SEO issues caused by faceted navigation and how to fix them
March 8, 2022
A clear, easy-to-use navigation is important for any website, but it becomes especially important if you have a large number of pages. Faceted navigation is a common way web designers fix issues arising from a large number of pages.
However, this type of navigation comes with a number of challenges, especially in regard to SEO.
In this post, you’ll learn what faceted navigation is, how it improves the usability of your website and the SEO challenges this type of navigation poses.
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Why is it important?
Crawling is an important part of SEO and it’s the first step search engines have to complete in order to show your website on the search result pages. The SEO issues caused by faceted navigation can make it more difficult for search engines to crawl your website, potentially causing critical SEO issues that stunt your rankings.
Learning what faceted navigation is and what issues it can cause helps you prevent certain major ranking issues and improve your performance in the SERPs.
What is faceted navigation?
Faceted navigation is a type of navigation that is used by larger websites to improve the user experience. It does this through the use of filters, making it easy for users to select the different features that are important to them.
After selecting a category, users can select different filters to make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. For example, when looking for a new t-shirt on your favorite eCommerce store, you would first click on the t-shirt category.
Then, you could select your size, the colour you like and perhaps the brand. These are called filters, or, as they’re commonly referred to by web developers, facets.
Every time you click on a filter, a new page (often with a new URL) is shown that features only those products. This creates a huge number of pages, many of which contain almost exactly the same products/content.
SEO issues faceted navigation can cause
All of these different pages can pose a challenge for search engines in a few different ways.
1. Crawl budget
Crawl budget refers to the amount of time that search engine crawlers can dedicate to a single website. Since search engines have to crawl the entire web, they can only dedicate a certain amount of resources on each website.
By creating millions of pages automatically via a faceted navigation, you make it very difficult for search engines to crawl your site. This means they’ll only be able to crawl a small percentage of your total website. This, in turn, means that many pages won’t be crawled, and since you can’t choose which pages are prioritized, this may mean that important pages are left out of their index.
2. Duplicate content and low quality content
Having a large number of low quality web pages can cause search engine algorithms to view your website as a low quality site. Low quality pages could mean pages with little to no content on them or pages with duplicate content.
Since faceted navigation can quickly result in millions of low quality pages, it’s important it is implemented properly to prevent SEO issues from occurring.
How to fix faceted navigation
Fixing issues caused by faceted navigation doesn’t have to be difficult, although it is still advised to work with an experienced SEO agency in order to ensure that the issue is fixed correctly the first time round.
The best solution is to redesign your navigation. Although this is one of the most expensive fixes since a developer will have to re-do your entire navigation, it is the only way to fix every issue caused by your current navigation.
By ensuring that each filter is applied on the same page without creating a new URL/parameter, you can avoid faceted navigation issues in their entirety.
A less preferred option is to use a combination of canonical tags and no-index tags. The canonical tag tells search engines which page the original is, preventing duplicate content issues. The no-index tags tells search engines not to index a page. This doesn’t solve every issue caused by faceted navigation but it does reduce index bloat and duplicate content issues.
Disallowing a page in robots.txt will also alleviate some of the problems, although this too has its issues. The main issue is that incoming links pointing to pages that are disallowed in robots.txt no longer provide any benefit for your website.
By removing the issue at its source by ensuring your faceted navigation doesn’t create an endless number of pages in the first place, you tackle the issue at the source.
Although faceted navigation is great for a user’s experience on a website, it also poses various SEO issues if not implemented correctly. By implementing your faceted navigation the right way you prevent these issues and give yourself the best chance of ranking.