Tags Posts tagged with "Duplicate Content"

Duplicate Content

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Editor’s Note: Meet Armando Roggio at Ignite 2015, our conference on Sept. 16 and 17 in Dallas, where he’ll co-present three sessions: “How to Build an Ecommerce Brand (and Reduce Reliance on Paid Traffic),” “Content Marketing Essentials: Attracting and Engaging Shoppers, for Higher Conversions,” and “Ecommerce Opportunities for Brick-and-mortar Merchants.”

Filtered navigation, which narrows search results or listings on a product category page, may help online shoppers quickly find or discover products, improving the shopping experience for consumers and boosting sales for online merchants.

The success of the filtered navigation system on an ecommerce site should be measured by the results it produces, its ease of use, and how it impacts sales. Here are a seven ways that you can ensure your filtered navigation is the best it can be.

1. Offer Filters for Anything that Makes a Product Different

Navigation filters should guide an online shopper to the specific product he wants. If products come in sizes, colors, or diverse styles, include those selectors in filtered navigation.

As an example, Threadless, a leading online t-shirt purveyor, includes navigation filters for color, size, and style on its product category pages.

Threadless includes products variations as filters on category page navigation.

Choosing to include filters for product attributes also means that those filters should differ by product. You would not necessarily expect to find all of the same filters on a category page for t-shirts as you would for auto parts.

2. Offer Theme-based Filters

In addition of product-specific filters, consider including theme-based or category-wide filters that may also help a shopper find the item she wants.

Online t-shirt seller Design by Humans includes filters for trending, new, and best selling t-shirts at the top of its product category pages, featuring, if you will, these options.

New or trending filters are examples of theme-based sorting. "New" is not necessarily a product attribute, rather it describes a category of products recently added to the site. <em>Source: Design By Humans.</em>

Design by Humans also includes themed-filters in the left-side navigation on its product category pages, allowing shoppers to select collections — like Star Wars, Assassins Creed Unity, and HP Lovecraft — or categories.

Theme-based filters also include collections, like Star Wars, as shown here on Design by Humans.

3. Indicate How Many Products Each Filter Selection Represents

Although it is a far less common feature than it should be, showing shoppers how many products a particular filter represents can be helpful. For example, if a customer knows that selecting a filter will reduce the total product count to two, she just might not click.

Jinx, which sells t-shirts, among other products, shows site visitors exactly how choosing a particular filter will impact the number of items.

Showing shoppers how many items a particular filter represents may help them decide if they want to apply that filter. as shown in this example from Jinx.

It is also important that filter counts update each time that a new filter is applied. If the navigation showed 378 small t-shirts and 362 medium t-shirts before the shopper selected the red color filter, those options (small and medium) should adjust to the new total after the red filter is chosen.

It is also important to remove filter options that would lead to a blank result. For example, if there are no small, red t-shirts available on a particular retail site, when a shopper selects the color red, the option to choose a small size should be hidden or disabled.

4. Allow for Multiple Selections of the Same Type

While filtered navigation is designed to help shoppers zero in on a particular set of products, that navigation should still give customers the latitude to select more than one filter of the same type.

This is what BustedTees does, allowing a shopper to pick multiple colors, like black or white, or even multiple sizes, like medium or small.

Some shoppers will want to choose multiple filters of the same type, like color, price range, or similar — as shown here at BustedTees.com

Why would a shopper want to look for both medium and small shirts at the same time? Perhaps a mother would, if she wants matching shirts for her two sons.

5. Show Applied Features Inline and as a Control Group

The Baymard Institute, a research firm, produced a 502-page report around ecommerce product lists and filters, recommends that applied filters — those the user has selected — be displayed both inline, meaning where they were before, and in a control group listing, at the top of the filtered navigation.

Positioning applied filters this way makes it easy for shoppers to identify what they have already selected and remove filters as quickly as they applied them.

The Jinx website does a good job of collecting applied filters.

Jinx shows an easy to understand list of applied filters at the top of the filter navigation.

Similarly, Threadless does a good job of featuring applied filters inline.

Threadless changes the color of applied filters and adds a checkbox, making inline identification easy.

6. Make Filters Easy to Use on Mobile Devices

As with any modern website design or feature, filtered navigation should work well on mobile devices. Make certain that filters are easy to understand and easy to click.

When viewed on a mobile device, the Jinx website makes good use of its applied filters control group and shows a touch-friendly button for adding more filters.

