Site navigation, also referred to as attribute navigation or faceted search, offers customers the option to refine their initial search results, by indicating the desired product’s specific attributes. Once the customer selects the relevant attributes, the results will be narrowed down to include only products that correspond to these attributes, which makes locating a specific product much more quick and convenient.
For instance, an online store selling shoes should include in its site navigation such attributes as brand, size, color, activity, closure type, etc. The activity attribute, for example, should contain relevant values, such as casual, sports, dress shoes etc.
Ideally, each such refinement by attributes creates a unique page that is attached to a long-tailed keyword. This means that a large number of related keywords, each on its own attract little traffic, may jointly increase traffic better than valuable keywords.
Advantages of Long-Tail
The long tail not only helps increase traffic, but it also drives up sales, since it is most often used by customers when they are in the middle of the purchasing funnel. A customer looking for a “size 9 brown leather dress shoes” is already on the verge of purchase, knowing exactly what he wishes to buy, than a customer who searches for “shoes”. Of course, “shoes”, as a keyword, may attract much more traffic. But since it is so wide and general, it will be rather difficult to attract customers to your store, and even when you do, it will be difficult to convert this traffic to sales.
The best approach, then, is to have as long a tail as you can. However, it is not practical for sellers to optimize each unique result page to increase long-tail traffic, since there are usually a very large number of those. The solution is to have your site navigation tool automatically create the pages that correspond to the long tail.
The benefit of site navigation is that it creates thousands of unique pages, each of which is ideally connected to a long-tail keyword that helps increase sales. Naturally, there are pages that connect to keywords that direct traffic to the store, while there are others, whose keywords will be so specific as to be useless.
However, it is important to note that every attribute, and every value within them, hold some importance to customers, otherwise you would not offer them in your store. To put in other words, even the most specific result page has the potential to generate a sale, and therefore is worth keeping.
It might seem to you that site navigation creates many versions of the same page, when in fact, every page created by a different combination of attributes is a unique page. That is why it is important that the SEO will reflect the variance of attributes and values of each page. The page showing the results for “black leather shoes” should contain a title tag, meta description and heading that reflect that is the brown leather shoes page, and not the black leather shoes or brown suede shoes pages.
Another concern is website crawling. Since search engine crawlers review only portions of your website, you don’t want them to crawl through many different versions of the same page. The crawlers would not know the difference, and it may have adverse effects on your website’s findability in search engines. But as mentioned earlier, each page created by site navigation is actually a unique page, displaying unique content.
The fact that site navigation creates a unique page for each combination of attributes, leads to the generation of thousands of pages, and even more. However, they are required in order to effectively take advantage of the long tail.
But at a certain stage, after numerous attributes have been selected, that the result pages might lack any search significance. A result page containing results for black or brown shoes, made of leather or suede, targets a keyword that is most likely to never be searched.
If your online store allows customers to select multiple values for each attribute, you should restrict the search engine indexation of pages under this attribute. You may either stop crawlers from accessing result pages for black or brown, leather or suede shoes, or tag them all with a reference to a singular result page for this specific attribute.
It is recommended to conduct industry research to discover whether or not customers use multiple values searches, and to decide which attributes are most used. If you sell drapes in your online store, you might want to allow such combinations as blue and white, in addition to each of these colors separately. Although it might seem burdensome to allow some combinations and restrict others, it might prove very beneficial to your store.