February 28

Faceted Navigation and SEO: Best and Worst Practices


You presumably use a faceted search system if you oversee eCommerce SEO for a large enterprise website. From the user’s perspective, these clever sort and filter options are a tremendous advantage. Yet, they have a reputation in the area of SEO for causing a ton of problems.

Like a magical photocopier that won’t stop, a faceted navigation system left to its own devices could produce millions of pages of redundant content. In this article, we will go through how to maintain faceted navigation on your website while retaining all of its advantages.

Faceted Navigation and Problems It Poses to SEO

Faceted navigation is an internal search method on websites that enables users to combine several filters to focus their search results. A faceted navigation system’s filters are matched to particular characteristics or facets of a piece of online content (for example, a product being sold).

A faceted navigation example is provided below:

Faceted Navigation Example

Faceted search gives users more flexibility and granularity when looking for specific information on a website.

Visitors can save time and frustration by restricting their searches to only those products that meet their precise requirements and criteria, such as only finding t-shirts in their preferred size and color, rather than having to sort through a large number of products grouped under one general category page.

Aspects like this could be seen on eCommerce websites, for instance:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Brand
  • Price Range
  • Style

With a faceted navigation system, each filter choice correlates to a particular product or content attribute. In order to narrow their search, users can apply a variety of filter combinations rather than having to browse through every item in a broad category.

It is simple to understand why faceted navigation a useful, time-saving option for users on large eCommerce sites might be (like Amazon or ASOS) that have a huge number of products offered.

Facets vs Filters

What makes facets and filters different from one another? Because they both assist searchers in condensing a lengthy list of objects, people frequently mix up aspects and filters. But there are many differences between the two:

The set of filtering choices remains the same independent of the previous sections, and filters are applied worldwide.

Navigation with facets is distinct. Each choice makes available a new subcategory of options (facets), some of which may vary depending on the choice made earlier. Also, aspects are not used universally. Hence, you may use a “women’s shoes” filter or a “sneakers” facet when searching for “white shoes.”

When used for online shopping, faceted navigation provides the customer with a wide range of filtering choices to sift through different product attributes and narrow their search to the precise kind of goods they require. This is especially useful for clothing retailers, websites with huge product catalogs, and any other situation where users may sort by product characteristics that don’t require their own category.

For instance, a user searching for shoes could narrow their search results using a variety of criteria, including color, material, size, style, and price range. Hence, faceted navigation will enable customers to reach a product list that meets their criteria if they are seeking white casual shoes in a size 6 for less than $100. Size 6 white casual shoes are not deserving of their own category or subcategory page, let alone “White Shoes” or “Size 6”.

Hence, faceted navigation is a sophisticated method of addressing a broad range of user preferences. It’s much more elegant than, say, developing a system allowing the user to move between an almost endless number of landing pages.

What are URL Parameters- And How Do They Relate to Faceted Navigation?

Although faceted navigation, such as color or price range filters, can be useful for visitors, it’s frequently not search-friendly because it results in numerous permutations of URLs with duplicate content.

Due to the diluted indexing signals caused by repeated URLs, search engines may not scan newly added or updated unique material as quickly, and/or they may incorrectly index a page.

What Role Do URL Parameters Play?

Understanding URL parameters—also known as URL query parameters—is crucial when it comes to faceted search since many of the SEO problems with the faceted search are actually related to how URL parameters are handled.

Users display their results by adding parameters to a base URL when they select filter options as part of the faceted search procedure. Typically, the generated URL relates to something like this:


Above in bold letters are the URL parameters. They typically refer to anything in a URL that follows a “?”

In faceted search, URL query parameters are the automatically created text strings that appear after the base URL following the completion of a search. Depending on the filters a user has chosen, these parameters provide the desired results. (Note: UTMs, or urchin tracking modules, are another type of URL parameter that is used to track metrics on a page. Some digital marketers may be familiar with UTMs.)

Where Does Google Stand on This?

The most user-friendly option for clients is faceted navigation. For SEO teams, it’s also the most useful. Building page after page and making the customer go through click after click on a tiresome journey with no end in sight is just not logical.

And this is where we run into a rarity in the realm of SEO—one of the very few times where a positive user experience could be at odds with effective SEO. Google continues to support faceted navigation and the user experience. Nonetheless, the potential problems brought on by faceted navigation are so serious that Google released a thorough warning about them.

How Might URL Parameters Cause Problems For SEO?

Although these URLs are for different pages, Google claims that utilizing URL parameters in this manner results in a lot of combinations of URLs with duplicate content.

Although search engines’ ranking of too similar pages can still result in SEO problems like term cannibalization, duplicate content is currently not thought of as a direct ranking factor.

So, faceted navigation may have a negative effect on a website’s search performance if it is not carefully designed and deployed, even though it is helpful for a family seeking a wonderful restaurant that serves delicious Mexican food in San Francisco.

Worst Faceted Navigation Issues That Harm SEO

The majority of SEO difficulties with regard to faceted navigation are caused by the aforementioned problems with URL parameters.

