What are Faceted Navigation?

Faceted Navigation, a huge problem for SEO.

Facet Navigation

Faceted navigation is widely used in e-commerce and within categories or archives of sites that handle many listings and is considered an accepted practice in terms of user experience (UX) because it helps visitors in their searches by aggregating different filters. However, this form of browsing can cause significant problems in terms of search engine optimization if not handled properly by developing a flood of duplicate content.

Faceted Navigation: features

Facet navigation relies on filters of ads/products based on assigned attributes. These attributes vary depending on the type of website or e-commerce, but the most common include color, price, brand, size etc. and are frequently placed in a sidebar or at the beginning of the listing as per the example below.

These filters allow the visitor to refine the search, who, in a few clicks, will be able to find a selection of products or ads most relevant to his or her “Search Intent.”

Faceted Navigatio and SEO

Once the filters are applied the (e-commerce) site can behave in several ways:

  • profiled ads are shown without changes in the URL.
  • The site adds parameters on the URL.
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  • The site supplements the URL with hashes
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A new static folder Url is defined.

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Based on the different behaviors of websites, some very relevant Seo criticalities may arise since faceted navigation can potentially create an unlimited number of combinations.

Among the most common problems we find:

  • Duplicate content.
  • Index Bloat.
  • Waste of Crawling Budget.

Duplicate Content

The main problem that requires careful handling by SEO specialists is duplicate content. The different combinations generated by facet navigation create pages that are essentially identical, differing in only a few elements. This can lead to penalties from Google in terms of Ranking for potential“query cannibalization” and an inexorable split in Link Juice among the pages created.

Below is the original url of the page category “shoes” and below is the same url using faceted navigation (4 filters).

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Considering that Zalando includes 8 other filters you can only imagine all the thousands of possible combinations, each potentially duplicated in content at the first URL presented.

Index Bloat

The“Index Bloat” phenomenon has been taken up several times in John Muller’s speeches identifying it as a real problem for Google’s algorithm due to the loss of effectiveness and efficiency of search results.

For this reason, having many low-value indexed pages that are characterized only by different variants could penalize the organic growth of the entire website/e-commerce.

Crawling Budget

The “crawling budget” refers to the amount of resources and time that a search engine, such as Google or Bing, allocates to a given website to perform the process of “crawling” to discover internal links and index the website.

A larger “crawling budget” may allow a search engine to explore and index more pages of a site in a shorter period of time, while a limited “crawling budget” may result in slower indexing or incomplete indexing of site pages.

Precisely with this in mind, wasting it on pages of low intrinsic value leads to reduced crawl rate and inevitably loss of ranking.

SEO Solutions

Understanding the complexity of the topic, it is important to moderate the behavior of“Faceted Navigation” first through analysis and then by deploying the right correctives.

To find out if your site is also affected, you can follow several avenues:

  1. Check the Serp using the search operator “site:” and see if you have indexed parameterized pages (index Bloat).
  2. Monitor Google Search Console and analyze the coverage report. Filtering by “excluded” you can analyze the item “Page scanned, but not currently indexed.”
  3. Check the number of pages submitted via Sitemap, if too high check for pages affected by faceted navigation filters.
  4. Use Screaming Frog to find out if you have managed the facet navigation problem.

Screaming Frog and Faceted Navigation

Having identified the facet navigation problem, it is time to solve it. To do this you can follow essentially two paths:

  1. Use the tag canonical + No Follow (recommended)
  2. Configure the Robots.txt file by putting in “disallow” the different filters. Let’s look at an example.
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Although the robots.txt file approach also works well the solution I prefer is the former because with one line of code you mitigate the problem forever and instruct the Search Engine.

With canonical, although there are thousands of pages available to the user the Spider will have to index only the main one.

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In the example, it will be sufficient to insert the following sting in the html code:

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The code will need to be entered on both the main (“canonical”) and filtered (“Canonicalized”) secondary pages.

At this point by scanning the site under analysis and consulting the Canonical section of Screaming Frog you can assess the situation using the filters available:

  • Self Referencing
  • Canonicalised

In our example we will have:

  • 1 “Self referencing” page: the main one
  • 1 canonicalized page: the filtered page

At this point you are just one step away from incurring “Index Bloat” insert the “nofollow” directive on filter links and you are done!

Seo Spider Tab