Because categories were used for size this website actually has five pages per real product. I'm unsure how bad that is from an SEO perspective - it's certainly bad from an end-user perspective I think. I'll will edit the question. – Trev Apr 6 '16 at 15:28
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    It certainly sounds like something I would fix! From an SEO perspective, as long as all the extra pages have a canonical tag pointing to the original, then you would be fine. Without it, then you have a disaster. – closetnoc Apr 6 '16 at 15:45
  • Thanks again. Yes, I was thinking that. For the moment I'm going to make sure everything has the correct canonical url specified and keep an eye on my SERPS. Will make a decision about changing the structure with the data that comes in. Many thanks for you opinion closetnoc - I'm a developer so this isn't the type of stuff I would usually be doing ;-) – Trev Apr 6 '16 at 16:57
  • Anytime!! We are here for you. We have some real experts here. BTW- I was a coder all my life. I just happen to like webmasters and share what web stuff I know. – closetnoc Apr 6 '16 at 21:31
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It is an odd set-up, and I'd agree with your proposal to move to a single brand/model page with options therein to select product size.

If adopting that approach, be sure to 301 redirect all of the current "size" pages to their replacement, i.e.:

  • /yasaka-thinning-scissors-5-inch -- 301 --> /yasaka-thinning-scissors
  • /yasaka-thinning-scissors-5.5-inch -- 301 --> /yasaka-thinning-scissors

And so on.

Alternatively, assuming the pages are close to identical other than size, you may get away with using a canonical link element on each of the "size" pages referencing a single, "master" page for the brand/model, i.e.:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/yasaka-thinning-scissors">

Some helpful reading from Google here.

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  • Thanks GDav. I've actually done the latter, setting a master page using canonical. Watching to see if this makes a difference. If it doesn't I'll be going with the approach to use options to select size instead. – Trev Apr 7 '16 at 23:27
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    @Trev Should be fine, assuming the pages are as similar as they sound. Have successfully used the same approach for clients. – GDav Apr 8 '16 at 7:38
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Yes 301 redirect is the solution for you.

301 redirect size pages -> main product page

This will take sometime to reflect in Google indexing.

Also remove any existing links from sitemaps as well. And if there are some links still exist for those pages through cross linking or from other sources, make sure to remove those links as well.

About canonicals :

Yes they avoid you duplicate penalty. But this should be used in cases where it is absolutely required. Example : you are picking content from some page / external source and want to give juice/credits to that page. And existance of that page make sense.

But in your case you can avoid these pages as the variants should not have individual page as it does not make any sense w.r.t SEO as well as user behavior. It will avoid your maintainance of these 1000s of extra URLs.

User queries like : Monte Carlo t111 black should be catered by your page for Monte Carlo t111 rather than a separate page all together.(can be achieved by adding these variants content/info in page description, write-ups etc.

This would be what I suggest.

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