The role of faceted search in marketplaces

In the quest to improve the user journey and amplify the online presence of a marketplace platform, the significance of one crucial component cannot be ignored: faceted search. Faceted search, also known as faceted navigation, equips users with the ability to hone their search results according to particular attributes.

These attributes may include price, brand, colour or size, among others. By doing this, you can facilitate user interactions with product listings, making their search less challenging, more accurate, and ultimately smoother.

However, despite being a valuable resource for users, faceted search can also present particular obstacles, specifically regarding marketplace SEO.

In this all-encompassing guide, we will dive deep into the realm of faceted search, shedding light on its pros and cons, and providing guidance on how to apply it most effectively in your marketplace to enhance both the user experience and SEO.

What exactly is faceted search?

Simply put, faceted search denotes a search methodology that empowers users to apply filters to their search results. This approach to browsing enables users to whittle down the items they’re examining based on several dimensions or facets.

Picture a clothing marketplace filled with thousands of products. Without faceted search, a user in pursuit of a “medium-sized red t-shirt” would have to search through countless irrelevant items. But with the power of faceted search, they can comfortably filter the products by colour, size, and type, finding the desired item without delay.

However, there is more to faceted search than the evident improved user experience, particularly when you take into account the SEO implications.

Faceted navigation SEO

Each filter selection in a faceted search creates a unique URL that records the specific choices made. While this helps in precise product filtering, it also triggers the generation of a considerable number of unique URLs, contributing to a phenomenon known as ‘index bloat’.

Search engines like Google, while scanning a website, might have to crawl through these numerous faceted navigation pages rather than concentrating on the primary pages that enhance ranking potential. This bloat of URLs can water down the SEO value across the site and pose a challenge for search engines.

That’s why SEO specialists typically deploy canonical tags and nofollow directives on faceted URLs. This tactic signals to search engines that these dynamically created URLs should not be viewed as unique pages for indexing purposes, thus diminishing the risk of creating duplicate content issues and wasting crawl budget.

Achieving the perfect balance

The challenge, therefore, is: how do we strike a balance between the user experience benefits offered by faceted search and its SEO challenges? The answer lies in clever application and vigilant management. Here are a few strategies and best practices for faceted navigation:

Avoid overlapping categories and filters

One golden rule in implementing faceted search is to avoid overlap between categories and filters. That means if you have a “For Her” category, you should refrain from having a “Gender” filter with a “For Her” choice, unless they direct to the same URL. Overlapping categories and filters could lead to duplicate content issues, which can adversely affect SEO.

Strategically index

It’s crucial to index your faceted search tactically. This can be achieved through keyword research. If your analysis reveals a high demand for specific keywords, like ’50th birthday cards’ or ‘a5 notebooks’, you might decide to index these specific filters or URLs. This approach can help ensure your indexed pages align with your SEO strategy and keyword opportunities.

Adopt SEO-friendly URL structures

Your URLs can profoundly impact your SEO results. When it comes to faceted navigation, here are some suggestions:

  • Use hyphens instead of underscores as spaces in parameter variables. Google interprets hyphens as spaces, which can aid your SEO.
  • Choose either parameters or subfolders and apply it consistently.
  • Text-based IDs are more preferable to numerical ones from an SEO perspective, even though it may require more development work.

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Faceted navigation best practices

Keep user experience front and centre

While addressing the SEO implications of faceted search, don’t lose focus on the primary goal: enhancing user experience. The faceted search should be instinctive and easy to use, with unambiguous labels and a neat interface. Also, account for the mobile experience, ensuring your facets are user-friendly on smaller screens.

Prominently display the most frequently used facets

This can be determined through user testing or by analysing user behaviour data. Positioning these facets at the top can enrich the user experience by providing quick access to the most relevant filters.

Hide non-available options

If a facet has no available options within the current search context, consider making it fainter or removing it. This can help avert user frustration when a chosen facet yields no results.

Continually monitor, evaluate, and enhance

Finally, like all aspects of your marketplace, continuous monitoring, evaluation, and improvement should be part of your game plan. Regularly scrutinise your website’s performance, carry out SEO audits, and keep pace with the latest trends. Seek user feedback and make modifications based on user behaviour and feedback.


Faceted search, despite being immensely advantageous for user experience, does present certain hurdles for SEO. However, with careful foresight and strategic deployment, it is feasible to reap the rewards of faceted search while also maintaining robust SEO performance.

The trick lies in comprehending the complexities of faceted search, averting common pitfalls like overlapping categories and filters, and employing strategic indexing based on keyword research. When coupled with SEO-friendly URL structures and a user-centred design approach, faceted search can evolve into a potent tool in your marketplace toolkit.

By continuously monitoring, auditing, and improving, your faceted search can continue to add value to your users, enhancing their journey, and ultimately growth for your marketplace.