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Faceted Navigation SEO Guide

James Gibbons

Learn all About Faceted Navigation in SEO & It’s Impact on SERP Rankings

Faceted Navigation SEO

If you have visited a website that could have made it easier to find what you were looking for, you know how frustrating navigation can be. Users of eCommerce websites face this problem daily because there is so much data to navigate.

A lack of organization on an eCommerce website will leave users and prospective customers confused and overwhelmed. Instead of making purchases, they will turn to your competitors. With an organized navigation system, users might find the page they are looking for and leave because of their inability to browse your site efficiently.

Navigation is discovering what you need while browsing a site. Organized eCommerce navigation will rank higher in search engine results and increase traffic since people will find what they are looking for easier!

This SEO Guide outlines everything you need to know about implementing navigation for SEO and its impact on your SERP rankings. You will learn basic principles and techniques while gaining insight into when and how to implement faceted navigation eCommerce SEO on your website effectively.

What is Faceted Navigation?

Faceted navigation is a search engine optimization technique that allows users to refine their searches by selecting criteria from a series of menus. More specifically, Faceted search organizes your website's content based on individual and intuitively defined categories. Each of these categories is referred to as "facets." 

The job of faceted search is to help users quickly and intuitively navigate through your site's content. The faceted style navigation technique aims to provide users with more specific and granular ways to filter and navigate your site content. You can add more filtering options for each category or create new categories that users can navigate.

Many eCommerce websites often use faceted style navigation to make it easier for customers to find what they want. By breaking products down into categories and subcategories, it becomes easier for customers to locate the specific product they want.

How eCommerce sites use faceted navigation
eCommerce site Asos uses faceted navigation

Other sites like Wikipedia use faceted search to help users navigate a large amount of information. Thus, a faceted style of navigation is practical anywhere you need to allow users to drill down from a broader data set to a specific information set.

What is Website Navigation?

Website navigation refers to navigating the different pages and content on a website. It is the primary means users interact with a website and can be expressed through menus, buttons, links, and other user interface elements. Good website navigation helps users find the information they need quickly and efficiently and can be optimized for both desktop and mobile user experience.

Website navigation has been around for a long time, with a few different versions. Specifically, there are three versions:

1. Manual Navigation

Users would select options from a list one at a time. In early search engines, users type keywords and choose options from a drop-down menu.

2. Hierarchical Navigation

They organized the menus in a tree-like structure. This was common in websites where users needed to explore specific categories.

3. Faceted Navigation

The third version is the most common today. Here, they display the options in facets. We often use this navigation on eCommerce websites to help customers find the items quicker. 

By breaking products down into categories and subcategories, it becomes easier for customers to locate the specific product they want.

A Brief History of Website Navigation

Similar to general website navigation, faceted navigation has had three major versions since its inception in 1995.

The first version was called 'Guided Navigation.' It helped users find information. In 1995, there was a product called Guide. Guide was a product that helped users find information on the internet by breaking it down into categories and subcategories.

The second version of faceted navigation was called 'Contextual Navigation.' Contextual helped users find information on the internet by breaking it down into topics and sub-topics. The first use of contextual navigation was in a product called Context, released in 1998. Context was a product that helped users find information on the internet by breaking it down into topics and sub-topics.

The third version of navigation was called "Faceted Search." The first use of faceted search was in a product called Autonomy, which was released in 2002. Autonomy was a product that helped users find information on the internet by breaking it down into categories, subcategories, and keywords.

Customers often find what they're looking for on eCommerce sites using this navigation. By breaking products down into categories and subcategories, it becomes easier for customers to locate the specific product they want.

How Faceted Navigation Works?

Here's a step-by-step explanation of how faceted navigation typically works on an e-commerce website:

1. The user enters a search query or browses a product category on the website.

2. The website displays a list of products that match the user's search criteria.

3. The website also displays a list of faceted navigation options, including categories, brands, price ranges, and other attributes.

4. The user selects one or more facets to filter the search results. For example, they might select the "red" color to see only red shoes.

5. The website updates the search results to show only products that match the selected facets.

6. The user can continue refining their search results by selecting additional facets or removing ones that are no longer relevant.