Filters must be functional on mobile devices. <em>Source: Jinx.</em>

7. Don’t Duplicate Content

Every feature and design consideration and all content on an ecommerce site should first be pleasing and engaging to humans. Nonetheless, there is no reason that filtered navigation should create duplicate content that might interfere with how search engines index your site.

Essentially, you want a clear, unique path to any given result set. Google Webmaster tools has a good explanation of the potential problem, just know that filtered navigation, which is good for human site visitors, can also work for search engine bots, too.

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Faceted site search can help ecommerce shoppers quickly find the products they are looking for. But faceted search can shatter your search engine optimization efforts. What can you do, therefore, to manage faceted search, so that it benefits your visitors without harming your SEO?

Nonexistent Navigation, Pages, or Optimization

If pages don’t exist or aren’t optimal for search engine crawlers, the solution is to create something new that can be crawled and ranked for critical keyword phrases. Because redesigning templates, architecture, and navigation has so many ramifications on user experience, design, and development, the fastest solution is usually to create new work-around content.

  • If the page doesn’t exist or can’t be optimized. Let’s say you sell beauty products and you’ve discovered that “oily hair shampoo” is a search phrase you’d like to win rankings, traffic, and sales for. Your site’s architecture doesn’t have a category page featuring shampoos for oily hair. Instead, the site breaks in to gender-based categories and then hair types. There simply is no page that can be optimized for genderless shampoo for oily hair. In other cases, the page might exist but it can’t be optimized separately from its parent category page.

Either way, the solution is to create a page that can be optimized. Develop a content page, write some useful content that speaks to the issue and merchandise it with the relevant products. These content elements are necessary to give the page relevance and value for SEO, as well as to convert customers who land there.

  • If the navigation doesn’t exist. If the faceted navigation is not crawlable, or if creating new pages above has left you with orphaned content that can’t be indexed, you need to create a crawl path — links — to enable the crawl and pass link authority into the new pages. The quick solution here is to include a series of “frequently searched” links in the footer or as sitemap. The keywords would link to the pages that lack crawlable links, or even to internal search pages if your internal search is strong and can be optimized.

The way the links are designed and implemented is important because it’s easy to cross the line into link spam and keyword stuffing, which can trigger algorithmic penalties and lead to poorer SEO.

  • If the pages exist and can’t be crawled. You can also make certain to include them in the XML sitemap to prompt the indexation required for ranking. However, if the XML sitemap is the only path to discover these URLs, as orphaned pages they won’t have enough link authority to rank once they are indexed. Use this tactic in addition to other solutions rather than relying on XML sitemaps to solve the problem.

The ideal solution longer term is to work with your developers and platform support representatives to resolve the technical barriers that cause the navigation to be not crawlable. The short-term work-arounds above are manual and limited in scale, so they will not be able to address the large number of keyword ranking opportunities that your navigation cuts off. In some cases it may make sense to consider a big data content solution like BloomReach, or migrating to a new platform that can be implemented with SEO benefits baked in.

Duplicate Content

When faceted search produces piles of duplicate content, it splits link authority between multiple versions of the same page of content, creates self-competition for rankings, and may result in parts of the site not being crawled or indexed. I’ve addressed this here previously, at “SEO: When Product Facets and Filters Fail.”

In the short term, implementing a robots.txt disallow or a meta robots noindex command will take care of duplicate indexation. Both of these commands tell crawlers either not to crawl or index specified pages or folders on the site.

Disallows and noindex only take care of the over-indexation issue, though, and do not address the larger issue of splitting link authority. In fact, implementing them will render the fixes below less effective.

Longer term, to mend split link authority, you need to consolidate the link authority from the duplicate pages into a single canonical URL. Ideally you’d deal with all duplicate content issues with 301 redirects, but resources and customer experience needs can make that course of action undesirable. If the URL variants provide display differences that are useful to customer experience, a canonical tag can be used to request that Google pass the link authority from the duplicate URL to the canonical URL. If the URL is a pure duplicate and doesn’t need to exist for customer experience, 301 redirect the duplicate URLs back to the canonical URL.

Timing Is Everything

SEO takes time. Start today and implement as soon as possible. Planning and design are critical for established brands, but remember that the longer you work on a solution the longer it will be until your SEO improves.

Before rankings can change to drive increased traffic, crawlers will have to crawl the content that contains the changes, compare them algorithmically to the rest of their indices, and determine how to adjust your rankings accordingly. For major brands with content that changes frequently, the crawlers may visit multiple times a day. Static sites may wait a week or more until the next crawl. Make sure to factor the search engines’ timelines into your SEO launch plans.

For longer term SEO projects, start planning today so that your next big selling season finds your site in fighting shape.

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