Faceted navigation allows users to narrow down a website’s content according to what they want to find. You can typically see it when you go to an e-commerce or listing site such as Amazon or Yelp. With faceted navigation, you can easily apply filters on different categories to get the results you want to see while browsing through thousands of products or services.
Why is it important for SEO?
Faceted navigation is very useful for visitors when it’s done right. However, it can be a burden when it comes to optimizing a website. Websites with faceted navigation can have a high number of live URLs that shouldn’t be indexed, but end up being picked up by crawlers. Why shouldn’t they be indexed? The large number of pages that sites with faceted navigation have for a single product can compromise crawler’s efficiency. Additionally, the pages can be considered duplicate content and dilute link equity (the authority a link can pass from one page to another).
This, in turn, affects the website’s SEO in a negative way.
How can this issue be tackled?
There are several strategies that SEO experts use to avoid this problem in sites that use faceted navigation. These include:
• Using the noindex tag to let bots know they should not include such and such page in the index. While this reduces the amount of duplicate content, it still wastes crawl budget and dilutes link equity.
• Using canonical tags leads Google bots to which pages they should index and rank. All similar versions of said pages will be considered duplicates and won’t be accounted for indexing and ranking. This solves the link equity dilution problem, but the crawling budget will still be misused.
• Apply a “nofollow” tag to internal links to undesirable facets. This solves the crawl budget issue but doesn’t fix the duplicate content issue, and link equity will get trapped.
• Disallowing certain sections of your website using robots.txt is an easy, quick, and reliable fix. You can enter the disallowed customized parameters into your robot.txt file. This has proven to obtain great results but has the disadvantage of disabling the link equity in those sections.
Avoiding the issue from the start is the best solution. This can be done if you are building your website from scratch or are in the process of remodeling it. How? By building your faceted navigation in a way that it limits the URL changes. Keep in mind that you need to make sure you have indexable pages for key facet combinations.