Standard Navigation v/s Faceted

Standard navigation is a commonly used method that organizes your site's content into top-level categories. Each one of these top-level categories is a "silo," i.e., a container that holds a set of child categories. To navigate between silos, users must click the "next' or "previous" buttons, go to the homepage and then click on the respective silo, or go to a specific page and directly click on the related silo.

Unlike this top-level navigation method, in which the user has to traverse between at least two navigation categories to get to where they want, the faceted technique allows the user to select and navigate to a specific category from the same screen, like a search results screen.

The following table lists the differences between Faceted and Standard Navigation techniques.

Standard Navigation Faceted Menu Navigation
Navigating between silos Navigating between facets
Users must go through each level of categories Users can jump from one category to another at will (no need to go through each level of categories)
Users have limited ability to filter results Users can easily filter results based on their needs

The traditional navigational techniques can be divided into "horizontal" and "vertical." Horizontal navigation refers to the main navigational menu on your website, which usually appears on the top or left-hand side of every page. 

Vertical navigation is another way to organize your website's content. Still, instead of arranging it along a single axis (e.g., top to bottom or left to right), you organize it along multiple axes, usually via drop-down menus and sub-menus.

E-commerce websites used this navigation method before the rise of SEO-faceted navigation. Some sites had so much content that it was difficult for users to find what they were looking for without this type of organization. 

However, faceted search is an improvement over these older techniques because it provides a more intuitive way for users to find what they're looking for by using facets versus a simple search box or drop-down navigation menu.

User Journey & Navigation Style

Here's how a typical website's navigation structure would work under the standard navigation system:

Let us say you want to purchase a new pair of shoes. You might start by going to your favorite shoe retailer's homepage. Then, you might click on the "Shoes" category and the "Men's Shoes" subcategories.

Finally, you click on the "Casual Shoes" subcategory and the shoe you want. Filtering through all these categories has been a long and tedious process that requires lots of patience and time. Each time you selected one option, your search was specifically filtered down for that attribute, and changing one attribute meant going back to the start.

With faceted navigation, selecting filters is more accessible, and you can easily change your selections.

How faceted navigation works
How faceted navigation works & looks like?

In the above example, a sidebar faceted navigation menu aids your search filtration and allows you to select multiple attributes simultaneously.

Is Faceted Navigation Important for SEO?

From an SEO perspective, faceted navigation reduces bounce rates. Here are two aspects that make faceted search an SEO plus point.

First, navigating with facets improves user experience by helping users quickly and easily find the information they are looking for on your site. It not only makes users happy but also helps to keep them engaged on your site, reducing the chances of them clicking away to a competitor.

Search engines like Google have conveyed how important it is to implement search-friendly navigation SEO best practices for a good user experience. Google sees user experience as critical and one of the 200 ranking signals it considers when ranking pages for user queries. Thus, faceted navigation helps the user's experience and boosts SERP rankings.

Second, faceted style navigation SEO improves your website's discoverability on SERPs. As stated above, enjoyable user experience = high SERP rankings. Faceted navigation also helps you better target specific keywords and improve your site's search engine ranking. By creating well-defined categories and subcategories, you can make it easier for users to find your content. By doing this, you can improve your site's ranking by better targeting its keywords.

Finally, navigation assists by facets also enables internal linking of your web pages, boosting rankings and improving discoverability for top user queries. Faceted navigation is an internal linking system.

It helps users easily navigate between various related pages of your website. Read our internal linking guide to learn how SEO faceted navigation combines with your internal linking for better search engine rankings.

How Can You Implement Faceted Navigation Into Your Website?

There are plenty of ways to implement a faceted navigation system on your website. The main point to remember here is that before you implement a solution, you need to ensure that it will work for your website's content and that it will be easy for your visitors. Here are a few potential ways to implement a faceted system of navigation on your site:

1. You can break up your site's content into various categories and create a drop-down menu at the top that lets visitors jump to a different site section with one click.

2. Create a search bar that lets visitors search for content on your site by keyword.

3. Build a "knowledge map" that lets visitors explore different topics on your site by clicking on other "ideas" or "concepts."

4. If you're using a content management system like WordPress, there are likely plugins or widgets that you can use. You can easily add faceted navigation to your site using this method.

5. If you want a more tailored solution, you can hire a developer to create your website's custom faceted menu system. A highly customized solution may be a better option if your website has a lot of unique content.