If your page offers a variety of categories, features, and other filtering options, there are literally hundreds of thousands of conceivable permutations, each with its own unique URL and sometimes very similar content.

The automatic production of so many URLs using faceted search might result in a number of typical SEO issues, including:

  • Faceted Navigation and Duplicate Content

Although the internal search result pages produced by faceted navigation may have very similar information, they will all have unique URLs.

It’s advisable to avoid producing duplicate material in accordance with Google’s standards. This means that these pages will compete with one another to rank for a target keyword if they have numerous URLs with duplicate content. In some severe cases, Google may additionally flag and penalize duplicate content as misleading: Unless it appears that the intention of the duplicate content is to be deceitful and influence search engine results, duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site. But, carefully examine your site if our investigation revealed that you used dishonest tactics and it has since been deleted from our search results.

  • Faceted Navigation and Crawl Budget

The number of pages on a website that a search engine will crawl in a specific amount of time is referred to as the crawl budget. According to variables including website size, traffic, frequencies of updates, popularity, and relevancy, Google distributes crawl budgets to websites.

Your crawl budget is finite, and if Google uses more of the crawl budget allotted to your site to sift through hundreds of low-quality pages created automatically by faceted navigation, there won’t be as much space left for it to crawl your more crucial pages.

  • Index Bloat and Faceted Navigation

Index bloat happens when lots of links with poor content are included in search engine results.

In addition to wasting your scan budget, having several nearly identical pages produced via faceted navigation and then indexed by search engines can lead to a bad user experience for those discovering your content in the SERPs. Visitors may leave your website quickly if they discover your faceted result pages on the SERPs and discover that they provide no real value for their specific search query.

  • Diluted Link Equity and Faceted Navigation

Along with faceted navigation, another SEO problem that could arise is link equity dilution. It will be up to external websites to decide which of the duplicate pages to link to. Instead of directing to a single page, inbound links may point to several URLs.

Instead of giving more powerful link equity to a single page, this distributes the link equity created by those backlinks among the pages with duplicate content. (Note: Canonical tags can be useful in this situation; see below for additional information.)

Google’s Best Practices for Faceted Navigation

The best practices are probably already included in the system if you’re utilizing an out-of-the-box faceted search integration or eCommerce platform because these fixes are so dependable.

What if, though, you used development to upgrade your present system or create a brand-new one from scratch? We’ll go over the finest faceted navigation practices for avoiding the dreaded duplicate content demon.

1. Run a Crawl.

Search engines may crawl duplicate content you produce, recognize it as such, and refuse to index it. As a result, the authority for the pages that need to be crawled is reduced. This adds bloat to your site and pulls crawl without assisting your organic presence in any way. Finding the problem in the first place is the first step in solving it for eCommerce sites.

A skewed indexing ratio in Google Search Console is a dead giveaway that you might have duplicate content problems. Duplicate content is the likely culprit if the number of pages crawled and submitted for your site greatly outweighs the number of pages indexed. Faceted search ought to be one of your top suspects if that is the case.

But you can only fully grasp the problem’s magnitude by performing a web crawl with Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, or your preferred crawling program. Every URL on your site will be listed in a complete crawl, including with any duplicates. Additionally, it will look for canonical problems and allow you to add URL parameters that will assist you focus especially on your faceted search category sites.

2. Verify the Indexability of the Pages.

We already discussed why it’s problematic when Google scans your content but doesn’t index it. When Google crawls the duplicate pages and subsequently indexes them, it becomes a very different issue. This degrades the user’s search experience and ultimately lowers the authority of your site.

Run a site: search for any of your category pages to check for this. There is a problem if a lengthy list of indexed pages appears in the search results.

You may also simply Google a few of the Links produced by your faceted search. They are indexed if they appear in the search results. Instead, you should observe something like this:

3. Canonicalize Your Tags

Once you’ve identified the issue, work your way through a list of recommended practices to develop your solution. Check the canonical tags of the webpage first. On an eCommerce website, each URL generated by faceted search should canonicalize to the desired version of the page. In this example, the eCommerce category page where the search was initiated will be the favored version.

Let’s take an example, where this link is what our filtered search yielded:


Taking a brief look at Target’s source code reveals that they are canonicalizing to the Basic Tees page, so the URL is not giving them any problems:


You don’t need to do anything else. What about pagination, though? The fact that Google no longer supports rel next and rel prev is significant. Nonetheless, if employing pagination would enhance user experience, they advise doing so.

4. Configure URLs.

A dynamically generated URL will typically result from a filtered search. Yet, the sort function will produce a URL that is narrative in nature. The position of the page within the site architecture is indicated by URLs like this, which frequently include file paths to directories. They can be written in a language that makes it easier for search engines to understand what’s going on with the new page. Following the best practices is as follows:

Maintain the accepted encoding

Instead of using a comma, append a = sign to all key=value pairs. Use an ampersand to separate multiple parameters. Avoid using brackets and other uncommon characters. Our URL appears as follows when we return to Target’s Basic Tees page and sort by price:


With this Address, we can see that we’ve entered the Basic Tees category and are currently sorting by price, low to high.

