Is Your Site Search Engine Helping or Hurting Your SEO?
There are many facets to a successful SEO strategy. Content is indeed king and it is becoming increasingly important However, the functionality of your site, including the search feature shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, if you have an older site and you’re seeing newer ones with less ‘domain authority’ (because they’re new) suddenly pass you by in organic search results, it could be time to update or maybe even replace your current ecommerce platform with improved functionality. Filtering and sorting capabilities within on-site search results are great for making it easier for your visitors to find the products they want. However, if it's not implemented correctly, it could be creating undesirable duplicate content that has the potential to dilute the indexing signals between numerous versions of the same category. For example, if each one of these URL’s displays a product page with Hershey’s Pastel Miniature candies, most people would consider this to be one page. However the search engines see each URL as an individual page.
Ideally each individual product/article or category of products/articles resolves to one accessible URL.
Best Practices for SEO-Friendly Faceted Search
Use “key=value&”pairs for parameter encoding – Connecting key=value pairs with an equal sign (=) and appending parameters with an ampersand (&) makes it much easier for search engines to crawl.
Keep a consistent parameter order – Improve the search experience by using a consistent parameter order and make sure the searcher-valuable parameters, such as category are listed first and the irrelevant parameters listed last.
Add logic to the display of URLs – Unnecessary URL parameters cause duplicate content and make the crawling and indexing process less efficient. If you have an environment that requires many parameters for each user session, consider hiding the information in a cookie rather than appending the same values like:
Keep URLs with unnecessary parameters out of the crawl path. User-generated values, such as filters by product attribute can lead to an infinite number of URL possibilities, These values can be crawled and indexed, but wouldn’t be useful in Google or Bing’s search results. First determine which parameters are meaningful for search engines, e.g. item-id, category-id, brand...etc, and which aren't (session-id, price-range, etc). Then consider implementing configuration options such as rel="nofollow" internal links or Robots.txt disallow to prevent crawling of unwanted URLs.
Only create URLs for facets/filters that contain results – Let’s say you run out of inventory for a particular size of pants and that is one of the attributes you display as a refinement option. Hide or grey out the selection so that the user can’t click through to a page that has no results. This will ensure a better customer experience and also prevent search engines from indexing a useless page.
Handling pagination – Use pagination markup with rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to consolidate indexing properties and prevent the paginated pages from being indexed.
HawkSearch is a platform that supports your SEO strategy with built-in features that follow best practices.
Reference: Google Webmaster Central Blog - Faceted navigation best (and 5 of the worst) practices.