SEO: Perfecting your faceted navigation with Luke Carthy (episode 050)

by April Buencamino-dy

Luke Carthy is a well-known eCommerce CRO and SEO specialist, and founder of start-up eCommerce company, Afro Drops.

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Defining Faceted Navigation

Faceted navigation refers to the filters you see on category pages (typically on eCommerce) that allow you to refine the results you are looking at.

This is also called facets, faceted navs, filters, or attributes, and it partly straddles both SEO and CRO.

Improving Faceted Nav

Make sure you are optimizing for search.

The biggest mistake you can make is allowing search engines to access all of the different permutations for every category and combination of filters.

If you’re not confident, Luke suggests blocking search engines from your faceted navigation because it’s much better to do that and then making improvements, rather than allowing access to everything at the start and then fixing it later.

Understand where search demand is and what people are searching for when they’re looking for your particular products. To get keyword data or information, Luke mentions 2 tools:

Keyword Opportunities

From a CRO perspective, find the demand and build your facets based on what the users are looking for. Also, find out whether it’s worth being indexed in the first place.

When you define the facet groups, it is important to note how many permutations of facets you should allow to be indexed. Indexing means letting search engines explore that content or crawl it, and make a decision if it wants to have that URL part of its index.

We cannot decide if search engines will index it or not, but we can control whether we allow it to be indexed or visible in search engines in simple terms.

How Many Permutations Do We Need To Do?

This is how many combinations of filters you allow to be accessible by search engines at once.

The general rule is to have no more than 2 combined.

The Ease Of Doing Faceted Navigation

This takes a lot of specification and will depend on the system you’re working with.

The rule of thumb is the more complicated your product set, the more facets you might want in combination.

Important To Note

Although Luke says you only want to allow one or two facets to be indexed, you don’t want to limit this from a user perspective.

This is where the SEO and CRO start to divide, where the difference is between helping users and aligning search engines.

How To Stop Search Engines From Indexing A Page

Luke mentions 2 things.

One is do not add your facets or URL parameters into robots.txt, and the other is consider adding a “No follow, no index” tag on your page. The latter is a hard directive to search engines not to crawl that specific page on your site.

He also emphasizes that there should be no overlap between your categories and your facets. They should be complementary but not attacking the same keywords.

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with SEO – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Technical SEO is where you should get started.

Download Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider Tool, have a look and start to understand the basics of HTML and how crawlers move around a site.

Aside from this, understanding where links happen on a website is important because this can have an influence to organic ranking across the entire website.

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve SEO performance?

Constantly find ways to make crawling more efficient for search engines.

Do this by getting rid of bloat URLs and thinking of ways to make thin content better.
The best tool to identify this would be Google’s Search Console which is completely free to use.

If someone listening wants to learn more about SEO is there one cheap/free resource you’d recommend?

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in SEO?

Just always remember to optimize for your users and not for search engines. Build an experience better than everyone else’s for the simple reason that it’s better for your customers.

Interview Links

Luke on Social media:

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