This is an article “How Important Is Faceted Search?” by Marc Primo Warren
Usually, websites that deal with many listings make use of faceted search or navigation features. This off-page search engine optimization (SEO) element helps users find what they are looking for in as little time as possible. But while it does help out users, it can also be quite a challenging aspect of your SEO strategies - more than you might think.
From today's eCommerce, jobs, travel sites, and larger websites, faceted searches are navigation types stored into categories or archive site pages with numerous listings for filtering. Sites like Airbnb, UpWork, or AO.com utilize this feature so that entries on their list match existing categories for better search results for the user.
Filtered according to their attributes are lists that are different from all the other landing pages. Whether users are looking for the best prices, color variations of a product, or booking details, faceted search works once site admins assign the relevant attributes into a category.
The versatility of faceted search
Once the user picks out an item, a new page reloads to show a more filtered selection that the user might find more interesting. User experience (UX) patterns may differ, so it's crucial to analyze how frequently users use your site. If most users apply numerous filters, reloading pages a few times according to the filters applied may be necessary to find exact search matches.
With each filter application, the site's URL will also be updated into a new static URL to set parameters and append a hash with all the filters identified.
The big SEO problems in faceted search
The functions and desired results of faceted search features may be simple enough to imagine, but they can also turn into a nightmare for SEO practitioners and coders.
Usual issues such as duplicate content, index bloating, or crawling may arise if the codes are erroneous. Finding the proper fixes can even be more complicated once you integrate various filters and facets into the program.
What usually occurs is that faceted search features come up with countless combinations that may be hard to index via URLs. In terms of SEO, this can be a potential problem. Duplicate content, for example, will show up bearing the same visuals but with different URLs due to a fault in filter applications or separate listings for the same content. This issue will then cause the site to rank lower. Site developers should scale filters and spots for duplicate content which they can integrate into one stronger URL.
Another potential hurdle is when Google indexes pages on your sites that do not have any search value. You can easily avoid index bloat by setting quality pages for search engine indexing for a higher ranking. Applying faceted search into your sites usually comes up with millions of indexable sites that have no search value. From an SEO standpoint, it's essential to weed out these low-quality pages.
Lastly, it's important to note how Google assigns crawl budgets to your sites which you must avoid wasting if you want to rank. Most large websites have more than a million unique pages, so if your site only manages around 10,000 unique sites, the less you need to worry about wasting your crawl budget. However, suppose your faceted search application creates a crawlable link for every filtered combination. In that case, you might be prone to index bloat problems and squander a large amount of your crawl budget.
To manage this, thoroughly inspect your HTML links and detect other crawlable links created through facet combinations. Doing so will show how filtered combinations can easily create new URLs that Google can crawl unnecessarily.
Detecting and fixing faceted search issues
While everything about faceted search might seem too complex at first, experienced developers and SEO practitioners can familiarize themselves with potential issues through common signs. When doing a site search, use Google's many search operators for SEO to detect index bloat.
These search operators are combinations of search terms and symbols that can help improve a user's search experience and display more accurate results. They select relevant keywords, including common combinations such as and, or, punctuations, or currency symbols, among others that most advanced SEO marketers frequently use.
Once Google displays results, check the number of URLs on your site. If it seems to be higher than what you have set, that means you have index bloat on your hands.
Using Google Search Console's coverage reports can also identify crawling and indexing problems. Once you've applied faceted search filters, check if the number of pages Google has indexed is relatively high, then inspect your extensible markup language (XML) sitemaps for potential index bloat. These utilize a set of codes or tags that identify text in your HTML.
Indicators will include 'indexed but not submitted in sitemap,' 'excluded URLs,' or 'crawled-currently not indexed,' which can be unwanted ones that Google unnecessarily indexes.
Upgrade your faceted search knowledge
Faceted search can indeed improve user experience and open up more opportunities for SEO if done right. Keeping an eye on the usual issues created and doing something about it early on can prevent you from multiplying more URLs that Google will discover but won't index. If this happens, you'll only hurt your search rank in the long term and waste time optimizing your long-tail keyword search efforts.
While processes like these can be very complicated, constantly optimizing your URL links and filters while customizing the functionality of your configurations becomes easier in time. All you need is patience and the initiative to brush up on constant updates, then apply what you can when issues on your faceted search application come up. Once you get the hang of it, not only will you enjoy better page ranking, but users will thank you for it by sharing the excellent user experience you give them via social media – and that equates to a better brand reputation for you!