To ensure your faceted search eCommerce method works correctly, test it before launching it. Simple instructions are an excellent way to ensure your visitors understand the faceted navigation system.

No matter which faceted navigation eCommerce method you choose, ensure that you test it out before launching it to ensure it is working correctly. In addition, be sure to provide clear instructions for your visitors, so they know how to use your faceted search menu.

Common Use Cases of Faceted Navigation

1. Increased Product Discoverability

Product filtering options and navigation categories allow users to easily and quickly browse your products and find what they seek. Once people find what they're looking for, your conversion rates can increase.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

A well-organized navigation system can boost your SEO by allowing you to create more granular categories that users quickly and intuitively navigate. Categories help increase the site's "depth of content," a critical SEO factor.

3. Reduced Bounce Rate

A high bounce rate shows that your users find navigating your site complicated. A poorly organized navigation system might be the reason for this. An easy-to-use and well-organized navigation system can reduce your bounce rate and keep users on your site for longer.

What Are Some SEO Challenges of Implementing Faceted Navigation?

While faceted navigation aids SEO, a few challenges may present when implementing it on your website.

1. Multiple Pages with the same URL

One of the implications of faceted navigation is that it can affect the website’s URL structure. When faceted navigation is implemented, it can often create multiple pages with the same URL. This can be confusing for users and lead to decreased website traffic since users may not be able to find the page they are looking for.

2. Duplicate Content

Faceted search system often creates multiple pages with very similar, if not identical, content. Because of the category and subcategory structure, many pages can have the same content. Search engines may have difficulty determining which page is most relevant for a search query, creating a crawling and indexing issue. As a result, this can lead to a decrease in site traffic and ranking.

3. Index Bloat

Another potential issue is index bloat. Over-indexing occurs when a search engine indexes too many pages. Faceted navigation implementation can cause it or other factors, such as duplicate content. When index bloat occurs, it can negatively affect a site's search engine ranking.

4. Crawl budget wastage

Another potential downside of the faceted menu option is that it can lead to crawl budget wastage. When a search engine crawls irrelevant pages, it wastes time. Google can only crawl a finite number of pages on your site. You can harm your site's search engine ranking if your site uses most of those resources to crawl irrelevant pages.

We must assess faceted navigation against all these challenges to determine whether it is worthwhile. There is no definitive answer regarding faceted navigation's benefits and challenges. It depends on your specific website and what your goals are.

What SEO Issues Can Faceted Navigation Cause?

It is important to remember that building an SEO-focused navigation system is a challenging task. Weigh your site's content, make essential design decisions, and work closely with your development team to make it happen. While a robust navigation system can help boost your SEO, convert more visitors into customers, and increase your site's usability, it can also be challenging to build and maintain. Here are a few challenges you might face when building your navigation system.

1. Imbalanced content hierarchy

Your content hierarchy refers to how you organize your content. If your content hierarchy is balanced, it can lead to clarity among your users and help your SEO efforts. To avoid this, you need to contemplate the order in which you place your navigation categories on your website and assign the proper importance to each of them.

2. Over-categorization

Understanding that over-categorization is a challenge many businesses face while designing their navigation systems is essential. The problem with over-categorization is that it can confuse your users and make it easier for them to navigate your site. So you must be careful while designing your navigation system and avoid over-categorization at all costs.

3. Design Issues

Navigation design is another vital aspect you need to get right while building your navigation system. If your navigation design is user-friendly, it can improve usability and help your SEO efforts. Your navigation should be easy to understand and use.

4. Complexity

Another challenge you might face while building your navigation system is complexity. If your navigation is too complex, it can be difficult for your users to understand and use. Hence, you must ensure that your navigation is simple and easy to understand.

5. Maintenance

A final challenge you might face while building your navigation system is maintenance. If you do not update your navigation regularly, it can quickly become outdated and confuse your users. Therefore, you need to make sure that you update your navigation periodically and keep it up to date.

It is possible to overcome maintenance challenges when building a faceted navigation system by remembering and following best practices.

How to Check Faceted Navigation Issues?

Faceted navigation is a filtering system used on e-commerce websites and other large sites that allow users to narrow search results by applying filters. While faceted navigation can improve the user experience and help customers find what they are looking for, it can also lead to problems with index bloat and negatively impact search engine optimization (SEO).

