A faceted navigation that’s optimal for both site visitors and SEO

A project of mine suffers from over categorization as described here https://baymard.com/blog/ecommerce-over-categorization . There are too many sub categories, many of which contain just a product or two, that silo the visitor into a cumbersome experience. Imagine you visited a site and viewed their TV’s and you looked at their category for 40″ TVs. But then, you decided to view other TV’s, so you viewed the 42″ category, and then the 46″ category. The same would happen if you wanted to shop TV’s by brand, type, or another feature. It would take a long time to browse all available TV’s with the features that are valuable to you! This is an example of over categorization. Instead the categories should be turned into a TV’s category with a variety of available facets (filters) that can be applied together.

Aside from a good information architecture, site speed is important. An ajax based navigation, such as this one https://www.lacrossetechnology.com/products/weather/weather-stations provides a great user experience because only the products will reload when a filter is applied. An entire page reload when a filter changes is not necessary, which improves performance.

While an ajax based navigation is great for visitors, it’s terrible for search engine optimization because:

  1. The filters (facets) and combinations of filters won’t have unique meta content or in page descriptions like the previous sub categories did. With the previous over categorization there was a separate category for “Sony TV’s” that had a unique URL, page title and meta data, and a unique in page description. This is extremely important for SEO and is lost when switching to a general TV’s category with a brand filter (Sony).

    Solution –
    I was happy to find this Amasty extension https://amasty.com/improved-navigation-ajax-layered-navigation.html solves the problem. Try out the filtering on this demo http://improved-navigation-1910.demo.amasty.com/improved-navigation-1910/women/dresses-skirts/dresses-long.html . Notice I’ve linked you directly to the category page with a few filters applied; the combination of filters produces a unique URL without a query string (dresses-long.html) that is built in the same order every time for consistency. Additionally, this unique set of filters will dynamically change the page’s meta description, heading, and show/hide cms blocks of your choosing. You get the best of both worlds here – ajax driven navigation for the user and unique page content for the search engine. The downside it is takes a fair amount of configuration, but it’s worth it. This is especially important if we’re rearranging site categories and changing unnecessary sub categories, which have link juice, info filters.

  2. The filters (facets) and combinations of filters won’t get indexed by search engines like the previous sub categories did. Take the TV’s category for example – there will be one URL for TV’s that your ecommerce solution, such as Magento, will include in the Google sitemap. If you want to link the visitor directly to Sony TV’s it’s possible but with an ugly URL that won’t be included in the google sitemap by default. This URL will be in the form of a query string like tvs.html?brand=sony&size=46, which are not preferred by search engines.

    Solution –
    Build or buy functionality that will add URL’s of your choosing to the google sitemap. Again Amasty to the rescue with this module that allows you to add URL’s of your choosing https://amasty.com/magento-xml-google-sitemap.html .

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