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How to deal with "remove facet" links in faceted navigation?



4:04 pm on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

My company is shifting our product gallery pages to a faceted navigation structure.

My question is: what is the best way to handle "unselect" or "remove filter" links that appear in the breadcrumb or in the filterset?

I'll use computers as an example, because I think it might make it a little more clear than using "widgets," but if this is inappropriate, let me know and I'll change it. (n.b. my company is NOT in the electronics space at all--just seems like a ubiquitous example to use.)

Let's say a user is looking for laptops, and they want a Samsung laptop, and want it to have at least 1TB of hdd space. They navigate to a gallery page with breadcrumb navigation showing them where they are, what they've selected, and giving them the option to unselect those options, and let's say it looks something like this:

Home > Laptops > Samsung (x) > 1TB+ (x)

Let's say similar "unselect" links exist in the left side column containing the filter set area themselves, like you would see at any of the major ecommerce websites.

My concern is that in a situation like that, you'd be adding hundreds or thousands of links on the site pointing to the "Samsung laptops" page with anchor text "1TB+ (x)". Conversely, you're adding a comparable number of links pointing to the "laptops with 1tb or more hdd" page with the anchor text "Samsung (x)".

To me, this seems less than ideal (at best), and harmful to the internal focus of anchor text to landing pages.

I've seen some sites where they handle this by NOT hyperlinking the entire facet, e.g.:

Home > Laptops > Samsung (remove) > 1TB+ (remove)

where "remove" is the anchor text, and the facets are just plaintext. To me, this seems odd just because it doesn't seem intuitive to avoid linking the characters between the > brackets. In the mythical "world without Google," I guarantee the facets are hyperlinked as well as the "remove" text.

I've also seen some places where these removal links DON'T point back to appropriate URL, but instead point to a new URL entirely duplicating the content of the previous gallery page on the new URL. On the new URL, they'll add a canonical tag pointing back to a higher category page.

Seems like a duplicate content nightmare, a spider trap, and just an all-around bad idea. I feel like I've read where Matt Cutts disapproves of this use of the canonical tag, too, but I'm not sure if that's the case.

So again: what *is* the best way to handle these links? Are these breadcrumb and filter links not that strong a signal, thus making their anchortext not all that important? Even if you are adding thousands of them to your site at once?

Looking forward to hearing how you guys have tackled this problem. Thanks!


6:06 pm on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Something along the lines of the following is what I would probably do:

# Where the bread crumbs go on the page

<script type="text/javascript" src="/the-script-that-makes-fancy-breadcrumbs.js"></script>
<p>Home > Crumb 1 > Crumb 2 > Crumb 3</p>

# Robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow: /the-script-that-makes-fancy-breadcrumbs.js

# .htaccess
# In case they 'forget' to listen to the robots.txt
# Did I say forget? I meant 'have a glitch' lol

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} google|bing|msnbot|slurp [NC]
RewriteRule the-script-that-makes-fancy-breadcrumbs.js - [F]


7:02 pm on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Very interesting, thanks for the response! So basically make the links Javascript to prevent/discourage the bots from crawling them and thinking that the undesirable anchor text is appropriate?

Why block access to the script though? Will the bots be able to follow the links if they can read the script?

Even your mention of noscript makes me think I should go back and revisit my competitive analysis. I didn't even think to view the pages with javascript disabled. (Shame on me!) It could be that the sites I looked at have just such a solution in place, and I wasn't able to see it.


8:05 pm on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

So basically make the links Javascript to prevent/discourage the bots from crawling them and thinking that the undesirable anchor text is appropriate?

Exactly, you're giving them the correct anchor text in the <noscript>, so they don't need to try and figure out the rest that will be inherently understood by a real person, but could send an algo a 'crazy spammy signal'.

Blocking the bots from the script is just a 'safety measure' to prevent them from maybe getting hold of the 'alternate crumbs/views' and trying to spider them or thinking you're spamming by having all different anchor text to a page.

It will definitely stand up under any type of human review, in my opinion, because you're showing search engines the same thing as visitors, except some views of 'essentially the same content' you don't want to confuse them with, so I'd just make sure they can't 'get crazy' with the JS file and possibly cause a ton of headaches.

Robert Charlton

8:11 pm on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hi bbarbeau - You're right to think that faceted navigation can be "a duplicate content nightmare".

If the product pages are put into folders, and the product page urls reflect those folders and the different ways of reaching the pages, then you create the duplicate content. To avoid this, the new approach is not to put the products in folders, and avoid creating those multiple urls.

Take a look at this discussion, which I believe is the best we've had on this topic...

Choosing the best url structure
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4475535.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Two comments I made in the thread might help address the immediate inevitable questions you're going to have, and also address your breadcrumb question....

...It's important to understand that the navigation hierarchy and the folder hierarchy are independent of each other, though it's often supposed that they must be the same.

Regarding breadcrumbs with this arrangement, I suggest multiple breadcrumbs indicating most likely nav paths from home, and that they be placed toward the bottom of the page, where they give the visitor most useful navigation options.

It sounds like the situation you're describing has breadcrumbs tied into a folder/directory structure, which is fatal. IMO, you can't do it that way.

As realmaverick summarizes the way it's done in a well-known sample site we looked at (we generally don't discuss specific sites here publicly)...

actually keep their products at top level and use breadcrumbs to demonstrate the relationship of the file, within their website

You definitely should have a hierarchical navigation structure, but, again, that nav structure should be independent of the product page urls.

PS: Added clarification about product urls in second paragraph above.

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