The file path shouldn’t contain variables like the session id.

For search engines, a URL’s file path or directory functions something like a breadcrumb. in addition to for humans. A user will frequently manually alter the URL by eliminating the URL parameters if they have descended too far into a subcategory and want to return to the higher category. For instance, in the example below, I can return to the higher category for just removing anything after the question mark:


Therefore, if a user creates a new session id and you change the file path to include that session id, you’re going to have a major issue on your hands that might lead to an unlimited number of URLs. Target avoided doing that since they were following best practices. Nevertheless, if they did, it might resemble this:


The session id in this instance is s1489. And rather than being added as a parameter, it is up there in the file path.

However, there are other factors to take into account than session ids. The file path should not contain tracking identifiers, referrer identifiers, or timestamps because they do not alter the content of the page.

5. Disallow via robots meta tag or X-robots-tag

You can use a robots meta tag to prevent particular URL parameters created by faceted search from being indexed by search engines or web crawlers. Simply include the following noindex tag in your page’s head> section:

Robots meta name, noindex content

By doing this, search engines won’t index those pages. Even better, you may modify the tag to only permit specific crawlers, like Googlebot. Nevertheless, it won’t do anything to maintain link equity or release crawl money. If you wish to accomplish that, you must additionally include a nofollow, as in the following example:

<meta name= ”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>

That is a fantastic approach for single URLs, but it is not really scalable. Use an X-robots-tag if your website contains hundreds (or thousands) of product pages for an online store.

Imagine that your faceted search results always appear in your URL after the directives /filter/ or /sort/. In that case, all you’d need to do is use the x-robots meta tag to forbid /sort/ or /filter/. As this directive supports regular expressions (regex), you can prevent the crawling and indexation of multiple parameters or folders.

In the past, webmasters did this by using a robots.txt file. The noindex command in robots.txt files are no longer supported by Google as of September 1, 2019; thus, this is something to keep in mind.

6. NOFOLLOW Internal Links

Consider that Target has decided to publish a blog post on how men may assist women during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You link to a comprehensive list of pink t-shirts produced by your handy dandy filter rather than spotlighting specific products.

Nofollow the link whenever you apply a filter in this manner to an internal link on the website. By doing this, you can stop crawlers from finding pointless URLs and stealing valuable crawl bandwidth and link equity from the rest of your website.

Moreover, Google just debuted the rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc” link properties. Google may be able to distinguish between these and other content, such as comments and sponsored posts, by using these. Using one or more of these tags can assist in directing Google to the most important pages.

7. Consider the Users

Last but not least, always remember to think like a user. What is the best option for them to pursue? Have you unintentionally left out pages that people would genuinely search for in your haste to adhere to strict best practices? With characteristics like size, this won’t be the case. But it very well can be for filters like brand or style. If so, e-commerce revenues might be significantly impacted.

So that you are aware of search volumes for questions connected to various product attributes, learn how to conduct keyword research like an expert.

For instance, Target probably found that there was a substantial level of interest in “men’s graphic t shirts.” So, they removed it and gave graphic tees their own category rather than including it as a stylistic characteristic in one of their existing T-shirt categories. By doing so, they can better serve the user and take advantage of the search traffic for graphic t-shirts.

Think about if one of your faceted attributes should go on a static landing page when you come across a circumstance where it has a high search volume or can be further filtered (graphic tees can be filtered by trend, for example). Make the necessary modifications.

Moreover, organize your faceted navigation to simplify the user’s experience. Make sure each page has breadcrumbs so the user can swiftly navigate back to their previous location. Check again for functionality and speed. Verify the appearance and use of mobile devices. Also, don’t let people select filters that won’t actually provide any results.

Keep an eye out for problems with your faceted navigation and priorities fixing them. You won’t have to choose between pleasing users and search engines. If you incorporate these procedures into your system, you’ll be able to anticipate and address problems before you even have time to look for a replacement T-shirt.


If done properly, faceted navigation can offer a wonderful user experience and increase website conversions. Be mindful of any potential faceted search-related SEO concerns.

The appropriate technical SEO strategies will help you maintain faceted navigation SEO challenges like duplicate content, diluted link equity, wasted crawl budget, and index bloat under control, whether you manage an eCommerce store, listings website, online news magazine, or huge business site.

About the author

Alekh Verma

A Search Engine Optimization specialist known for his bold and insightful approach to every web industry trend, Alekh Verma is a proud Founder and CEO of a successful Digital Marketing, Mobile App, and Web Development firm, eSearch Logix Technologies. His practical and inventive ideology has helped to shape the success story of his firm, which has now grown into a thriving, leading digital marketing company based in NCR, India. He brings a global perspective to the industry and has helped multitudes of businesses across the globe from all sectors create an impactful presence in the virtual world.


eCommerce SEO, ecommerce store, eCommerce Website, Faceted Navigation, SEO Practices

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