It is essential to check for faceted navigation issues because, when incorrectly handled, these issues can lead to many low-quality pages being indexed by search engines, hurting your website's overall visibility and ranking. Identifying and fixing these issues can improve your site's SEO and improve your customers' experience.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to check for faceted navigation issues:

1. Conduct a Site Search: Use the “site:” search operator to see the number of pages Google has indexed. If the number seems higher than the number of pages on your site, it's a sign of index bloat.

2. Check Google Search Console Coverage Reports: Use the "Coverage" report to check for crawling and indexing issues. If you have recently implemented faceted search and the number of indexed pages has increased, it could be a sign of index bloat.

3. Use Accurate XML Sitemaps: Upload XML sitemaps to GSC to see which pages Google has indexed that were not submitted in the sitemap. It can help identify unwanted pages that Google is indexing.

4. Use a Site Auditor: Use a site auditing tool to get detailed information on URLs discovered from crawling the site. Check the "Indexability Distribution" chart for any issues with indexable and non-indexable URLs. If there are many non-indexable URLs, it could be a sign of a faceted navigation issue.

SEO Best Practices to Remember When Implementing Faceted Navigation

When adding faceted navigation to your site, there are a few best practices to remember.

1. Use Robots.txt to Block Search Engines From Indexing Faceted Navigation Pages

Faceted navigation pages can generate a large number of pages with similar content, which can dilute your site's authority and negatively impact your SEO performance. To avoid this, it is recommended to use the robots.txt file to prevent search engines from crawling and indexing these pages.

2. Implement rel=canonical tags to Avoid Duplicate Content Issues

If you cannot block search engines from indexing faceted navigation pages, use the rel=canonical tag to tell search engines which page is the preferred version. This helps to avoid duplicate content issues and ensures that search engines attribute the correct page with the right content.

3. Use Descriptive and User-friendly URLs

Faceted navigation URLs should be concise, descriptive, and easy to understand for users. Avoid using dynamic parameters in your URLs, as they can create infinite URLs and cause search engines to ignore your faceted navigation pages.

4. Use Filters Sparingly

Too many filters can lead to a cluttered interface and create overwhelming faceted navigation pages. Limit the number of filters and only include the most relevant and valuable filters for users. Ensure that filter labels and values are optimized for search engines and users. Use descriptive and specific labels that accurately describe the products or content on your site. Avoid using generic labels that do not provide any additional information or context.

5. Monitor Faceted Navigation Performance Regularly

Regularly monitor your site's faceted navigation performance, including search engine visibility, organic traffic, and user behavior. Use tools like Google Search Console to analyze your site's search performance and analytics tools like Google Analytics to track user behavior on your site's faceted navigation pages.

Final Thoughts on Faceted Navigation SEO

Faceted navigation is a critical UX technique that allows users to explore your website more easily and quickly. It is important to note that this technique applies to eCommerce websites, but almost any website can benefit from this practice.

While implementing a faceted navigation system can be challenging, all businesses should consider an important strategy. With a more muscular navigation system, you can expect more conversions, fewer bounces, and increased traffic from search engines.

Use Quattr to find Faceted Navigation Opportunities easily!

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Faceted Navigation FAQs

What is Faceted Navigation SEO?

Faceted navigation SEO, also known as guided navigation or faceted search, is a technique for eCommerce websites that allows users to browse through product categories and subcategories to find a specific item quickly. By providing customers with several criteria, such as color, size, price, or material, the navigation structure allows customers to narrow their search results to more specific items, making it easier to find what they are looking for. For SEO purposes, faceted navigation should use crawlable links and appropriate tagging to ensure that search engine crawlers can properly index the content on the website.

What does Faceted Navigation do?

Faceted Navigation allows users to browse product categories and subcategories, narrowing down their search results using several criteria such as color, size, price, and material. This allows customers to quickly and easily find the specific item they want.

What is the Best Way to do Faceted Navigation?

The best way to do faceted navigation for SEO is to use crawlable links and appropriate tagging. This ensures that all the content can be indexed by search engine crawlers, allowing customers to quickly find the items they are looking for. Using the correct tagging and link structure also helps to maintain an excellent overall website structure.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 10 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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