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How to Use Faceted Search Without Destroying Your SEO

Learn how to set up this game-changing feature for your website and avoid an SEO disaster.

By Miva | January 13, 2022 | 6 minute read
Woman shopping online using faceted search

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In case you haven’t heard, faceted navigation is awesome.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the term, you’ve probably come across faceted search before. It’s basically what online shoppers use to filter their search results by certain product criteria. While faceted search can be a game-changer for your customers, it needs to be set up properly or it could disrupt your site’s searchability. 

In this article, we discuss what faceted search is, its benefits, and best practices for implementing it on your website. 

What is Faceted Search?

Faceted search (also known as faceted navigation) is a feature that helps shoppers customize their search and sort through a catalog using a number of categories, filters, and facets.

How does faceted search work? 

Faceted search works by analyzing a large set of products based on the user’s criteria, excluding those that don’t match the criteria, and narrowing down the selection to the items that are relevant to the user’s search. Each faceted search result has its own unique URL.

What is faceted search important for your website? 

If you have a large and complex product catalog, faceted search helps your customers narrow down exactly what they’re looking for and makes their search results more relevant. This helps improve the user experience on your site, improve product browsing, and reduce the chances of visitors bouncing from your website

What’s the difference between facets and filters?

Filters are general categories predefined by your business, like clothing type, color, and size, and can only be applied one at a time. Facets are a subset of filtering, allowing users to apply multiple attributes at the same time to refine their search. With facets, specific categories can change based on the query—for example, certain filters will not display for certain products that they don’t apply to.

Faceted Search Example

Let’s say you’re shopping for men’s shoes on a website. On a product listings page, you see different filters for shoes and decide to select red as the color, size 9, and running shoes—these are your search facets. With faceted search, you can go beyond broad categories and drill down to exactly the type of products that you need.

The Importance of Setting Up Faceted Search Properly

If your faceted search is not set up properly and you have many attribute combinations and a high SKU count, you could find yourself with millions of pages housing every possible combination of product facets. This could lead to three main issues, including:

  1. Duplicate content: This is when the same or similar page content can be accessed through multiple URLs. Multiple copies of a page could dilute the link equity and hurt the ability of your pages to rank.
  2. Index bloat: Faceted search can potentially create millions of indexable URLs with no unique content on them. This causes index bloat, since search engines are indexing pages on your site that don’t have any unique search value. The indexation issues can result in a Google website penalty.
  3. Decreased crawling budget: Google dedicates a certain amount of resources to crawling pages on your website. Too many pages will cause Google to split up the crawling budget and waste your traffic potential. 

How to Set Up Faceted Search to Protect Your SEO

Faceted search isn’t an SEO problem in and of itself, but the pages required to make it work can be. The indexation and reputation issues associated with the kind of page bloat described above can lead to problems ranging from Google site penalties to lost search visibility. Applying best practices to your site’s faceted navigation can prevent future issues and resolve current problems. One such resolution saw a site’s traffic skyrocket after optimizing its faceted search setup.

There are several ways to keep your store optimized and crawlable while using faceted search. SEO thought leaders have suggested quite a few best practices for faceted navigation, but what’s best for your site depends on a number of important factors. Be sure to do your research and take your development resources into account before implementing any new faceted search SEO changes.

Faceted search best practices

Applying best practices to your site’s faceted search can improve the user experience. A few general best practices include:

  1. Focus on price: Shoppers often like to set price as a secondary filter to help them consider the value of the product. Make it easy for your visitors to filter by price by allowing them to set a minimum or maximum price.
  2. Use customer language: When implementing faceted search, think about what your users are looking for and use only the facets they are in interested in.
  3. Include number of matches: Include the number of matches for each facet to give your customers insight into your product offerings.
  4. Improve the user experience: Consider including elements like sliders and ranges, custom amounts, “see more” links, collapsible menus, and images and illustrations to improve the UI of your faceted search.
  5. Use multi-selection options: Customers might be interested in more than one size, color, or other similar facet. Allowing multi-select options helps your customer to see all the options available without doing multiple searches.
  6. Consider thematic filters: Consider less tangible filters that correspond with your shoppers’ mindsets—for example offering facets like “Work”, “Casual”, and “Night Out” if you’re an apparel brand. These filters can sometimes capture user intent better than standard facets. 

Faceted Search Examples

Xtreme Diesel Performance  

The Xtreme Diesel Performance website is a great example of how effective faceted search can be. Their website makes it easy for customers to sort through their high SKU catalog and find the auto parts they need with Year, Make, and Engine product filters. Using the filters, shoppers can run a faceted search defining exactly what we need. 

Faceted search filters in action on Xtreme Diesel Performance website

 

Enwild 

Enwild offers a vast  selection of backpacking, camping gear, outdoor apparel, and footwear. The retailer’s website features expansive filters that change based on the category the shopper is in, helping them narrow down to the products they’re looking for.faceted search filters on Enwild website

Yon-Ka Paris 

Yon-Ka Paris’ website has descriptive facets that help shoppers find the right skincare products by age range, skin type, skin concern, and product type."Filter By" option on Yon-Ka Paris website

Final Thoughts on The Benefits of Faceted Search

Online shoppers have grown accustomed to faceted search functionality and may be less inclined to do business with a store that doesn’t help them find exactly what they’re looking for. With the right setup, this essential functionality is often vital to a store’s success.

Looking to further improve your website performance? Take our free assessment to see how your online store measures up.Ecommerce Website Assessment

This blog was originally published on October 29, 2018 and updated on January 12, 2022.

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Author's Bio

Miva

Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.

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